A closer look at a clothing revolution

The Twenties can be viewed as the first decade of the modern era in many areas of human activity and fashion was no exception. The shift in design was truly a clothing revolution. As more women entered the workplace and won the right to vote, more power was achieved in making fashion trends more practical and accessible to all.


Gone were the extreme silhouettes of early 20th Century, achieved by corseting and restrictive tailoring.


Vintage stylist expert Anna Dowd (This Morning, Channel 4) said: "The '20s revolutionised the face of fashion with clothing designed to facilitate the lifestyle of the new jazz age woman. She danced, played sports, drank alcohol and this social emancipation and independence forced freedoms in fashion. Corsets were banished and hemlines crept up as the iconic flapper dress became the perfect piece to dance to the rhythm of the Charleston in. The fringed and embellished hemlines swayed elegantly whilst the loose fitting fabric allowed the wearer to move freely. As French couturier Jean Patou commented it was 'the taste for dancing' that dictated the style of the evening gowns".


Soft, alluring, pastel colour palettes were a breath of fresh air from the repressive tones associated with War era clothing. Accessories and cosmetics also flourished as society girls wanted to flaunt their new lifestyles using creative blushes, statement clutches and daring headpieces.


A blossoming music scene of free jazz heralded by late night speak easies encouraged dancing and social interaction on a level never seen before. The classic style of the 'flapper girl' reflected this. A tubular dress with no defined waist and often pleats or gathers to encourage movement from the wearer. Dowd explains: "In Britain and America the new styles of the '20s were called the 'flapper look' and in France it was the 'le garconne' . Both styles promoted a new sense of androgyny and modernism reflecting the overall mood of the era. Breasts were taped down to get rid of unwanted curves and achieve a boyish look to suit the straight up and down styles. Hemlines crept up to the knee allowing more movement, liberating women from the constraining styles of the past."


Embellishment was also used in a new way – all over beading and free flowing, twinkling diamante reflected the allure of city life, new technologies and a newfound elegance in starry nightlife. Smokey streets in metropolitan areas were no longer viewed as just a scene of business and commerce but also an exciting environment were hedonistic crowds could attend jazz clubs and dance parties.


Dowd comments: "Coco Chanel was at the forefront of fashion design in the '20s and her modern, minimal approach mirrored the shift in social change. In 1926 Chanel designed the LBD and in October of the same year American Vogue published an article calling it 'Chanel's Ford' comparing it to Henry Ford's mass produced model-T car. Both the LBD and Model-T were accessible; appealed to the mass market and as Vogue said of the LBD it 'would become a sort of uniform for all women of taste".




Celebrate 1920's style with The Great Gatsby, out on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD from November 11th.

“Flapper style promoted a new sense of androgyny and modernism.”

comments powered by Disqus
Follow Studio Magazine on TwitterFind Studio Magazine on Facebook