Fashion reached the modern era in the 20’s as tight corsets
and restricting clothes were replaced with comfortable ones.
Jazz and Flappers
The jazz seen had a massive impact on fashion in the 20’s as
the music of Louis Armstrong became the anthem for the flapper. Flappers were
women who defied social norms of the time by smoking, drinking, and dancing.
They were considered to be very scandalous carefree women and they generally
had bobbed haircuts, over the top jewellery, and dresses that were very short
for the time. Dancing became a hugely popular activity for young women so
fashion changed to accommodate that by becoming easier to move in and more
comfortable. The idea of ‘fulfilment and freedom’ was widely promoted during
this time as well.
World War 1
After World War 1 ended in 1918, the amount of death and
destruction on such a large scale shocked everyone and due to this the youth of
this generation who later became known as the “flaming youth” decided that they
needed to lives to the fullest as their future may not be guaranteed.
“Tomorrow we may die, so let’s get drunk and make love” a quote from
famous reporter Lois Long became the rallying cry of the 1920’s youth.
The silhouette and lighter style of dresses in the twenties meant
that the underwear had to change dramatically to match the slim garments worn
compared to previous year were up to 11 layers of lingerie could be worn
including corset and petticoats thinner women in the 20’s could wear as little
as a brassier and bloomers under their dresses and be considered dressed. The
underwear of the 20’s was commonly made of cottons and silks in the form of
satin, pongee, shantung, crepe de chine and silk glove. They also had
artificial silk called rayon which breathed well and was considered very
sanitary. In the late 1920’s printed fabrics were also becoming popular and
throughout the entire 20’s embroidery and lace detailing was very commonly seen
on the underwear. The amount of underwear needed to be worn differed between body
types where thinner women could wear less curvy women needed to wear more in
order to give the illusions of thinness and a boyish figure which was most
Corsets were still worn into the 1920s as older women
generally preferred the traditional lace-up boned corset. But due to the younger
generations disinterest in the corset sales declined and they instead commonly
wore the brassiere/corset combination called the corselet which had. side
fasteners, shoulder straps, and long elastic panels, all of which combined to
obliterate any curves that might disrupt the silhouette of a flat, straight,
1920s-era dress. Long corsets were also common and produces a boyish figure but
made walking a slow stiff gliding motion.
In order to hide the corset or corselet which could show
through the thin dresses of the 20’s camisoles of
linen or silk were worn to cover any bumps and lines made by the corselet.
Camisoles were loose sleeveless tops, drawn into the waist with a ribbon or
Brassieres were worn in order to flatten the bust in order
to achieve the boyish figure that was popular during that time. They were
usually made from cotton, did not have cups and were worn tight against the
body in order to reduce the size as much as possible. The Symington Side Lacer
was a bra that was popular because it could be laced at both sides and pulled
in to flatten the chest.
Knickers or Bloomers
Knickers came in nude, peach, and pink colours. The material
for 1920’s knickers was light and not as bulky as previous years there most
commonly made with crepe de chine, silk, or cotton. Knickers typically had an
elastic waist and knee caps.
Slips were a necessity when wearing a sheer dress. Most of
the time when purchasing a dress new it would come with a matching slip to make
styling easier. Slips were worn to prevent light from being visible through. Slips had pleating at the hips so the women
wearing them could more easily move but mostly fell straight on the body. The
necklines were low and square and had lace or ribbon straps. The slippery satin
that the slips were most commonly made of was useful in keeping the dress from
sticking to the body but the straps would often fall down because of it. The
slip was pinned to the outer dress using clips or pins.
A common body silhouette for women in the 20’s was boyish
with a flat chest and rectangular body achieved by the boxy shape of the
dresses known as shift dresses. The shift dress first made an appearance in
1916 from designers such as Jeanne Lanvin,
Callot Seours, and Coco Chanel. It became the most common style worn during the
day and evening by the 1920’s. It hung from the shoulders and reached just
below the knee and was loose down to the waistline which was dropped to the
hips the hemline of these dresses was very high compared to previous years
which exposed the women’s legs and causing a rising interest in women’s
Fabrics in the 1920’s were very delicate generally. For
women they were thin and airy but were stiffer for men. Most garments from the
20’s were not washed in order to retain their original colour and shape as the
dyes in clothing of this time would fade easily. Silk was widely used in the
20’s and compared to previous years was more easily affordable for the middle
class. Cotton was also an essential fabric. Bright colours like red, greens,
and blues were widely popular as well as subdued pastels. Patterns were
influenced by art deco and often consisted of bright bold colours and minimalism.
Fabrics used for sport and leisure were knit fabrics and the casual look of
them was popular with men. Rayon also was popular during the 20’s as it was
much cheaper then silk but gave of a similar look and feel.
The cloche was an iconic 1920’s hat. It was round in shape
fit snugly on the head, and was made from felt or straw. The hat came very far
down on the forehead reducing the visibility of the wearer so that the
constantly had to lift there chin and look down on people. This gave the
impression that 1920’s women were snobby but it was only a fashion trend and is
a pose seen commonly in 1920’s photography of women wearing the cloche. In the
early 20’s cloche hats had brims 1 to 3 inches wide but by the late 20’s there
was not brim at all. Decorations on hats consisted of geometric ribbon shapes
or abstract embroidered designs. Women would also add hat pins or broches as
well as ostrich or other various bird feather to the hats to add more
decoration when needed. Women of the 20’s also wore turbans it was made of
wrapped fabric and was commonly adorned with flowers, feather, or gems on one
side. The fabric usually matched the dress worn and was not typically worn as a
day hat but as evening wear. A ribbon tied tight around the wearers forhead
that matched the colour of the dress was also common as it showed of the bobbed
hairstyle that the hat and turban could not. Hair jewellery was also popular
jewelled headbands that sat across the eyebrows and tiaras being the most
In the early 20’s black stocking were the most commonly worn
out of all the colours during the day but throughout the rest of the decade
dark nude stockings were the ones commonly seen on women. Because of the rising
hemline of the dresses women decided to have more fun with their stockings.
Silk stockings came in a variety of geometric designs, Asian inspired imagery
such as dragons or butterflies, and art deco images. Women would also wear stockings
that matched the colour of the dresses which included pastel
colours such as peach, pink, light green, blue, silver and white. All stockings
from the 20’s had subtle seams running along the back and were thigh high held
up with beautifully designed garters or equally designed garter belt with clip
type holds. The “flapper girl” way of wearing stockings was to roll them down
to just below the knee and if a women was to wear her stockings like this she
was considered very daring and scandalous but it was the style that was “in.”
There were two types of necklaces, they were beaded or
ribbon chokers and long strands of glass beads and/or pearls. Women would also
use the long beaded necklaces as belts that hung from the hips. The earrings
that the women wore for both day and evening were long and beautifully
decorated usually matching the necklaces and bracelets. Chandelier shaped
earing were very common and a favourite among women of the 20’s. The colours of
the gems in the jewellery always matched either the wearers dress or other
jewellery worn. Bracelets were a major fashion
accessories in the 20’s and included cuffs as well as battalions of bangles.
They were thick and usually made of gold or plastic like material that was
brightly coloured. Bracelets worn on the upper arm were called slave bracelets.