“The battle [was] now afoot between costly fashion and comfortable fashion”: fashion abandoned the corset under the banner of emancipation and freedom of movement, and shapes became simpler in the name of clean, elegant outlines. Sportsmen (the English word was used in chic French parlance) flocked to the racecourses, reserved for a modern elite who travelled from London by airship and for whom the motor car was “an old acquaintance”.
With the Almanach published in December 1920 under the Masque d’Or (Golden Mask) imprint, Devambez took us into the very heart of the interbellum era when, despite “certain restrictions”, “Paris became the rendez-vous for fashion”.
The taste for entertainment and dancing was “imperious”, the “infernal saraband” of the jazzband was “all the rage”, and the nobility organized memorable balls where tradition and elegance reigned supreme. Feted literati of the time included Pierre Loti, Anatole France, Marcel Prévost, and Jacques Boulenger; playwrights Francis Carco, Tristan Bernard and Sacha Guitry became household names, and audiences flocked to great theatres such as the Comédie-Française and the Odéon.
A return to Primitivism gave the art world and the salons renewed vigour, and Cubism became increasingly popular.
After a shaky start twenty-five years before in the basement of the Grand Café in Paris, film found its natural home in the United States and became a fully fledged industry where technical and artistic endeavour combined to create “such an intense impression of life”.
In the pages of this little book, crafted like a precious jewel, Parisian high society was portrayed in illustrations by Édouard Halouze, a master of Art Deco. Also referred to as le style 1925, Art Deco was characterized by a new linear style borrowed from Cubism and the Bauhaus.
The Almanach includes the score for one of the barcarolles by the composer Gabriel Fauré, and a unique recipe by Édouard Nignon, the legendary chef whose restaurant on the place de la Madeleine, Larue, was the most elegant eatery in 1920s Paris. The book was intended as “a little guide to elegant life”, recounting “a day in the life of a true Parisian” and ending with a list of essential addresses.
Almanach du Masque d’Or, 1921, first year, Devambez, Au Masque d’Or, Paris, 1921