Art Déco and The Thin Man

THE THIN MAN features the ever-stylish work of our incredible contract designers, including Set Design by Scott Reid, and Costume Design by Deitra Kalyn. These talented members of the creative team help transport our shows to all kinds of time periods and styles, and THE THIN MAN is an opportunity for them to showcase some sleek American architecture and fashion. This rom-com/detective story is set around the winter holiday season of 1933, a time when Art Déco was all the rage.

 Entrance to the famed Chrysler Building in New York City, by Norbert Nagel / Wikimedia Commons |  License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Entrance to the famed Chrysler Building in New York City, by Norbert Nagel / Wikimedia Commons | License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Art Déco originated in France as a reaction to the then-common Neo-classical and Art Nouveau trends of Europe. Part of this reaction was spurred by French artists feeling the pinch of German imports on their local market. In an attempt to introduce modern trends in a major way, the Société des Artistes Décorateurs held a major international exhibition where only new works would be presented. Initially, this exhibition was to be held in 1914, but had to be postponed till 1925 with the outbreak of World War I. As such, Art Déco, while beginning roughly in the 1910s and 20s, didn't really have its heyday until the 30s, stretching into the 50s.

Compared to the more elaborate styles of the Neo-classical and Art Nouveau periods, Art Déco was considerably pared down, focusing on modernity and luxury, with geometric shapes and lines to emphasize a sense of grandeur. In the set for THE THIN MAN, Scott Reid has used this style in the luxurious hotel suite of our main characters, Nick and Nora Charles, with gold lines that reflected the style of inlaid patterns used in that time. Art Déco reflected on the building materials that were becoming available with the modern age - fancy wood inlay, gold, and chrome, to name a few. Reid says "I looked at the Art Déco hotels of New York such as Chatwal, Normandy and Wellesley along with bars and restaurants of the 1930’s. I was inspired by the lines and shapes within the architecture of those spaces."


 Photo by Trudie Lee | Set Design by Scott Reid, Lighting Design by Anton de Groot, Costume Design by Deitra Kalyn

Photo by Trudie Lee | Set Design by Scott Reid, Lighting Design by Anton de Groot, Costume Design by Deitra Kalyn

In fashion, the styles of the 30's reflected the transitional period of the widening economic struggles of the Great Depression. Women in particular found their fashions impacted by a work force that at-first embraced them during the post-war period, then rejected them in favour of jobs for men . Designers like Louis Vuitton and Paul Poiret began using very bright colours, and emphasized sporty, casual, modern looks. Corsetry started to fade away in favour of dresses with a "silhouetted" semi-fitted look, which gave women an almost tubular or pillar-like shape. Transitionally though, this less feminine look blended in the 30s with Hollywood glamour bringing bright floral patterns and shorter, more feminine hemlines. Deitra Kalyn reflects this transitional point in fashion by dressing characters like Katherine Fadum's Mimi in bright floral patterns, while Nadien Chu's Nora wears the more "modern woman" look of Art Déco dresses with long hems, and the instantly-recognizable Cloche style hat.


 Photo by Trudie Lee | Set Design by Scott Reid, Lighting Design by Anton de Groot, Costume Design by Deitra Kalyn | Nadien Chu and Curt McKinstry

Photo by Trudie Lee | Set Design by Scott Reid, Lighting Design by Anton de Groot, Costume Design by Deitra Kalyn | Nadien Chu and Curt McKinstry

 The cast of THE THIN MAN. Set design by Scott Reid, Costume Design by Deitra Kalyn, Lighting by Anton De Groot, photo by Trudie Lee.

The cast of THE THIN MAN. Set design by Scott Reid, Costume Design by Deitra Kalyn, Lighting by Anton De Groot, photo by Trudie Lee.

Art Déco is present in Calgary, as well, with examples including the AGT building (completed in 1929), the Model Milk Building (completed in 1933) and the Barron Building (Calgary's first Skyscraper, completed in 1951).

Check out THE THIN MAN until October 14 for a taste of Art Déco and mystery!