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How 'Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries' Captures the Roaring Fashion of the 1920s (Photos)

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Watch "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" on Sundays at 9:00 p.m. on KCET. Each episode will stream for two weeks following Sunday's broadcast here.

The Roaring Twenties ushered in a powerful social revolution. World War I swept away certain restrictions of class and old world attitudes. The right to vote, drive, and be heard catapulted women from subservient domesticity and allowed them to be more free spirited, progressive, and career-oriented. Phryne Fisher is a shining beacon of this modern woman. As the lead character in the mystery show, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries,” Phryne exudes everything 1920s femininity.  Punctuating her status and modernity is her penchant for the fashion au courant!

A feisty, in-your-face, self-proclaimed female detective, Phryne is self confident, and unflappable. In control of her destiny and not reliant on a man, she moves easily through her world…and her costumes reflect this ease.  

Dropped waists, loose shifts, and shorter skirts allowed women to enjoy more physical activities.

Gone are the restrictive corsets of past eras. Her costumes define not only her independence, but social status, and joie de vivre. The twenties woman enjoyed active days, sports, and dancing which required easy-to-wear costumes -- comfortable, unstructured, and allowing freedom of movement. 

Bobbed hair no longer required hours of maintenance. Phryne embraces and flaunts these freedoms and is the poster girl for this era. 

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Since we see Phryne involved in chase scenes and various climbing predicaments, the need for trousers is prominent and the show’s costume designer, Marion Boyce, has created a beautifully varied wardrobe for Phryne. Her day wear includes full cut period trousers, floaty chiffon day dresses with handkerchief hems, cloche hats, exquisite period heels, and accessories. Miss Boyce uses vintage fabrics, period construction details, and accessories to create the show’s simplified period silhouette.

Not having the budget of a show such as “Downton Abbey,” Boyce deftly utilizes fashion influences of the period: Art Deco geometric patterns, and the occasional richly embroidered Chinese silks to help define the era. Phryne’s fashions are consistently playful and vivacious with the correct silhouette and styling, but not buried in beading and details. Her party clothes are lightly detailed flapper styles with a sense of humor which accentuate her bold personality traits.

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miss fisher fasion

The show is a costuming whirlwind. The characters visit a variety of locales: requiring costumes from all walks of society, and varied activities: vintage bathing costumes at the shore, maids and servants at work, to elegant period costume balls. A costume designer’s job is to support the story arc and define the characters, and Boyce offers the perfect dash of period and "character" without great excess.

A costume designer’s job is to support the story arc and define the characters.

Phriney’s costumes are distinctly character and period driven. Clearly defined, there’s no confusion about who she is and what she believes. While Phryne is a well-heeled, bold fashionista indulging in richly colored fashion statements, her gal/pal assistant, Dot, is clearly subdued, sensible and down to earth.  Wearing simple styles made of serviceable fabrics, her silhouette is less detailed as befits her station in life. Compared to Phryne’s patterned, fringed, coifed, cocoon cloaked, feathered, raccoon-ed and cloched “20s flapper”, the supporting cast reveals all social strata of the era. 

A showcase for all that is 1920s fashion, the show and Phryne get it right!  

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