Date: c. 1923
Material: crepe de chine, sequins, metal seed beads
'Mayan' brown crepe beaded dress
Bust - 35 inches
Shoulders - 16 inches
More Information: In 1923, American journalist Alma Reed ventured into the Central American jungle regaling New York Times readers with the archaeological discoveries of the ruins of several ancient Mayan cities. The mysticism behind the disappearance of an entire civilization combined with the descriptions of colorful Mesoamerican murals and geometric motifs influenced fashion, architecture, and decorative arts for a short period in the early 1920s. Unfortunately, like all other influences throughout the decade, inspiration pulled heavily from Western ideas and assumptions on the region, as well as the media’s ability to create enthusiasm for the subject matter. This dress is an excellent example of the cultural appropriation of non-Western ideals: the clusters of brightly dyed gelatin sequins add depth to the geometric designs outlined in metallic and brightly colored glass beads. Bird motifs, seen at the left and right sides of the dress, depict a representation of the Mesoamerican bird Quetzal, a sacred bird associated with freedom.