The 1920s was a time of change, from new fads in clothing to the end of World War I and emergence of flappers. Women had moved from being housewives to entering the workforce in droves, which meant they had more money and leisure time than before.
This article explores the fashion trends in the 1920s and how women expressed themselves through their clothes. We’ll look at what was popular in terms of fashion, haircuts, makeup, accessories, and handbags. You’ll also discover some examples of what men wore at that time as well as famous designers.
20s Fashion: A Decade of Style and Flair
From the jazz-infused Charleston and New York socialite subculture to the audacious Art Deco designs of Paris, 1920s fashion is a time capsule of elegance and extravagance.
This dynamic period saw women break away from the corsets, long skirts, and heavy fabrics of previous centuries. In the roaring ’20s, women liberated their bodies with knee-length dresses, dropped-waist trousers, and wide-shouldered top hats.
These flapper styles are an excellent example of how fashion thrives on cyclical trends. If you’ve ever wondered how we got from long gowns to short ones again in just a few decades, read on to learn more about this historic decade in fashion and its lasting legacy on style today…
1920s Fashion: The Basics
In the 1920s, fashion followed a few key trends that revolutionized women’s and men’s fashion for decades to come.
Let’s start with the most notable change in women’s fashion – the rise of the flapper dress. Long hemlines crept up from below-the-knee to just above the ankle in the early 1900s.
Then, they completely fell out in the ’20s and stayed that way for around half a century. Fashion silhouettes were wider and rounder in the ’20s than they had been in decades past.
Many of the styles we associate with the Roaring ’20s – like the short flapper dress, wide-shouldered dresses and coats, and drop-waist trousers – were very trendy. Because of this, they were worn well beyond the decade, too.
For a long time, women’s hair was one of the most obvious indicators of their subculture and class. In the 1920s, however, the hair revolution drove a change in fashion that would last for decades. Daring women of the ’20s cut their hair to their shoulders, or even above the collarbone, for the first time.
Waves, bobs, and shingled hairstyles were all popular, too. The bob cut was especially trendy, and was sported by stars like Gertrude Lawrence and Clara Bow. Short hairstyles were a major fashion trend for women during the ’20s and continued to be for decades afterward.
One of the most notable fashion trends of the ’20s was the rise of the flapper dress. The style was pioneered by young, urban women who partook in a new culture of parties, speakeasies, and jazz music.
Flapper dresses were short (just above the knees), with wide shoulders and a straight, drop waistline. They were a major shift away from the long, loose gowns of the 1910s and are one of the most iconic pieces of ’20s fashion.
Art Deco Fashions
Art Deco was a major design trend in the ’20s, especially in Paris, and it heavily influenced fashion. This modernist movement featured bold, geometric shapes and bold, saturated colors, and these aesthetics were reflected in clothing. Art Deco fashion featured geometric prints, sharp edges, and vibrant colors.
Blouses and dresses had high-waistlines, large sleeves, and geometric patterns. Long, lean silhouettes, knee-length hemlines, and bold colors were also popular. Suit jackets were wide-shouldered and straight-waisted, and often had bold patterns on them as well.
1920s Footwear and Accessories
The bold, geometric prints of Art Deco fashion extended to accessories and footwear too. Many women wore geometric cloche hats, while men and women wore geometric printed ties and scarves.
Women styled their hair in buns, and they often wore large, geometric-shaped jewelry too. As for handbags, they were often a matchy-matchy place to store a lady’s accessories. Handbags of the ’20s were short, wide, and often featured geometric patterns.
Women’s Dress in the 1920s
Long gowns were replaced by knee-length dresses in the ’20s, and the new, shorter hemlines were a major trend for decades to come. Gowns remained popular for special occasions and high-class occasions, but for day-to-day life, the knee-length dress was the new normal. These dresses were often kept simple, with a few key accessories like a hat or bold jewelry.
Men’s Fashion in the 1920s
Men’s fashion in the ’20s was largely defined by the rise of the wide-shouldered suit. This suit design was pioneered by English designer, Brooks Brothers. Longer, slim-fitting coats were also popular in the ’20s, and remained a timeless piece of menswear for decades after. Additionally, men’s hairdos were longer on the sides, with short, slicked-back hair on top.
1920s Fashion: Themes and Trends
The Roaring ’20s was a decade of dramatic change and experimentation. As a result, there were many distinct themes and trends throughout 1920s fashion. For example, a major fashion trend was the change in color palette.
The Great War created a lot of anxiety about the color black, so designers experimented with a wide range of bolder colors. Another major trend was the rise of sportswear – sporty, casual clothing that was good for exercising and playing tennis. Another trend was the rise of the handbag, since women no longer had a lot of space in their short, wide dresses.
Art Deco Influences
Art Deco fashion trends were particularly influential in the ’20s, and they would continue to be popular well into the ’30s. Therefore, many of the bold, geometric prints, wide-shouldered suits, and short hemlines of the ’20s were heavily influenced by Art Deco.
The Great Depression and Second World War caused a major change in fashion over the following decades. However, the ’20s were a decade of dramatic change, experimentation, and excitement for fashion. These themes were reflected in the fashion trends of the ’20s, and the decade’s bold fashions are remembered and worn again today.
The 1920s was a decade of significant change and experimentation in fashion. Designers experimented with bolder colors, bolder prints, and bolder silhouettes, while they also experimented with new fabrics and materials, like synthetic fabrics.
When the Great Depression and Second World War hit, fashion changed dramatically again. However, the dramatic fashion changes of the 1920s are remembered and celebrated today, as they made a lasting impact on fashion decades later.