'Fashion and jazz' was another area which the NLHF invited us to consider and (as with our 'Voices from the Past' project) we enjoyed working with South Essex College and their students. This involved some dress design (we concentrated on that most iconic image the 'flapper-dress' worn by dancers of the 'Charleston' in the 1920s) but also consideration of the way jazz fashion, over the years, has challenged the everyday accepted societal concepts as to 'how you should look'. So we took an iconic image from every jazz decade to illustrate (and celebrate) how this happened. And by using images ranging from Billie Holiday's gardenia and Louis Armstrong's fashionable 1930s plus-fours to Dizzy Gillespie's zoot-suit, beret and dark glasses and Miles Davis' rock-star outfits and cool shades we were able to create a visual exhibition which took us through a hundred years of jazz fashions.

We hope you enjoy the Gallery of images outlining the huge amount of work and effort put into this project by the South Essex College students. See the finished dresses, artwork and more within our in-centre 100 Club exhibition.

Gardenia Jazz Inspired Dress


This beautiful jazz inspired dress was designed by Deborah Wingfield of 'Bespoke Costumes by Deborah'.

This design is a contemporary interpretation of an iconic 1920s style 'flapper dress'. The dress incorporates the gardenia flower as an emblem of an iconic 'face of the past' from the jazz era. 


One evening, prior to going on stage', Billie Holiday was given a big, white gardenia by her cloakroom assistant. Gardenias are beautiful, delicate white flowers with a potent scent that symbolises purity and gentleness, as well as, glamour, femininity and joy. 

Holiday wore it that night to cover a previously burned section of her hair. She liked it so much that she began to put a gardenia in her hair before every performance. Holiday's gardenia emblem is brought out through the carefully crafted floral detailing on the front of the dress.

See more of Deborah's work on her websites: 


Costumes by Deborah: https://www.costumesbydeborah.com/

Alterations by Deborah: https://www.alterationsbydeborah.co.uk/ 

This equally stunning dress was carefully crafted by South Essex College student Pheobe Maynard. 

See more of Pheobe's work online:

Follow Pheobe on Instagram: @pinkcostumes 

Find out more on her website: https://pinkcostumespm.wixsite.com/website

South Essex College Jazz Inspired Dress

The Jazz Centre (UK) 

Beecroft Art Gallery

Victoria Ave



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