1920s fashion is one of the most recognizable elements of that decade. Women’s fashion changed most drastically, but the change was in fact general.
The most apparent characteristic of the 1920s fashion is paramount interest in making the body freer.1920s fashion is one of the most recognizable elements of that decade. Women's fashion changed most drastically, but the change was in fact general #history #fashion Click To Tweet
Dresses became lighter. In the case of women, layers of the clothing were lost, to make space for a far more essential cut. But even in the case of men, the cut of the dress became more comfortable and allowed freer movements.
The ideal of the young woman in the 1920s was the flapper, who dressed scantily, uncovering vast (as at the time was conceived) parts of her body, cut her hair like men’s. In Europe, especially in Germany, the New Woman didn’t shy away from actually dressing like men.
The ideal of the young men, especially in the US and UK, was the collegiate. The young man that went to college in numbers never seen before had their own style, clean-cut and comfortable, which even by young men who never went to college adoped.
The new ideal of fashion spread because young people practiced it, but also because the emerging film stars and the many magazines that became widely available popularised it.
Being a fashionable person, a flapper or a college boy, was expensive both in terms of time and money. Not everybody could afford it.
Still, everybody aspired to it, and many achieved it – or a very close version – because of the new mass market.
The mass production had allowed the prices to go down. Although there was, of course, a great difference in quality between the high production and the mass production, the last could produce at reasonable prices pieces of clothing that met the demands of the people who wanted to look like their ideals.
Adhering to a fashionable trend also meant to adhere to a way of life, to a philosophy. The way people looked in the 1920s became, less of a status symbol and more of a declaration of intents.
Makeup was maybe the great discovery of the 1920s fashion, and it was both a social and production innovation.
All through the 1800s, makeup was extremely unpopular. That was for a social stance, of course (everyone expected women to be clean, angelic and pure), but it had its root in a very practical reason: makeup was extremely harmful to the health. Up to the beginning of the XX century, the production of makeup involved poisonous materials. The only women who were willing to use it were those who employed it for their profession, namely actresses and prostitutes.
But scientific advancement allowed to produce makeup that was safer to use. By the 1920s those producing processes became economical enough to offer products sellable to most layers of society.
The New Woman – but men too, who also used makeup – were quick to appropriate this new opportunity to express themselves in a new, adequately shocking way.
A global experience
While all of these where changing chiefly happening in the Western World, they soon spread into many different cultures.
Several Asian cultures who had contacts and commercial exchanges with the Western World, adopted a Western look, at least their younger, wealthier sections. The Western look became quite popular in India, China and especially in Japan. This often went hand-in-hand with social criticism and a desire to change the society these youths lived in. This attitude often caused accusation of unpatriotism.
Stephanie Trinidad – The Modern Girl: Japan’s Generation of Change
Fass, Paula S., The Damned and the Beautiful. American Youth in the 1920s. Oxford University Press, New York, 1977
Kyvig, David E., Daily Life in the United States 1920-1940. How Americans Lived Through the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and the Great Depression. Ivan R. Dee Publisher, Chicago, 2002
Perrish, Michael E., Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1941. W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York, 1992
I didn’t know they still wore corsets in the 20s but it makes perfect sense because I always wondered how all the women seemed flat with no waist. I would need a corset like that for sure to keep my puppies down. I knew that most women would wear blush and lipstick just from. What I read. Most average women didn’t want to have those eyes from the film stars because they would look like Rocky Raccoon. In the early part of film making, many actors suffers from Klieg eyes. Those nasty lights that were used and, once they found that they just needed a glass in front to diffuse the ultraviolet light, they were better but the Rocky Raccoon look still helped. They would look too ghostly if they just white washed their face and did nothing to their eyes. I knew about the shoes and the length of dress/skirt but I know they did like to wear something in their hair if they went out but usually it wasn’t a feather. They did like feathers but not in the way it is put for every Halloween outfit now. The gowns were representing the Art Deco look which I like. I wish I could have seen the first video but it wouldn’t play
Oh, I’m sorry for the video. It says it can only been watched on YouTube, which chan be done by clicking the link. But I think I’ll just change the video to one who will play on here.
Thanks for mentioning it.
And thanks so much for your additional info about the film makeup. That is so interesting!
That was quite a bit of research. The videos added to your text and I enjoyed them thoroughly. My compliments for the immense work.
Thanks, Sonia. Researching the 1920s is an ongoing activity for me. The basics for this challenge were lain long ago 😉
I enjoyed the video myself. I’ve discovered a lot of fantastic vintage fashionists on YouTube.
It’s hard to imagine a world without makeup – even the TV and films lie to us and show us everyone with their makeup on at every point in history. I do love the flapper style – not that it would have suited me in the slightest because anything vaguely straight hangs over my bust and looks like a tent. Off the rack was a revelation, but one day I would love to have an outfit of tailored clothes, just to see what it would be like in every day life. The only thing I’ve ever had like that was my wedding dress – so not exactly practical.
Virginia’s Parlour – The Manor (Adult concepts – nothing explicit in posts)
Tasha’s Thinkings – Vampire Drabbles
LOL! The flapper style wouldn’t suit me either, I suppose. Still, I’ve discovered so many vintage lifestylers on YouTube, that sometimes…
Ronel Janse van Vuuren
I just love the fashion of the 1920s!
An A-Z of Faerie: Furies
Me too. I had a discussion with a friend, once, because i said the 1920s fashion is better and she said the 1950s is better.
Oh, well. I suppose eveyone has their favourite.
Ha! I love the images from outside of Europe 🙂 We had a 20s style new year’s party a few years ago, and to my great sadness I found out flapper dresses look horrible on me… 😀
Nooo! Maybe you just need to find the right ensamble 🙂
1920’s fashion is great 😉
I totally agree.
I don’t think knees became acceptable in polite society till the 60’s…the flapper style looks super elegant in pictures and films, I don’t know a single woman who feels she can carry it off herself 🙂 Great videos!
LOL! It’s true that you need the right phisique.
Thankful to the gone by era for ushering in the changes in the way people dressed and also in the makeup, for I love clothes that are less layered and easy to wear and equally love to wear makeup. I am so glad that I am born in this era to enjoy the rich yield from the revolutionary changes in the gone by era!
Sarah, I appreciate your thoughtfulness in selecting topics for every word and also for the vast amount of the research that you must have carried out. Salute to you.
Thanks so much, Anagha. Researching the 1920s is an ongoing endeavour for me. It’s such a fascinating era.
And I’m happy that you appreciate the fights that our ancestors did. It’s only thenks to them that we can take so many things for granted. We don’t always appreciate it.
20’s fashion is instantly recognisable. Each year my town manages to hang on to the Guinness world record for the largest Charleston dance where hundreds dress in 20’s costumes to take part. Not this year though sadly.
F is for….
Oh, I’d love to see that dance.
The 1920s are sadly not as popular here in Italy. Though I can see why.
It’s lovely to have a glimpse into what fashion meant in the 1920s. I’m glad that so many changes were brought about and even more glad that they found a way to make makeup products devoid of poisonous substances!
Can you imagine that? Getting poisoned by our makeup?
Still, that’s exactly what happened in Victorian times. I couldn’t believe it when I discovered it.
Though I pride myself on being rather tomboyish, I love reading about vintage fashion. It’s like living vicariously through the type of women I know I’ll never be, and clothes are a much more personal kind of history than sweeping world events. One of my favorite research websites is Vintage Dancer, which has lots of articles and pictures about every decade from the Victorian era to the 1970s.
Thanks for mentioning that blog, Carrie-Anne. It looks so interesting. And I can’t wait to dive in!
Another interesting post about those times.
Happy you enjoyed it 🙂
This was such an enlightening post. I really enjoyed learning more about the stereotypes of the fashion of the times and seeing the transition of changes throughout the decade. I once saw a 20s themed wedding but it was a little different than what I saw here. 🙂 This really gives me ideas on what to sew for a party!
LOL! I follow a few lifestylers on YouTube that often address this: how theme parties and weddings are often extremely inaccurate and portray a fantasy version of the historical times.
Personally, I – like them – think that, if you go for a historical era, why should you invente it over? Better to be accurate, no?
I am all for a resurgence of 1920s fashion. The fabrics, the draping, the beading; they were all so beautiful.
I totally agree. 1920s fashion might sometimes sound funny to us, but there was a lot to enjoy.