The fashion of the 1920s was the ideal marriage of flair and utility. Beautiful outfits that allowed women to move freely.
Even 90 years after the end of the Roaring Twenties, although everyone recognizes the style:
- Cloche Hats
- Flapper Dresses
- Famous Fashion Designers:
- Elegant, Art Deco-Inspired Evening Wear
- High-Heeled Shoes
- Simple Costumes & More Complex Jewelry
- Men’s Fashion (suits and sportswear)
- Art Deco Fashion.
The History of 1920s Fashion
The culture and events that surround fashion shape and impact it.
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. – Coco Chanel
The fashion of the 1920s is still well-known because it represented a significant departure from the preceding decade.
After World War I, society changed quickly: customs, technology, and manufacturing all accelerated into the twentieth century.
Society was accelerating; planes could transport people across the country in hours rather than weeks, and automobiles could go across several states in an evening.
The quick movement and transformation of society is reflected in 1920s fashion.
Women were no longer prepared to barter their mobility for the old stodgy Victorian conventions. For young women who wanted to dance, go to work, leap into cars, and roam around town, old-fashioned torture devices like the corset and crinoline then no longer served a purpose.
Fashion evolved alongside societal changes. Hemlines on 1920s dresses were rapidly growing, reaching mid-calf one year and also just below the knee the next…
The Liberated Woman In The Roaring 20s
Women gained the right to vote in the United States in 1920. In the same year, Congress declared it unlawful to sell alcohol.
The gangsters, bootleggers, and notorious characters who controlled the nightclubs and speakeasies were among the most famous, glamorous, and dangerous personalities of the 1920s.
After all, it was the Roaring Twenties.
Nightclubs were a mystical locations for men and women to dress up, get in their cars, and go out drinking and listening to the new sounds of jazz music. This 1920s nightclub scene has long been a favorite of stylish young people.
When World War One ended in 1918, society had never witnessed the such widespread slaughter. The “Flaming Youth,” as they were dubbed, believed that they needed to live their lives now because the future, they claimed, was uncertain.
The words of famous reporter Lois Long became a rallying cry for the youth of the 1920s:
“Tomorrow we may die, so let’s get drunk and make love.” -Lois Long
Dresses from the 1920s with a descending waist and a rapidly rising hemline
It is a fallacy that the dresses of the 1920s were all short; the hemlines of ladies’ gowns didn’t reach anywhere near the knee until approximately 1925.
Even so, clothes in the 1920s were a stark contrast to those of the Victorian era.
Beginning just below the bust line in 1920, between the breasts and natural waist in 1921, and at the hips in 1922, the waistline began to fall in the late 1910s and continued to fall.
Dress hemlines were mid-calf by the end of the 1910s and remained there until 1922.
Surprisingly, the hemline fell between 1923 and 1924. It notably rose all the way to the knee in 1925.
Daytime dresses of the 1920s were shapeless affairs that hung loosely rather than hugging a woman’s curves. Often, the sleeves were also worn carelessly.
Floral designs were prevalent in women’s 1920s clothes, with soft pastel colors like “Nile Green,” “Sunset Orange,” “French Blue,” and “Maze” being the most popular.
Evening Dresses for Women
The Roaring Twenties were a time of riches and elegance for many, and 1920s fashions reflects that. People’s wealth is reflected in their evening gowns.
The materials, beads, and accessories were all gorgeous and costly. In terms of waist and hem structure, the evening gown followed the lead of the daytime gown.
The evening gown differed from its daytime counterpart in its structure.
The big names in fashion design began their start in the 1920s:
Jeanne Lanvin designed the robe de style, which was constructed of velvet and silk. She frequently designed this garment in robin’s egg blue, which is now known as Lanvin Blue.
Jean Patou, Madeline Vionnet, Mariano Fortuny, Jacques Doucet, Lucien Lelong, and Mme. Premet all rose to prominence as designers of some of the most stunning evening gowns and 1920s costumes.
This was also the time when art deco styles with sharp angular forms and vivid colors were popular. Learn more about art deco’s effect in the 1920s.
The Cloche Hat
It is reported that French milliner Caroline Reboux invented it and first saw it on the streets of Paris in or around 1923.
The cloche hat quickly became popular.
The cloche (meaning “bell” in French) covered a woman’s hair and allowed her to tuck it up into the hat. It was made of velvet, satin, horsehair, straw, or felt.
The gigolo hat, with its larger brim and crease at the top, was a variant of the classic cloche. One side dropped lower than the other, giving women a casual “devil may care” attitude.
The “Boyish” Look
The flapper look is claimed to have begun when Coco Chanel put on a man’s sweater one morning and looped a belt around her waist.
Chanel’s seemingly insignificant move spawned an entire fashion craze that dominated 1920s fashion. Society was ready for a significant shift. Women defied the status quo, and the Garonne style exemplified the shifting fashion.
They not only started driving, drinking, and having sex like males, but they also stole his clothes.
But this does not mean that women stopped being sexy during this time. Women reinvented what it meant to be “sexy” during the 1920s fashion revolution.
While Chanel’s clothing had a “masculine” influence that transformed and characterized 1920s fashion, Madeline Vionnet, another French designer, developed designs that embraced the female form and revolutionized modern apparel as well.
Popular Culture’s Influence on Men’s Fashion in the 1920s
America’s attention was firmly focused on gaining a lifestyle of fashion, sexiness, independence, and individualism, thanks in large part to the decade’s stunning superstars, the prominence of the movie business, and the media’s growing fixation with what was sexual.
Men’s fashion altered in the 1920s as well, with performers such as Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Al Jolson, and Charlie Chaplin redefining what men should look like and wear.
The increasing business class fueled the rise of major cities across the country, and men began to dress in tailored suits rather than the country’s overalls.