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1920s Fashion Styles

The Roaring 20s

1920s Fashion: What Did People Wear?

Man and woman in the 1920s outside. Man wearing hat and suit and woman wearing a dress hat and umberalla.

Paris set the fashion trends for Europe and North America. The fashion for women was all about letting loose. Women wore dresses all day, every-day. Day dresses had a drop waist, which was a belt around the low waist or hip and a skirt that hung anywhere from the ankle on up to the knee, never above. Daywear had sleeves (long to mid-bicep) and a skirt that was straight, pleated, hank hem, or tiered. Hair was often bobbed, giving a boyish look.1920s woman in flapper dress

The straight-line chemise topped by the close-fitting cloche hat became the uniform of the day. Women "bobbed", or cut, their hair short to fit under the popular hats, a radical move in the beginning, but standard by the end of the decade. Low-waisted dresses with fullness at the hemline allowed women to literally kick up their heels in new dances like the Charleston. In 1925, "shift" type dresses with no waistline emerged. At the end of the decade, dresses were being worn with straight bodices and collars. Tucks at the bottom of the bodices were popular, as well as knife-pleated skirts with a hem approximately one inch below the knee.Woamn in flapper dress wearing a hat.

In the world of art, fashion was being influenced heavily by art movements such as surrealism. After World War I, popular art saw a slow transition from the lush, rectilinear abstractions of art nouveau decoration to the more mechanized, smooth, and geometric forms of art decoElsa Schiaparelli is one key Italian designer of this decade who was heavily influenced by the "beyond the real" art and incorporated it into her designs.

Accessories

One of the key accessories in the 20s was the Cloche Hat. "In 1926 Vogue stated 'The Bob Rules', just 9 years after the influential dancer, Irene Castle, cut her hair. This trending topic inspired a 1920 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, called Bernice Bobs Her Hair, and many editorials in Vogue throughout the decade. The bob hairstyle matched perfectly with the loose and straight silhouette of the times. During this era Vogue gave credit to this new cut for the immense success of the hat business. New haircuts meant new styled hats, therefore there was a new craze for hats. The cloche hat and the bob were basically made for each other.Louise Brooks in a cloche hat

Undergarments began to transform after World War I to conform to the ideals of a flatter chest and more boyish figure. The female figure was liberated from the restrictive corset, and newly popular the boyish look was achieved through the use of bust bodices. Some of the new pieces included chemises, thin camisoles, and cami-knickers, later shortened to panties or knickers. These were primarily made from rayon and came in soft, light colors in order to be worn under semi-transparent fabrics. Young flappers took to these styles of underwear due to the ability to move more freely and the increased comfort when dancing to the high tempo jazz music. During the mid-1920s, all-in-one lingerie became popular.

1920s woman in under garment

For the first time in centuries, women's legs were seen with hemlines rising to the knee and dresses becoming more fitted. A more masculine look became popular, including flattened breasts and hips, short hairstyles such as the bob cut, Eton crop, and the Marcel wave. The fashion was seen as expressing a bohemian and progressive outlook.

Image of a flapper dress to the knee.

One of the first women to wear trousers, cut her hair short, and reject the corset was Coco Chanel. Probably the most influential woman in fashion of the 20th century, Chanel did much to further the emancipation and freedom of women's fashion.

Jean Patou, a new designer on the French scene, began making two-piece sweater and skirt outfits in luxurious wool jersey and had an instant hit for his morning dresses and sports suits. American women embraced the clothes of the designer as perfect for their increasingly active lifestyles.1920s woman wearing a sports suit.

By the end of the 1920s, Elsa Schiaparelli stepped onto the stage to represent a younger generation. She combined the idea of classic design from the Greeks and Romans with the modern imperative for freedom of movement. Schiaparelli wrote that the ancient Greeks "gave to their goddesses... the serenity of perfection and the fabulous appearance of freedom." Her own interpretation produced evening gowns of elegant simplicity. Departing from the chemise, her clothes returned to an awareness of the body beneath the evening gown.

Reference: Wikipedia

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