Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vintage 1920s' fashion

Clothing of the 1920’s
The 1920’s in America were great times of change. Coming out of the despair of the first World War, society exploded in a million different directions. The 20’s were a time for women voting, the Harlem Renaissance, and a incredible burst of affluence for the middle class. With cars and appliences making peoples lives easier, leisure time was also an added luxury.
Although the 1920’s fashion (especially for women) tend to be thought of as mannish, skimpy and flamboyant (bobbed hair, long pearl necklaces, cloche hats, knee length and thin dresses etc.) the styles were also elegant, sexy and even contemporary. 1920’s fashion was about so much more than the cliche that many people associate with the era, flapper dresses and feathered headbands. The twenties had it’s fads as well as its classics, a few of which live on today. It was a romantic era for fashion, which is why people look back at it with great fondness and still emulate it’s style.

Fashion History
Between about 1880 and 1910, the ideal woman ’silhouette resembled the letter “S.” Women’s bodies were forced into corsets of an hourglass shape, with waists contained in tiny circlets measuring less than 20 inches. The upper torso was brought forward, creating a “pigeon front,” and the hips were thrust backward and slightly up, finishing out the letter “S.” Skirts hit the floor, and the sight of even an ankle was considered to be quite racy. The 1910s were a time of great transition. The S-shape started softening a bit and by the 1920s it took a dramatic turn. Women were flattening their busts and hips and unbinding their waists from the constraining corsets, which resulted in a long, slim line known as “garçonne,” meaning ‘boyish’ in French. Dress waistlines fell, beginning at about the natural line at the start of the 1920s and dropping to around the hips just a bit later in the decade.

Bare in Bathing Suits
Barer bathing wear took on special significance as an expression of women’s newfound freedom. Swimsuits of the 1920s were either short taffeta shifts — favored by older women — or tight, sleeveless wool tank suits with built-in undershorts which stopped at mid-thigh. Women protected their bobbed hairdos by wearing bathing caps. Some women, especially in the most fashionable resorts, wore dramatic cover-ups over their suits. People became health-food, exercise and sun-worship oriented in a major fitness fad, triggered by all that flesh out in public view for the first time.
Men’s swimwear consisted of tank suits with under shorts, usually made of body-hugging wool. This style of bathing suit continued to be popular for men through the 1930s.

“Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel
French fashion designer Chanel emerged in fashion in the 1920s with great force. She proved to be one of the century’s most influential designers and entrepreneurs. Her designs freed women from the 19th century corset. She designed her first chemise dress in 1920 and the collarless cardigan jacket in 1925. Simplicity, elegance and comfort marked her style. She introduced her signature perfume fragrance, Chanel No. 5, in 1925.
Clothing Production
It might be a surprise to learn that in the 1920s, a lot of clothing was still made at home or by tailors and dressmakers. The brand name, ready-to-wear industry did not really exist until the 1930s; however some ready-made clothing was available from department stores and mail-order catalogs. Paris design houses developed two collections a year, one for the spring season and one for the autumn season. Each designer presented prototypes on models in his or her own salon. Garments would then be copied and made to order for each individual. This required several fittings and work by many seamstresses and apprentices. The shapes of this period were easily adapted to standardized sizes because of their simplicity. This, along with the introduction of electronically powered sewing machines, led to mass production and distribution of new clothing styles. Consumerism in the United States was revolutionized and the number of fashion magazines increased greatly, providing immediate information on fashion trends.
 Hair and Makeup
Another important ingredient of the “masculine” look was a short, boyish haircut. Women chopped off the poufy hairdos of the 1900s and 1910s for modern ‘bobbed,” waved or shingled styles. Those stragglers who chose not to cut their hair wore it pulled back at the nape of the neck and knotted in a chignon. For eveningwear, headbands or Spanish-style hair combs held chignons in place. Bobbed hair was first introduced during World War I and was popularized by Irene Castle. The impact of bobbed hair, and all it was felt to represent, was monumental. The popular culture of the time is filled with jokes, stories, cartoons, songs, theatrical skits, newspaper articles, and short movies, about bobbed hair.
Fashion-conscious men wore their hair parted in or near the center and slicked back with brilliantine, an oily, perfumed hairdressing that added shine and kept hair from moving. This look was popularized starting in the early 1920s by screen idols, such as Rudolph Valentino.
Makeup was simple: pale powder and cream rouge circles on the cheeks; brows plucked and penciled in thin arches; lips painted brilliantly red, emphasizing the Cupid’s bow of the upper lip, and de-emphasizing the width of the lower lip, creating a rosebud pout. These “bee-stung” lips are unmistakably characteristic of the 1920s.
Hats Galore
In the early 1920s, hats had deep crowns and medium-to-large brims, but in 1923, brims began disappearing and hats became helmet-like. These hats, or cloches, were quite popular even though they were unattractive on anyone but the very young and the extremely pretty. Though in a spring, 1924 issue of Vogue would pose the question, “Is the cloche dead?” they were the latest fad for most of the 1920s, finally easing out of fashion around 1930.
In summer, men sported broad brimmed Panama straw hats and in the fall and winter, English driving caps were popular for casual wear, while felt fedoras for everyday wear with suits and sport coats were frequently worn.

Those Outrageous Hemlines
Hemlines hovered at the lower calf at the start of the 1920s and remained there until nearly 1925 when they rose to an unprecedented high — the bottom of the knee. They stayed there until 1929 when they dropped back down to the lower calf. Stockings were made of silk and had back seams. Casual or sport stockings were made of cotton lisle. Stockings were rolled just above the knee and held fast with pretty elastic garters. Patterned hose from Paris was in vogue for a while, showing gorgeous hand-painted designs or embedded rhinestones near the ankle.
Elegant Evening Wear
Two big misconceptions exist about 1920s fashion. Contrary to popular belief, women did not always wear fringed flapper dresses with feathered bandeaux and a long strand of beads. There were many other styles of evening dresses. The other misconception is that hemlines in the 1920s were worn way above the knee. Evening clothes were made of luxurious fabrics — mostly silks — in velvets, taffetas and chiffon. Dresses were designed to move while dancing. Some had long trailing sashes, trains or asymmetric hemlines. Typically, women did not wear hats for evening, but instead wore fancy combs, scarves and bandeaux. For evening wear, Paris was the place and haute couture was hot. Paris was equated with high fashion, and even a scarf or a small accessory from that city was considered the ultimate in chic. Designers such as Molyneaux, Vionnet, Poiret, Lanvin, and Chanel reigned, and, late in the decade, an important newcomer appeared: Elsa Schiaparelli, who in later decades went on to create novelty and surrealist-print clothing in collaboration with Salvador Dali.

1920’s Men’s Fashion
Men’s suits and sport jackets consisted of two- and three-button as well as double breasted styles. Men often preferred to wear pants at the natural waistline and often cuffed at the bottom. Men slipped pocket watches on chains called fobs into their vests, which were often worn with suits. Tuxedos were practically the same as those worn today, sometimes worn with a silk brocade vest, an elegant accessory.
Men’s business and formal wear has not changed much since the 1920s. However, a notable exception is casual wear. A fashionable sporting outfit usually consisted of linen knickers, a V-necked sweater with a bow tie, and, the classic spectator shoes. An English driving cap or casual straw hat supplemented the outfit well. College men started the trend of “oxford bags,” wide-legged cuff pants that dragged along the ground. These pants had leg openings up to 36 inches. The popular yachting look displayed a navy sport coat, white slacks, and yachting cap. Bow- and standard windsor-knot neckties were equally popular. This casual look was topped off by an English driving cap or a summer-weight brimmed hat, such as a Panama straw.

Famous 1920’s icons
More 1920’s information