The 1920s From Head To Toe Fashion From 100 Years Ago

Dress made of a powder blue cotton material and decorated with cutwork and abstract organic shapes, all in white.  The Netherlands, 1920s. Dress made of a powder blue cotton material and decorated with cutwork and abstract organic shapes, all in white. The Netherlands, 1920s. TRC 2007.0865

2. Daily wear

A typical outfit for most women in the 1920s was a simple dress with mandatory accessories, such as stockings, gloves and hats that were pushed far down around the head. In colder weather, pea coats, scarfs, cardigans and stoles were added. There is more emphasis on ‘separate’ pieces. Women wear blouses with a skirt and a matching jacket, or even replace skirts with trousers. Trousers become especially important among working women, who would benefit from their convenience.

Older women still followed earlier standards of fashion, with waist corsets and petticoated outfits, but there was a very important shift in how the younger generation of women wore clothing. Contrary to previous decades, clothing was much looser and practical. Decorative features were often integrated into the fabric or added by small contrasting accessories. Dresses could feature ruffles, collars, bows, inserts, embroidery pieces or decorations made out of the same material as the whole garment.

Woman's dress in a fine silk material decorated with rows of dots in brown, blue and light green. The Netherlands, 1920s. TRC 2007.0888a.While fabrics such as crepe, silk, wool and cotton were still the main types of material, the invention of cellulose-based materials such as artificial silk (also marketed as ‘art silk’) and rayon were used, mostly for underwear and stockings. Doing away with front lacing and ribbon ties, hooks and eyes as well as buttons and zippers made for more convenient ways to do up and undo clothing.

Flapper dresses are still regarded today as a major trend of the period. In fact, the term flapper was a name given to a specific group of young women who embodied a liberated and rebellious lifestyle; cutting their hair short, smoking cigarettes, going to parties and experimenting with fashion. The flapper “style” did not in fact extend to everyone, but inspired many and is representative of a feeling of women’s liberation.

Men’s fashions

Men’s fashion between the 1910s and 1950s did not change as drastically as that of women. A suit with leather shoes, suspenders, sometimes accessories such as gloves, a pocket chain and hat (depending on means and status) formed the basic attire. The size of tie, the fit of the suit and shape of hat were the changeable features in menswear.

Man's top hat made from black silk plush which has been flattened. The Netherlands, 1920s. TRC 2023.1929.What was really representative of men’s clothing in the 1920s? Although not as noticeable, clothing norms also relaxed for men as they did for women. Casual wear could be worn, with cardigans or pullovers, and jackets with wide pointed lapels to emphasise the shoulders and waist.

Sportswear also became popular. Wool, flannel, linen and tweed were the most used materials. Accessories such as detachable collars and hats were also popular. A hat was an essential accessory; from fedoras, bowl hats and caps for the middle-class to boat and top hats for higher class men. But many men still wore a traditional tuxedo or three-piece suit for formal get-togethers and evening events.

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