1920s Fashion... 'Roaring Twenties'.
A decade of the Art Deco, Flapper Style and Chanel No5…
What was in fashion in 1920s? Men were in fashion!
The 1920s fashion celebrated youth and life after the dark war years. As if to compensate for the death of so many young men, an androgynous ‘bachelor girl’ silhouette emerged.
Skirts became daringly short, breasts were flattened with bandeaus and waistlines were slung on the hip. Women smoothed their hair into a short shingle or a boyish crop, then hid it under a tight cloche hat.
Chanel’s cutting edge trends
Chanel’s designs epitomised this ‘borrowed from the boys’ look’, with nautical sailor trousers, reefer jackets and blazers as well as more classic pyjamas, open-necked shirts and jumpers. Her cardigan suit and more feminine ‘little black dress’ have remained timeless classics.
Why should a girl wear diamonds if she could wear string upon string of fake pearls? Chanel made costume jewelers acceptable and created Chanel No. 5, a fragrance which (unfashionably for the time) smelled nothing like a flower, Chanel No. 5 which became a No. 1 vintage fragrance.
1920s fashion hanged loose. Art Deco
Women needed to exercise to stay slim and wanted clothes in which they could move and dance. The great outdoor were in 1920s fashion and Jean Patou opened a sports shop and made clothing for the golf course, the piste and the tennis court. He designed sporty elegant resortwear that was minimal but easily recognisable when emblazoned with his JP logo of 1924. In addition, Patou livened up his clothing by borrowing geometric motifs from the thriving 1920s art scene, namely Cubism and Art Deco.
Exhibition of Decorative Art
In fashion industry was not forgotten at the 1925 Exhibition of Decorative Art in Paris. The womanswear market was specifically targeted in a move that was unusual for the time. The visitor could see jewelry by Boucheron and Crtier and admire the work of couture houses Jenny, Paquin and Vionnet.
The Roaring Twenties
1920s fashion brought a passion for the jazz music of Jelly Roll Morton, night-clubbing at Le Boeof sur le Toit in Paris and dancing the Bunny Hug and the Kickaboo... ‘Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties... dull dances in London and comic dances in Scotland and disgusting dances in Paris).’ wrote Evelin Waugh in Vile Bodies (1930), his novel about the ‘Bright Young Things’ of the 1920s.
Flapper or Slapper?
As the skirts went up morals went down, and doctors warned that women were turning to cigarettes and alcohol to fuel their debaucher lifestyles. Where the term ‘flapper’ has ones described debutantes before they ‘came out’, now it referred to any young woman obsessed with dancing the Charleston to the frenetic sounds of Bix Beiderbecke, dressed in rolled down stockings, T-bar shoes and short skirt.
Not every woman wanted to look like a slapper however. The harsh 1920s fashion cut only flattered those with a boyish , adolescent figure. Because chemise dresses and jersey separates were stark and unforgiving, women would soften the look with beading and opulent fabrics. They piled on the bracelets, scarves, hats and feathers. Selfridges stocked coloured beads 100 centimeters long, and, in an advertisement in The Times, explained: ‘Usually only 3 shades are worn: to match , to tone and to contrast with ones gown.’
At the end of the decade shapes became softer and clung to the figure, rather than ignoring the natural curves. designer Madeleine Vionnet made bias-cut, fluid dress for the more womanly silhouette by draping, gathering and twisting fabrics so that it swept over the body in a classical style. She realised her ideas on miniature dolls before working full-scale and was a forerunner of the bias-cut glamour dress that become fashionable in the 1930s.
Death of the 1920s fashion
The world of Jean Cocteau in his 1921 novel The Miscreant were remarkably prescient: ‘Fashion die young. That is what makes their gaiety so grave.’ In 1927 dancer Isadora Duncan strangled to death as her scarf tangled in the wheels of her sport car. This sinister fashion moment pre-empted the end of the era. On Black Thursday, 24 October 1929, the Wall Street Crash brought the world economy tumbling gown, making the beginning of the Great Depression. Life looked set to be tough, and, ever in tune with the times, Patou made the hemline fall, too.
For the US vintage see the related post about 1920s fashion from Sammy Davis Vintage
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