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With the end of World War I, the world was ready to celebrate! Dubbed "The Jazz Age", the 1920s are romanticized as the decade of fun, dancing, and jazz. Popular dances were the Fox Trot, the Tango, the Shimmy, and the dance of the decade, the Charleston. Prohibition, which went into effect in 1920, and lasted until 1933, had a major influence on life in the 1920s. Old time saloons were replaced with illegal drinking spots, called "speakeasies." Art Deco emerged in the 1920s, previously known as the "Art Moderne"—a feeling of modernism—evident in art, architecture, and of course fashion! The style of Art Deco varies, but includes geometric lines and futuristic designs.
In 1920, women finally received the right to vote. With this new emancipation, women strove to be socially equal as well. The Flapper was born! In Flapper magazine in August, 1922, the following description of a flapper was offered:"What the Flapper Stands for". . ."Short skirts. Rolled socks. Bobbed hair. Powder and rouge. No corsets. One-piece bathing suits. No chaperons. Attractive clothes. The inalienable right to make dates. Good times. . ." In the twenties, music, art, fashion, and attitudes were youth driven. It was very fashionable to be young! In 1922, Flapper magazine listed the popular slang of the day: "Cat's Meow - Great" "Bee's Knees - Wonderful" "Neck and Pet - Make out" "Scram, Go fly a Kite - Get Lost" "Heebie Jeebies - Nervous" "Out on Parole - Divorced"
The wildly popular hairstyle in the 20s was the boyish new bob, often worn with a headband. Another popular look was the finger wave, which involved setting the hair by pinching it between the fingers and combing it in alternating directions to create the signature wave shape.
The more popular shoe styles of the 1920s were t-straps, oxfords, peep toes and mary janes.
1920s Fashion Icons
One of the era's most popular silent film stars, Louise Brooks appeared in twenty-four films between 1925 and 1938. While her career was relatively short lived, Louise Brooks embodied the devil may care attitude of the flapper and became well known for popularizing the angular bob haircut. She was also a gifted dancer, who, prior to entering films, performed with the Ziegfeld Follies as well as the Denishawn Dance Company. Today, she is remembered as a 20th century fashion icon for her smoldering beauty, free spirited attitude, and trademark hairstyle.
Fashion in the twenties was different in the first half of the era than in the 2nd half. In the early 1920s, the wasp waist gowns of the Edwardian era were replaced with the chemise, a streamlined, straight, simple, and tubular dress with a dropped waist. Contrary to popular belief, general evening hemlines were still very long, just above the ankle to mid calf. In the early 20s, flappers however, pushed the envelope by wearing hemlines just below the knee! Although the early twenties still incorporated the full skirted Robe de Style gowns of the eighteenth century and the floor length, slinky dresses to be seen much more in the 1930s, the 1920s are best known for the flapper dress. The flapper dress was seen in many different types of fabrics and with a variety of adornments including beaded chiffon, lace, velvet, sequins and lame, a 1920s favorite. Most often, these beaded overdresses were worn over a slip dress. Many had lots of fringe so that the flapper could shimmy when she danced! To view our selection of fringed, flapper dresses, click here.
Also popular, was the "picot-edged" or "carwash hem", which featured fringe like panels meant to swing and sway when worn.
Hats/Headbands/Combs: Formal evening wear was most often accompanied with headdresses (headbands), wound around the head, adorned with a variety of jewels, medallions and/or feathers. Another favorite was the Art Deco comb. It was often made of celluloid, available in all shapes and sizes, which included both hand carved and rhinestone versions. The turban and cloche hat were also popular. Cloche hats were deep, close-fitting and pulled down to the eye brows. Skull-caps were typical of the vamp style and were inspired by the east and silent films.
Hose: Often worn with back seams, usually in black or white (nude was still considered too racy).
Evening Bags: Were generally fine mesh and beaded, framed and pouch or flat envelope style. Plain silver, gold and black or with Art Deco designs. A favorite brand of the day was Whiting & Davis.
Gloves: For evening were often worn long, above the elbow.
Boas/Furs: Fur and boas were often used as neck wraps.
Fans: Fabulous feather fans were often a must have accessory for an evening out.
Pearls: Pearls of every size and shape were popular since cultured pearls were relatively inexpensive.
Cigarette Holders: Flappers lived on the wild side and often carried long, opulent holders for their cigarettes.
Velvet & Fringe Robes/Scarves: The legendary Mariano Fortuny introduced the extravagant and prestigious beaded and printed silk and silk velvet and fringed robes, inspired by the Grecian and Renaissance motifs. Often seen were kimono style robes and batwing sleeves.
Makeup: Flappers often wore the makeup with lots of white powder, roughed checks and cupid's bow red lips.