1920s fashion clearly defined it’s self as the fashion of the modern era. This period became known as the “Roaring 20s”. World War 1 was finally over; art and creative expression were alive again, and with it came new and colorful fabrics and materials. The roaring 20’s was an era that saw the Harlem Renaissance, ladies voting and a sudden increase in affluence for the middle-class.
Hats, shoes, dresses, handbags and jewelry all complemented each other, creating a classy style that was both unique and harmonious. To get the full impact of this style it needs to be seen in living color as black and white photographs simply don’t do it justice.
Flamboyant 1920s Fashion For Women
1920s fashion for women is often referred to as revealing and flamboyant. Trends such as lengthy gem bracelets, bobbed hair, cloche hats, thin knee-high dresses have become synonymous with the 1920s fashion. Many fail to see that 1920s fashion was also very sexy, elegant and contemporary. 1920s fashion was a lot more than the cliché Flapper dresses that so many individuals connect with the decade.
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1920s Fashion Was A Sign Of Liberation
Turning their back on the more restrictive, tubular dresses of the 1910’s, the liberated women of the time turned to more comfortable clothing such as short pants or skirts.
1920s fashion for women now incorporated shorter styles with pleats, slits and gathers allowing for more freedom and motion.
Colorful silk tights also came back into fashion for those who could afford them. A casual and/or sport variety was also made from cotton lisle. 1920s fashion had tights being folded just above the knee and kept in place with garters.
A popular women’s outfit of the time became a straight-lined chemise matched to a close-fitting cloche hat. In Europe, a hairstyle called the “Bubikopf” was becoming popular. This hairstyle, later to be known as the “Bob Cut”, didn’t become popular in the U.S. until seen on the actress Louise Brooks. Back then, as it is today, many women duplicate the styles and fashion of their favorite celebrities
Dances like the Charleston where introduced allowing women to truly enjoy their new found freedoms, colors and fashion. In fact by 1927 seams had risen to just below the knee, making it possible to seen part of the knee when dancing the Charleston.
The Roaring 20’s were definitely a transformation for womanhood. It now became acceptable for women to smoke or drink in public areas. Shorter hair, make-up and a greater work force participation all defined the new woman of the 1920’s and set a unique but defined path for 1920s fashion.
1920s Fashion And Masculinity
1920s fashion broke all the rules by raising hemlines to just below the knee, exposing the legs (something that had not been seen for centuries). Corsets and bustles of previous eras were replaced with camisoles, bloomers or a chemise.
Short hair styles such as the Bob cut, the Marcel Wave or the Eton Crop became popular as women started to adopt a more masculine look (women also started to flatten their hips and breasts to achieve that “boyish” look).
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971)
French designer, Coco Chanel, was one of the first women to employ pants in her designs, cut her hair short and totally reject the corset. Because of her vision she became one of the most influential designers and entrepreneurs of that century.
Her first Chemise was designed (by her) in 1920 and in 1925 she designed the collarless cardigan jacket. Chanel No.5, her signature perfume scent, was also released in 1925.
Elegance, luxury and simplicity were a trademark of her style. Chanel, in her own way, helped greatly in the freedom and emancipation of female fashion as well as the evolution of 1920s fashion.
As said by Coco Chanel herself :
A girl should be two things; classy and fabulous.
Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.
A new French designer, Jean Patou, became a success with his two-piece, wool jersey sweater and skirt outfits. The women of America were now leading increasingly active lives and so saw appeal and value in Patou’s 1920s fashion range.
By the end of the twenties, the younger generations had started searching for their own style. The 1920s fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli elegantly filled this gap. By combining the classical styles of the Romans and Greeks with the now modern “Bohemian” style, she introduced a range of elegant dresses that didn’t hide the body as the chemise did, but enhanced the natural contours.
History And 1920s Fashion
In the years 1880-1910, the ideal female profile would resemble the letter “S”. Ladies would force themselves into corsets and squeeze their waists down to often below 20 inches in diameter. This would raise their ribcage producing a prominent chest or “pigeon front”. The sides would be pushed back and the rear raised or padded to produce the lower curve of the “S”. Skirts were full length, often touching the floor as the glimpse of an ankle was considered rather racy.
1920s fashion brought change and women began flattening their busts and removing their corsets creating a less shapely look which became known as “Garçonne” which was French for “boyish”.
1920s Fashion – Flappers And The Roaring 20′s
1920s fashion saw bathing suits become more revealing as women started to express their new freedom. Bathing suits were either short taffeta outfits – favored by older women – or tight, sleeveless woolen tank suits with pre-fitted undershorts which only covered down to the mid-leg. Bathing caps became a necessity as ladies needed to protect their bobbed hair styles from getting wet. People of this era also became interested in health-foods and exercise. Sun baking also became popular for many.
Men’s swim wear usually consisted of tank suits and under shorts, commonly made from wool to enhance the body’s natural shape.
1920s fashion, it is interesting to note, was still being made either at home, or by tailors and dressmakers. Ready to wear fashion of the industrial age didn’t exist until the 1930s. The design houses of Paris would assemble two collections on an annual basis; a fall collection and a spring collection. Each designer would then display their new creations on models in their salons. The designs would then be bought, replicated and altered to suit the physique of the wearer. This process would often require several fittings and the time and skill of seamstresses, tailors and their apprentices. 1920s fashion designs had to be simplistic enough to be reproduced and altered without too much added expense.
Hair, Makeup And 1920s Fashion
The poufy hair styles of the 1910s were gone as women started trimming their hair. More modern and stylish cuts such as the Bob Cut, the Marcel Wave, the Eton Crop or shingled styling’s increased in acceptance and popularity. Those that resisted this trend would often draw their hair back and knot it with a chignon.
To accompany evening wear, headbands or Spanish hair combs would often hold the knotted chignons in place. The Bob hair style was made popular in the U.S. by Irene Castle and actress Louise Brooks and to this day is still referred to in jokes, cartoons and movies.
The 1920s fashion-conscious male would commonly part their hair close to, if not in the center. They would then slick it back with a product called “Brilliantine”; an oily, perfumed hairdressing that added sheen to the hair as well as holding it in place. This was a look made extremely popular by the Silver Screen Star, Rudolph Valentino among other.
For 1920s fashion, makeup was simple: Cream rouge circling the cheekbones, eyebrows plucked and thinly penciled in and pale powder. Vivid red lipstick was used to emphasize the “Cupid’s bow” of the upper lip, and to exaggerate the width of the “P” on the lower lip. Thus creating what we now know as the “Rosebud Pout”.
Hats In abundance
In the early 1920′s, hats with medium-to-large brims and deep crowns were prevalent. In 1923, that all started to change as brims began disappearing and hats took on a more helmet-like appearance.
These helmet-hats, or cloches as they were called, became alarmingly popular despite the obvious fact that they were unattractive on anyone but the very young or the very pretty.
During summer, men would commonly wear broad brimmed Panama straw hats. British driving caps also became popular to some, and for others, felt fedoras were worn with sport jackets and suits.
Elegant Evening Attire
As opposed to popular belief, women weren’t always wearing flapper dresses, long strands of beads and feathered bandeaux. Evening clothes were elegant and made from luxurious materials such as silks, taffetas, chiffon and velvets. Many were tailored with long trailing sashes or asymmetric hemlines. In most cases, ladies didn’t wear hats during the evening, but rather used stylish hair combs, bandeaux and jewelry.
For 1920s fashion, Paris was in a class of its own as far as chic was concerned. To be seen with even a small accessory or scarf from Paris was considered chic. The 1920s fashion world made French designers Poirett, Vionne, Molyneaux, Chanel and Lanvin famous. It wasn’t until the late 20s that a new face emerged with new ideas and new designs. This newcomer was Elsa Schiaparelli, who, for many decades to follow, continued to produce surrealist-print clothing with Salvador Dali.
1920’s Men’s Fashion
1920s fashion found men wearing sports jackets and suits that were double breasted with, two or three buttons. Men commonly would wear pants at their natural waistline, often with cuffs at the end. As an accessory, men would have pocket watches chained to their vests (“Fob” watches).
As we look back, it’s easy to see that men’s formal and business attire hasn’t changed a great deal since the twenties. However, casual wear has. For the sporting guy of the 20’s, a trendy outfit as usually made up of a pair of linen knickers, a bow-tie and a V-necked sweater. Often a relaxed stylish straw hat or British driving cap would top off the outfit nicely.
Wide-legged cuffed pants that touched the ground (Oxford baggies) became popular with College going males. Some Oxford baggies had leg openings as wide as 36 inches.
Another popular 1920s fashion look was the Yachting look which consisted of whitened slacks, a navy sport jacket and a yachting cap. Neck ties were a standard feature of men’s attire with the Bow tie and standard Windsor-knot tie being equally as popular as each other.
To finish off a casual look, men would commonly wear British driving caps, or a brimmed hat, such as a Panama straw hat.
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More interesting 1920s fashion pages
- 1920s Fashion – Wikipedia’s fashion in the 1920s page.
- Women’s Fashions of the 1920s – Another interesting 1920s fashion page.
- Flappers And Fashion – A 1920s fashion site with a difference.
- 1920s fashion hats – If you like the 20′s and love hats, you will adorn this page.
1920s fashion was a great launching pad for the fashions of the 30s and 40s. Don’t forget to visit our other fashion pages and thank you for visiting. 1920s Fashion Hairstyles