Brief History of Women’s Fashion – The 1920s –
A concise illustrated history of 1920’s women’s fashion -1920 to 1929.
1.1920’s Style – The key Features.
2.Art Deco and 1920’s Fashion.
3.The Evolution of the 1920’s Silhouette.
4.The Age of Chic.
5.The 1920’s Wardrobe.
a.1920’s Day Wear
b.1920’s Evening Wear
c.1920’s Designer Flapper Dresses
d.Home Dress Making
6.The 1920’s Flapper and the influence of Hollywood.
7.1920’s Hairstyles and the Cloche Hat.
8.The 1920’s Make-up Look.
9. 1920’s Fashion Accessories.
b.lingerie & hosiery
10.1909 to 1929 – The end of an era in fashion.
“With silken legs and scarlet lips
We’re young and hungry, wild and free,
Our waists are round about the hips
Our skirts are well above the knee
We’ve boyish busts and Eton crops,
We quiver to the saxophone
Come, dance before the music stops
for who can bear to be alone?”
James Laver – The Women of 1926
The 1920’s era is unparalleled by the sheer magnitude of cultural change, beginning in many ways with the spread of women’s suffrage in the immediate post war years.The 19th amendment of the US Constitution in 1920 finally brought the vote to American women ( a surprising late adopter of women’s suffrage was France in 1945! ) and with it a new sense of freedom and rights of feminine self expression. As the old order of class society crumbled, there was a massive liberation in the creative arts around the developed world.
The-Great-Paris-Fashion-Designers-of-the-1920s – Images- Met Museum
As for changes in fashion, the huge influence of Paris designers like Poiret,Patou,Molyneux, Chanel, Lanvin, Lelong, Callot Soeurs and Vionnet cannot be underestimated, not to mention British designers such as Norman Hartnell – who went from catering exclusively to the wealthy upper class in the 1920’s to designing British women’s utility dresses in the early 1940’s. But there were more factors at work other than the whims of clothing designers. The 1920’s was a cultural revolution!
The arrival of the Jazz Age from the city of New Orleans and the music of Louis Armstrong became the anthem for the flapper, black or white and especially in the USA where alcohol was prohibited throughout the 1920’s and the term the ‘Roaring Twenties’ can be said to have been aptly applied. The invention of film and the rising influence of Hollywood along with an increase in fashion marketing; the merging of the Arts Decoratifs and new Modernist movements; the cultural impact of a world war which reduced the grip of the class system on both sides of the Atlantic, encouraging different classes and races to mingle and share their sense of freedom in the fight for suffrage; and the rise of consumerism which promoted the ideals of ‘fulfilment and freedom’.
All these factors in post war culture would lead young women away from the Jane Austin era of corseted restrictions and ‘turns about the drawing room’.
As during the Belle Epoch in the 1900’s and decades later in the 1960’s, you would find a young bohemian movement – flying the flag for freedom of self expression, and the major cities of Paris, Berlin, New York and Washington were the social melting pots for the 1920’s cultural explosion. London of the 1920’s led the way in some respects with numerous infamous jazz clubs such as The Kit Cat Club, where the bright young things would carouse in decadence as satirized in Evelyn Waughs Vile Bodies. The Weimar culture of 1920’s Berlin immortalized by Christopher Usherwood in a series of Berlin novels which inspired the 1960’s musical Cabaret – was an all too brief spark of creativity and freedom before fascism slammed the door shut.
In the USA, the prohibition of alcohol produced the inevitable response of thousands of speak easy run by gangsters springing up across the nation. These were not to be confused with the 1920’s bohemian set, who ploughed their own path. One Notable such club to hit the headlines was the Krazy Kat Klub in Washington.
Perhaps the greatest gift to the 1920s era came from the African-American – whose culture developed rapidly during the 1920’s under the banner of “The Harlem Renaissance”. New Orleans Jazz made its way north to the segregated clubs of Chicago and New York, where the likes of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, spread the musical message of freedom. Black American women had not only to fight for female emancipation, but had to scale the long ladder of civil rights . She played an enormous role in the liberation of all women.
The auto-mobile with all the sense of adventure that it promised was also a factor in the changes to women’s fashion and styles and continued to liberate women’s lifestyles as it had done in the 1910’s. While though the exclusive Rolls Royces, Cabriolets, Packards, and Horches had been the domain of only the wealthy socialites, by the end of the 1920’s, chirpy ‘two dog cars’ like the Renault and Citroen and Bugatti meant that bright young things of more modest means could enjoy the high life!
1920’s Style – The key Features.
There was far more to women’s fashion in the 1920’s than the iconic Flapper look of bobbed hair, long necklaces, cloche hats, flapper slang and dancing to the ‘Charleston’ !
The explosion of creativity in stunning innovative styles in dress, hair, swimwear, shoes – the list goes on, all raised the bar to a height that hasn’t been matched since. All subsequent eras would seek to emulate, re-create, or re-imagine the clothing styles pioneered by the 1920’s designers and the adventurous women who wore them!
The influence of Art Decoratifs and the emerging Modernist movement [ now referred to as Art Deco style] and in particular the fashion illustrators, also helped cement the slim, demure look of the era
What makes the 1920’s era so unique is that every single innovation introduced has in essence remained with us ever since in their component parts.
The Chemise Dress –
First making an entrance as an outerwear item in 1916 from designers such as Jeanne Lanvin , Callot Seours and Coco Chanel – by 1920, the chemise or shift dress, was to become the dominant line for day and evening wear. The dress hung from shoulder to just below the knee – the waist dropped to the hips [ this idea possibly came from the gradual wearing of loose belts over the earlier chemise frocks and middy blouses of the 1910s – Chanel in particular loved belts!].
She also had a penchant for the color black, with its easy capacity to flatter, and with the launch of her little black dress in 1926 – Chanel endorsed the validity of black – several years before any other designer saw its power.
Not only did the waist drop – but most significantly, the hemlines rose – dangerously! This sudden exposure of women’s legs in the 1920s, brought about a huge interest in women’s hosiery, and stocking sales went through the roof. Silk was still the main sought after fabric, and the common colours were beige and grey and white being the most favoured.
By the 1920’s, the prevailing mode seemed bent on divesting woman of the last wisp of raiment she could wear and be still considered clothed by the standards of the time.