1920s fashion ushered in the modern era of fashion design. Women put aside the formal attire and opted for shorter skirts and pants for added comfort. Men also relaxed on the formalwear though many continued to wear less formal suits.
Early 1920s fashion saw a resistance to those that were hesitant to accept change. It wasn’t until about 1925 that these new fashion trends began to gain mainstream appeal. The term “Roaring Twenties” refers to the period where the public embraced this new, hip lifestyle and would continue for the next decade.
The 20s saw changes in many aspects of fashion. Bouffant hairstyles where the hair is piled high up on the head were replaced with the short bobs. In 1923 the waistline normally sitting around the natural waist moved down to the hips and in some cases, women began to alter men’s clothes for a more androgynous look.
Typically fashion of the 1920s is associated with the flapper dress and jazz music. Flappers were women who listened to unconventional jazz music and were often looked down upon for their brash style including heavy makeup, excessive drinking, casual sex, cigarette smoking, and flaunting their contempt at true “lady-like” behavior. Flappers had their own language including terms like “barney-mugging” meaning sex. Some phrases like “bee’s knees” and “the cat’s pajamas” are still used today.
The flapper dress was lose and straight with a waistline at the hips. Silk stockings were held up by garters. These flapper dresses were short (by their standards) and often came up just above the knees. A round bell-shaped hat called a cloche was pulled down over the ears to frame the face. Considered by many to be more scandalous than the attire was the use of heavy makeup that was previously worn only by prostitutes and actresses. But despite this public backlash, the flapper style of the 1920s became very popular even among the most respectable older women, although it was toned down quite a bit.
Shoes of the 1920s that featured heels rose to over two inches high and the two-town shoe by Coco Chanel gained wide acceptance. For those of you who don’t know, “Coco” whose formal name was Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was a famous French fashion designer and is considered by TIME Magazine to be one of the top 100 most influential people in the 20th century. She focused on elegant simplicity and her Chanel suit, launched in 1923, was a ground-breaking knee-length skirt with a boxy wool-woven jacket with gold buttons and black trim. She popularized the “little black dress” which is still a MUST HAVE in every wardrobe today.
Fashion in this era continued to thrive until the stock market crash of 1929 and the following Great Depression. The lifestyle that was the foundation of this fashion movement could not survive with so much economic hardship. But this generation set the tone for fashion as we know today and specifically the emergence of the modern woman.