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Cleopatra Capriccio

By Resa McConaghy:

Did you ever want to go back in time?

Well, we can with Art Gowns and imagination. I choose the 1920s! What a decade of influences to inspire an Art Gown: King Tut’s Tomb was discovered. Art Deco was the movement. Chanel and Vionnet eschewed the corset, flattening the chest and dropping the waistline.

In 1920, women’s right to vote was ratified in the U.S.A. Cafe Society lead to the Jazz Age, and the Fitzgeralds were all the rage. Flappers were making their mark, and Zelda Fitzgerald was the most famous flapper of them all.

Cleopatra Capriccio is dedicated to Elizabeth Gracen, because she is a 21st-century flapper!

The flapper was considered outrageous by general society in her day. Now, she is touted as being the first generation of independent American women. These women pushed barriers in economic, political, and sexual freedom. Today, with Flapper Films and Flapper Press, Elizabeth Gracen continues to press for a better society. Through the arts, lifestyle, and well-being of mind and body, she is taking on everything from social acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community to the eschewing of harmful environmental practices to the dissemination of information about politics in the U.S.

Twenty some years ago, Elizabeth was the star, and I was her designer. We have remained good friends since. As a matter of fact, she gave me the Mini-Me I dress up to go with the Art Gowns.

Now, back to the Art Gown. It began with the gift of a sequin fabric, a leftover from a TV series. I paired the sequin fabric with a table runner I’d hung on to since my teen years and yardage of a soft grey, heavyweight acetate satin curtain lining purchased at a liquidation sale for $0.75/yd (120” wide).

Finally, some dark royal blue silk (also gifted) that had spent 25 years in musty storage rounded out the fabrics. I harvested sequins off the scraps and sewed them onto the silk.

I pinned Cleopatra Capriccio up, but she still wasn’t as short as a flapper dress. Yet, the sequins did a fun bit.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at the 1920s vis-à-vis Cleopatra Capriccio and a real 21st-century flapper, Elizabeth Gracen!


An established costume designer in film, television and digital media, Resa McConaghy has worked on productions for Showtime, ABC, Disney, CBS, CBC, Hallmark, and more.

Her mission: to enable the articulation of character through wardrobe.

Take a look at Resa's other Art Gowns:

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