The 1920’s were a time of extravagance, invention and rebellion, into that wild chaotic party came changes in fashion that had a great impact on the culture. Fashion in the 1920’s varied throughout the decade but one could see the noticeable change from the previous fashion statements and eras. At the start of the decade, women began emancipating themselves from the constricting fashions by wearing more comfortable clothes. As women gained more rights and World War I forced them to become more independent, there came flappers, mass-produced garments became available, and artistic movements increased in popularity.
In the early 1920s, change advanced gradually as many women were reluctant to adopt the new styles and changes coming with the new era. From 1925 on however, the styles associated with the roaring twenties were excitedly accepted by the public and continued to characterize fashion into the late 1930s.
Numerous years had passed since the end of World War I. After the burden of the war, and the female liberation movement, women now felt free-spirited and just simply wanted to have a little fun again. (Vintage Dancer) Having won the right to vote in the 1920s, women were able to break free of the traditional feminine image and behaviors previously associated with them. (The American Vision 378) Specifically, women were experiencing a greater sense of individuality and even more importantly a greater sense of independence.
As new opportunities arose, women began to shed the confining clothing of the previous centuries. Corsets were forgotten and replaced with looser fitting camisoles. (Vintage Dancer) Designers had much more freedom of expression with the new dresses and tops of the twenties. Colorful, loud fabrics showed the joy the women felt about the end of the war and their new freedom and independence. (1920’s women fashions) As the 1920s came to a close, one can see how the clothes became more comfortable for women and much less constricting resulting in a slimmer silhouette for women.
Thanks to Coco Chanel, the iconic flapper image most closely associated with the roaring twenties came about. The flapper and flapper image didn’t actually come to be until around 1926 and even then was only in style for about three years. Typical flappers were women who appeared to have a bold attitude and were independent women who didn’t adhere to the previously innocent housewife image. A flapper usually had a bob haircut, a shorter than average dress, a flat chest, wore tons of make-up, drank illegal alcohol, smoked with a long cigarette holder, exposed her limbs and danced the Charleston.
This was a drastic change from the typical American housewife to the reckless rebel. The flapper dresses stressed above the knee hemlines and construed straight, sleek shapes. This was the first time in centuries women’s legs were being seen in a garment. (1920s Fashion) Flappers loved to jazz up their costume and even their image. Many flappers’ dresses were adorned with jewels and intricate beading. The main object of the flapper image was to appear almost boyish rather than looking feminine. (1920s clothing)
The nineteen twenties became the first century where mass produced goods really became available and made a significant impact in everyone’s lives. High fashion before the 1920s had really only been for the richer women of society who could afford such luxuries. Mass produced garments became available to more women who could afford them. Mary Pickens Brook of the Women’s Institute transformed the fashion industry when she invented the one-hour dress. Thanks to Brook, women could now make their own dresses by following a simple sewing pattern.
As it was easier for women to make dresses at home it was also easier for factories to manufacture the simple garments. This basic style, coupled with the increase in mass production, made fashion easily attainable to women of all income levels. The average person’s fashion sense became more sophisticated than previous eras. Recorded fashion images show after the twenties the fashions of ordinary women and what they typically wore in contrast to just the clothing of the rich. Styles at all levels now we’re being heavily influenced by the newly portrayed movie stars.
Regular people could now see the movie star’s fashion and make their own renditions of it to create an ever changing style (Vintage Dancer). Art had a particularly remarkable influence over the 1920’s clothing. Crazy and bright fabrics were becoming more and more prominent throughout the decade as opposed to the blacks, grays, and neutrals of the past years. Designers also started playing around with geometric patterns and shapes (1920’s clothing). Lighter, brighter, and shorter became the new expectations of clothing in the 1920’s, especially the dresses.
Fashion designers started to become more daring and use numerous fabric colors, textures, and patterns in their line of clothing. Ravishing coordinated and accessorized outfits were a must have for the ladies of nineteen twenties. Hats, shoes, stockings, handbags, dresses, and jewelry all came together in perfect harmony to create a unique an elegant style not previously seen in earlier decades (1920’s women fashions). Influences from the 1920s fashions decade can still be found in many of today’s present trends. For starters, women could not find the same looks in high-priced boutiques as they could in discount retailers.
Cardigan jackets and sweaters, first worn in the 1920s have become staple items in today’s fashion industry. Even the style of the bob haircut has become a classic style nowadays. The fashion of the nineteen twenties was the beginning of change and the love of fashion that numerous people share today. As a result of liberation and artistic movements, mass-production, and flappers one can see how the nineteen twenties fashion era began shaping the fashion industry into one of the biggest industries known today.
- “1920s Important News and Events, Key Technology Fashion and Popular Culture.” What Happened in 2006 Inc. Pop Culture, Prices and Events, The People History, 2018, www.thepeoplehistory.com/1920s.html.
- Appleby, Joyce. The American Vision. Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2010.
- Sessions, Debbie. “What Did Women Wear in the 1920s? 20s Clothing Trends.” VintageDancercom, 2009, vintagedancer.com/1920s/when-to-wear-what-in-the-1920s/.