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

Long black velvet dress with a devoré pattern of stylised flowers. The Netherlands, 1920s. Long black velvet dress with a devoré pattern of stylised flowers. The Netherlands, 1920s. TRC 2022.3177

8. Evening wear

The image that we, in the modern world, have of evening wear in the 1920s is slightly skewed.

Evening gowns were often sleeveless (in contrast to daily wear) and could feature a deeper neckline, but more often than not actually revealed a daringly low-cut back. Hemlines either went below the knees (rarely above, except for dancers and performers) or actually sometimes draped dramatically low to the feet for impressive effect.

The boyish, curveless ideal body shape applied equally in fancy dresses and materials, which aimed at being luxurious and catching the light: velvet, silk, satin, crepe, layers of chiffon and lamé, often decorated with elaborate beading or sequins. Gold and silver or even black (a colour often reserved for mourning in previous decades) were popular choices for parties.

A woman's sleeveless dress in black chiffon that is decorated around the bodice area. The Netherlands, 1920s. TRC 2013.0075.As with daily wear, accessories were an absolute must, the obsession for day hats translated into elaborate beaded headbands, turbans, velvet/feathered hair pieces or even sequin tiaras. Long layered strings of beads of pearls and chokers were popular jewellery, and the look could be completed with a small evening bag or clutch.

Small beaded bags were all the rage and carried only a few items such as cigarettes or makeup.

As dresses became sleeveless and shoulders or backs were bare, shawls, scarves or even capes or capelettes were a common item to add to an evening outfit

The exhibition inludes three stylised capes; an interesting thought is whether the black and orange cape’s decorative bow (TRC 2022.31782022.3178) would in fact have been worn on the back rather than the chest of the wearer since an open back would have been the fashion of the time.


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