Could you ever imagine living life in a totally different era to the one we are in now? Be it from the past or something from the future, fashion, culture and lifestyles are constantly evolving. From one decade to the next you can see significant changes and developments in everything from language and clothing to technology and construction. This world is for ever changing! But if I had the opportunity to be transported back in time to an era of fun, flirtation and famous fashion, I’d definitely take a trip to the 1920’s. In only two more years we will once again be living in the twenties, and I wonder if any of the glorious trends in fashion will be revived? I for one would love to dress like a flapper, with my feather boa floating along behind me, gin in hand, kicking up my heels to the Charleston and dancing till the wee hours of the morn. What a magical time it was!
The 1920’s was a decade of big cultural change. For the first time ever, women in America were allowed to vote, and women in both Europe and Britain were given a new found freedom. Fashion evolved into some significant statements that thankfully remained present for some years to come, and we have seen such trends be reborn and readapted to our modern way of life. Following the cease of the World War, cultural divides began to be torn down, with people from all classes and races merging to live their best lives. Louis Armstrong could be heard crooning those jazzy blues in many speakeasies that were cropping up all over America. The prohibition had sent folks underground, with roaring parties being held in conspicuous places all over the major cities. Film had become popular with starlets like Gloria Swanson and Clara Bow gracing the silver screen, and fashion was largely influenced by Hollywood. Art Deco came alive during the twenties, and is a trend that is hugely popular today, with its hues of black and gold.
It was during the 1920’s that fashion started to become more relaxed and fun. Previous decades had seen women clad in many layers, with structural undergarments a necessity that forbade women from doing even some of the simplest tasks. There was also an etiquette where one changed ones outfit numerous times per day depending on the time and occasion. This trend did remain in some cultures up until the late 1950’s, and included morning dress, afternoon attire and then evening outfits. But it was during the 1920’s that women and men started to loosen their morals when it came to fashion attire, amongst others things! Fashion houses in Paris were leaders in the market, with the likes of Chanel, Lanvin, Poiret, Patou, Lelong and Vionnet all enjoying success during this time. British designer Norman Hartnell was developing popularity also thanks to that of the Royal Family.
Arguable one of the biggest influencers of the decade was Coco Chanel. Her introduction of black as a shade to be worn at all times, not just in mourning, was revolutionary. She is also credited with designing the staple item in any woman’s wardrobe, the little black dress. It was in 1926 the Chanel made this ensemble famous, and over ninety years later we are still rocking the LBD. In 1921 Chanel released her eponymous fragrance No. 5, and designed the first cardigan jacket ever to be seen in women’s fashion. It was through the revolution of style that Coco Chanel developed that women were finally free from their corsets, and adopted a slender silhouette that was so much more versatile.
Another fashion statement from the twenties that is just as famous as Chanel is the Flapper. This term was given to young women who dressed in a certain way and displayed particular characteristics that were fun, flirty and flamboyant! The Flapper typically had bobbed hair and during the day she would often pull a cloche hat tightly over her smooth crop. By evening, the Flapper was all about having fun. Wearing dresses know as chemise or shift they embodied dropped waistlines and hung from the shoulder to the knee. With strands of pearls and the bar shoe, Flappers would dance the night away to the Charleston. They got their famous name from being described as looking like a bird flapping its wings before take-off, whilst they were hopping away on the dance floor. The Flapper was typically carefree, and focused on living in the moment, and not stressing about what might come next. I think we should all take a leaf out of the Flappers book here!
If you were not a Flapper during the 1920’s, there were other trends in which you could follow. Evening wear had become more risqué. Women began to show more skin than ever before, with shoulders and backs often being exposed while wearing long floating gowns. Hem lines rose and fell throughout the decade, but never came above the knee. As a result of these varying hems, hosiery sales went up, and the invention of Rayon as a fabric alternative to silk, only increased their popularity. Other synthetic fabrics were also born during the roaring twenties, which started to reduce the cost of some garments, and made clothing more affordable for all classes. Metal hook and eyes were also developed and were an alternate fastening to the humble button. Many fashion stores started cropping up in Paris, London and across America. These fashion boutiques started to use the mannequin to showcase their designs, and how to put together and outfit that would complement oneself. This resulted in women buying more than one item of clothing whilst on a shopping trip. Sportswear too became popular for women, as it allowed ease of movement through pleating and jersey fabrics. The motor vehicle also revolutionised women’s clothing, as it became more practical and resourceful for entering and exiting ones automobile.
The jazz age of the Roaring Twenties would have been a marvellous time to be alive. Whilst they would have endured great hardships at times, the fact that people could pick up and carry on is something to aspire to. To be a fabulous Flapper would have been so entertaining. I hope that in this next decade we see some homage paid to the traditions that became the 1920’s. Fashion is a constant revolving doorway, so who knows what we might see pop up again!
Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx