1920s Fashion

Fashion of the 1920s

The 1920s are perceived as a glamorous era. The world was recovering from the decimation of the First World War and young people in particular were mainly interested in having a good time and partying.

Women in the Nineteen-Twenties required a youthful sporty image. To achieve this meant dieting and exercise. The elastic girdle was introduced to achieve the boyish wraith-like look of the decade. At the start of the decade the tubular shape of the era meant that the waistline disappeared. It returned during the mid-1920s, but reappeared around the hips forming the popular dropped waistline. Gloves and hats were still important accessories. The cloche hat and Eton crop or short bob hair style typified the period.

Fashion icons of the 1920s

  • Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel – Innovator of the ‘bob’, the ‘little black dress’ and Chanel No. 5.
  • Sonia Delaunay – Created Patchwork Coats to symbolize the Jazz Age.
  • Romain de Terthoff Erté – A Russian designer who was well known for his fashion illustrations & designs for the entertainment world.
  • Mariano Fortuny – Fashion designer who used a wide range of historical and cultural styles to create his outfits.
  • Jean Patou – Specialised in designs for Sports Stars and Actresses.
  • Madeleine Vionnet – Inventor of the Bias Cut – also biased against anyone who was short or ugly!

Fashion Looks of the 1920s:–
Boating look
– A popular look for males was that of the striped blazer (originally red for Cambridge), straw boater and trousers known as Oxford ‘bags’ (some trousers having flared hems up to a width of 24 inches).

Charleston style -Being associated with the flappers, the fringing and beading of the

typical outfit was designed to ‘move’ with the dance-steps and highlight the energy of the dancer’s steps. In this context, beaded headbands and feathers were preferable to cloche hats!

Chinese InfluenceEvening dresses were embellished with beading and decoration in the Chinese style.  Kimono style jackets and tunics were popular.

Day Dresses -Although many people nowadays assume that the daywear of the 1920s was all about short straight dresses, showing off a ‘boyish’ figure, in fact most dresses during the period were actually worn at calf length. The dropped waistline and dipped, scalloped and hanky hemlines of the era, helped accentuate the length of the dress.

Egyptian StyleAn Egyptian craze sprang up in the 1920s following the opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. Aspects of Egyptian and Middle East culture influenced fashion, furniture and decoration for many years. Egyptian costumes, including Mummies are available.

Erte StyleErté’s costume designs typically identified the look of the period and the Art Deco style.

Evening Dresses – These were as short as day wear. Transparent fabrics, glass beading and silk fringing were all used to enhance outfits. Draped coats were fashionable. They also helped to keep out the cold, as dresses underneath were usually made of lightweight materials.

Flapper When women look for 1920s costumes, the flapper is the first image that tends to come to mind. The flappers were the rebellious female youth of post WWI, but the name has since evolved to become a generic term for a fashion style.

The typical flapper style was a straight shift-style dress, normally level with the knee (which was daring during the 1920s), embellished with decorations, such as geometric shapes, tassels and fringing. A cloche hat or headband and feather(s) would have been worn over short bobbed or shingled hairstyles. Heavy kohl eyeliner and bright lipstick, complete the flapper look.

Gangster The double-breasted pin-stripe suit style works for a number of decades, but is particularly popular as the basis of a 1920s gangster outfit. The Valentine’s Day Massacre took place on February 14th 1929 and is one of the reasons why Gangsters and Molls can be such a popular theme for the 1920s.    See our separate Gangsters and Molls section which looks at this theme in more detail.

MotoristGloves and long driving coat, designed for warmth in open vehicles, plus cap and goggles.

Russian Peasant StyleEvening dresses were embellished with embroidery in the ethic style.

ICONS OF THE 1920s
Josephine Baker – Black American Dancer
Dada – Artist
Mahatma Gandhi – Indian Leader, which gives another great 20s Costume idea!

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