European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Exhibitions

Man Ray and Fashion in the 1920s

1920sEuropean fashionfashion exhibitionfashion photographySurrealism

The first highlight on Man Ray, as explored in the MoMu exhibition ‘Man Ray and Fashion’

The 1920s were a pivotal decade for modern fashion, especially for women: skirt lengths were shorter than they had ever been before, waistlines were lowered and cut across straight silhouettes. All these changes to the rather complex styles fashionable in the previous decades called for a new modernist attitude towards clothes.

Fashion magazines also underwent a transformation, shifting their focus from illustration to a new media, photography: a whole new way of representing garments and bodies, a land of new possibilities, both technical and narrative. Photography allowed fashion magazines to promote the new freedom of movement that the simple tailoring of the 1920s fostered, and depicted women wearing these dresses performing new activities, such as driving and playing sports.


Trained as a painter, in 1921 Man Ray arrived in Paris and was already experimenting with the relatively ‘new’ media, photography, when Poiret asked him to shoot his fashion collection. Man Ray then began photographing for Vogue in 1924. At the time, Paris was the centre of fashion, and Parisian couturiers not only sold made-to-measure couture designs, but they also sold the patterns and the models, which were copied all around the world. 

The photographer greatly contributed to the popularisation of those styles, either focusing on daywear – sportive, comfortable clothing – or luxurious evening wear, richly decorated, beaded and sequinned, designed by the likes of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel.


The exhibition Man Ray and Fashion at MoMu showcases a selection of 1920s dresses from the collection of the museum, as well as some of the iconic images Man Ray created for fashion.