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

Cigarette silk with a portrait of a Dutch woman in regional dress. The Netherlands, 1920s-1930s. Cigarette silk with a portrait of a Dutch woman in regional dress. The Netherlands, 1920s-1930s. TRC2021.2471

4. Detachable, ready-to-make fashion

In the 1920s, ready-to-wear clothing was becoming more fashionable than tailor-made garments. Department stores were selling ready-made clothing. With expanding industrialisation, more and more women were involved in the labour process, and they needed these forms of clothing.

Many of the clothes from the 1920s in the TRC collection actually carry a label at the back of the neck with the size of the garment, indicating that they were bought in a shop or department store.

On another level of the democratisation of fashion, women were able to make their own clothing at home, taking inspiration from high-end designers and popular trends of the time. Less expensive and durable materials such as jersey and artificial silks that were recently invented and popularised, helped in this phenomenon.

Cigarette silk with a machine embroidered Mickey Mouse. The Netherlands, early 1930s. TRC 2021.2474d.Women often could find patterns in magazines and books with illustrations as to how to make their own clothes. One such embroidery patent books in the Netherlands was De Vrouw En Haar Huis.

A particular phenomenon was the use of sewable patches, the so-called “cigarette silks”. Also known as premiums or inserts, they date back to the 1870s and were produced by various cigarette companies to encourage people to buy tobacco products.

The cigarette silks on show in this online exhibition date from the 1910s onwards. Some were made from woven silk moiré. They bear images of regional dress and were printed onto textile.

The outfits represented on the silks include examples of American, Asian and European outfits. Some of the forms are easily recognisable (such as from Volendam), others appear to have been made up (Afghanistan).

Cigarette silk with a portrait of the Dutch painter Karel Dujardin (1622-1678) (TRC 2021.2470a).In general, the TRC's cigarette silks can be divided into those with depictions of birds, butterflies, flowers, fairies, and novelties. They all have a cotton cloth ground and are machine embroidered with floss silks.

One of the novelty silks depicts an early version of Mickey Mouse, the cartoon character created by the Walt Disney company that was first screened in Steamboat Willie in 1928.

Apparently because it was so difficult to draw his hands satisfactorily, the artists had to come up with an alternative solution, namely Mickey started to wear gloves! The Mickey Mouse in the TRC collection has gloves, dating it to about 1929-1930.

Image Gallery