It could be argued that the beginning of modern fashion was the end of the Victorian-era, when women strapped themselves into corsets with little regard for human anatomy or lung capacity. After that came the flappers of the Roaring ’20s, who let it all hang out with un-cinched waistlines and accessorized with all that jangly stuff that went so well with all that jazz. But what exactly happened in between that got the style world from the reserved to roaring?  PIFA’s “Brave New World” fashion exhibit, currently showing at the Drexel’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, seems to have all the answers.  “Brave New World” displays key fashion innovations that highlight the style revolution that raged between 1911 and 1919. Women used the deprivations and sacrifices imposed by World War I as an opportunity for change, a good excuse to shorten their skirts and brighten their clothes. Suddenly ankles were on show and slim un-corseted bodies were let loose upon the world, and nothing would ever be the same again. There would be no putting the flapper genie back in the Victorian bottle.  The “Brave New World” collection has been collated from the Drexel Historic Costume Collection and includes a variety of donated dresses and accessories, some from as near as Philadelphia and as far away as England and France.  The collection includes a 1912 silk, lamé and glass French dress, designed to provide “a seductive glimpse of the ankles.” Scandalous! The dresses are accompanied by a small selection of shoes and accessories. Compared to today’s Jersey Shore neon crop-top and booty short standards, the exhibit pieces seem relatively tame, but it’s important to remember just how shocking and outrageous these style changes seemed to polite society back in the day. As such, “Brave New World” provides a fascinating glimpse at the evolution of fashion and social mores, not to mention the liberation of women from the suffocating prudery of moral scolds. We’ve come a long way, baby, and it all started right here. — REBECCA GOODACRE

BRAVE NEW WORLD: FASHION AND FREEDOM, 1911-1919 runs until May 7th at The Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University, 3215 Market Street, Philadelphia. HOURS: Mon-Fri 11:00am – 5:00pm. ADMISSION: Free

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