We begin the new year – our year of Visions – with “2020 Visions” and a backward glance at a not-so-distant mirror of our time, the Roaring ’20s.
As you’ll discover in our essay on what that period was like in WAG country, it was a decade of fascinating contradictions, in which women, blacks and immigrants both flourished and foundered, in which new technologies heralded an enticing, kick-up-your heels culture that is also remembered for Prohibition (Katie’s column); in which sky’s-the-limit building and spending would precipitate the stock market’s collapse.
The 1920s created some of our greatest literature at home and abroad, particularly the book that many consider the great American novel — F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” inspired in part by his stay in Westport in 1920. Fitzgerald haunts Jeremy’s visit to the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on the French Riviera, the setting for the fictional Gausse’s Hôtel des Étrangers in the author’s “Tender Is the Night” — which Jeremy describes as the quintessential 1920s Riviera novel, albeit one not published until 1934.
Most of all, the ’20s was a milestone in the modern age, particularly for women, epitomized by the independent-minded flapper. Mary talks with fashion historian and author Caroline Rennolds Milbank about the extent to which the flapper look — chemises, tennis whites, glittering fringe dresses and cloche hats — resonates today.
But it wasn’t just about aesthetics for women. The flapper signified a hard-won socioeconomic and political independence. Mary also profiles Eileen Gray, the pioneering Irish architect and furniture designer, who rose to fame in the ’20s and is the subject of a career retrospective at Bard Graduate Center Gallery in Manhattan. And we consider the jagged, often brutal progress that led to women’s suffrage, which became the law of the land on Aug. 18, 1920. Let us take a moment to salute those women — and men — whose courage, perseverance and, yes, vision gave us all the victory.
Certainly, those suffragists stand shoulder to shoulder with women entrepreneurs, like our cover subject, Dylan Lauren — the “sweetly” ebullient dynamo behind Dylan’s Candy Bar, animal rights activist and mom of twins (Jeremy’s story); and Chloe Mendel, whose Maison Atia has taken her family’s furrier pedigree and applied it to the creation of high-end faux furs.
Twentysomething Chloe is just one way in which the Waggers have taken the 2020 and ’20s theme and run with it. Twentieth president of the United States? That would be the reluctant James Garfield (Phil’s story), whose presidency dovetailed with the rise of women’s suffrage and illustrated the strengths and limitations of the end of the 19th century. Twentieth anniversary? We’ve got the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins, whose board of governors co-chair, Greenwich resident Shelby Saer, is helping raise awareness of its collaborative approach to this devastating disease.
2020 vision? Stephen Warren, M.D., discusses cosmetic procedures for the eyes while Jeremy has us in stitches with his self-deprecating take on a lifelong quest for 20/20 vision; and Fatime builds an eye makeup look that you can then protect with stylish Tom Ford shades. 2020 is also a double number that suggests symmetry and balance (Wares columnist Cami) and a certain delight (Jeremy again, who writes about being a father of twins).
Speaking of doubles, we look at platform tennis, which is all about pairs of players. Created in Scarsdale in 1928, paddle tennis, as it is also known, will be celebrated in our area in March as the American Platform Tennis Association National Championships come to Westchester and Fairfield counties. Doubles of another kind — lookalikes known as doppelgángers — take center stage in our story about twin strangers in art and in life.
January is usually the month in which we say “out with the old and in with the new.” Well, we’re definitely down with the new. Our newest Wagger, Rajni Menon, joins us to revel in the tastes, sights and sounds of India in her What’s Cooking? column. Welcome, Rajni.
Even Sotheby’s International Realty gets into the ’20s act with a house in Khakum Wood, a 1925 residential park in Greenwich. Sotheby’s didn’t plan it this way. But we at WAG don’t believe in coincidences, only wonderful synchronicity.
May 2020 and your 2020 visions hold the same.