Illustration by John Held Jr.
A Brief Overview of Fashion throughout the
playful flapper here we see, the fairest of the fair. She's not what
Grandma used to be, you might say, au contraire...
19th Amendment ratified August
1920: Women win the right to vote
Development of the typewriter gives women another mode to earn a living
Margaret Sanger illegally distributes information about birth control
1922: Radio begins broadcasting
Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks in Hollywood
Development of bias-cutting fabric by Madeleine Vionnet; invention of
fabric in 1924
Harlem Renaissance: Poet Langston Hughes
Commercial Aviation 1926: Air Commerce Act
1927: Lindbergh lands in Paris
Hoover sworn into office of the Presidency 1929
October 29, 1929 Stock Market Crashes
Prohibition of alcohol in the post
war America claims to be one of the many reasons for the creation of the
popular culture we now call the roaring twenties. Because most
people at the time didn't take prohibition seriously, business at illegal
speakeasies was generally brisk. Add to that the general speculation that
the Harding Presidency was corrupt in comparison to Wilson's idealism, and
"heaven knows, anything goes..."
Young women sensed this
as an invitation to push social mores and by mid-decade, a thrilling stylish woman called
a "flapper" emerged. Discarding their corsets and wearing short
dresses, bobbing their long hair and rolling their stockings down,
flappers were the first women to defiantly smoke in public
and recuse strict societal standards of propriety.
After the discovery of King Tut's tomb in November of 1922,
an Egyptian craze occurred and
the decade's design was influenced by the linear and
geographic art nouveau, Aztec and Egyptian stylings.
Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et
Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern
Industrial and Decorative Arts) brought forth
these highly stylized designs in a World's fair held in Paris,
France from April to October 1925.
Clothing designers adapted the trend of simplification of lines and the use of solid,
rectilinear forms to favor a silhouette of a sleeveless barrel shaped chemise dress that simply slipped over
the head. Once the wife of an Italian aristocrat, Jeanne Lanvin's
most successful designs were the so called robes de style; loosely
cut dresses with a low waistline and ankle length skirts.
After the restrictive Edwardian fare, the freedom of free flowing
garments proved irresistible for most fashion forward women, perhaps
facilitating the first wave of feminism in the 20th century.
The chemise began to
blossom with the addition of hand sewn ornate seed beads favored by French
society and the more expensive gowns were heavily detailed with geometric
patterns. Paris designers
further enhanced the cut of the dress, adding intricately beaded and draped
panels to the front and back, scalloping hems and adding watteau styled
short trains from the shoulder. Hemlines became petaled, referred to
presently as "car wash skirts" and waistlines shirred or
smocked with "girdles" of satin and metallic brocaded ribbon.
Naturally, this de-emphasis on the bustline and emphasis on slim hips
prompted some critics to mock the new 20's woman as just being one of the
boys. "The narrowness is accented by big belts that look
tempted to slip down to the ankles," exclaimed one
Poiret, the most important designer of the 20th century was
Madeleine Vionnet. Her visionary method of bias cutting and draping of fabric set a
1924 fashion that has never gone out of style. An important
ingredient in Vionnet's creations was fluid fabric, combined with her
distaste for corsets. She wrapped silk, satin and velvet in diaphanous
folds, setting the bar for the upcoming Hollywood glamour decade of the
Isadora Duncan 1878-1927
to Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet is virtually an unknown today.
Perhaps this is because she produced the Rolls-Royces of couture, whereas
Chanel's designs succeeded in becoming the popular Fords of fashion."
Seeling's musings on Madeleine Vionnet,
perhaps with a thinly veiled contempt for the often
1920s was surely
one of the most creative decades of the twentieth century, although the
personal visions of it's designers did not expand freely without their
detractors. From the Harlem renaissance, led by poet Langston
Hughes, to the latest dances, known as the Charleston and Lindy Hop, moral
Americans felt they were not quite
ready for the shocking display of most of what was seen. Consider
Miss Josephine Baker's trapeze act,
which they called decadent.
She found her refuge across the Atlantic
as the toast of Paris in 1925 and was in good company with Coco Chanel,
the creator of the twin-set. Chanel looked firmly ahead, stressed simplicity and
ignored the critics. It was at this time that motion pictures were
surprisingly stylized and influenced by the German expressionists, most
notably Fritz Lang, with his futuristic 1926 film, Metropolis
and Pabst for "Pandora's Box."
By 1927, Germany's Bauhaus movement, led by architect
Walter Gropius, was under attack as too radical for most people and
right-wing politicians called for it's demise, forcing the school to leave
Weimar. Alas, with the October 1929 stock market crash known as
Black Thursday, the flood of creativity ebbed and the "golden
with the onset of hard times.
[ 1920's Veil Styles ] [ Vintage Fashion History 1930's ] [ Vintage Fashion History 1940's ] [ 1940's Vintage Wedding Hairstyles ] [ Vintage Fashion History 1950's ] [ Vintage Fashion History 1960's ] [ Vintage Fashion History - 1970's Weddings ] [ Vintage Fashion History - 1980's Weddings ] [ Desiderata ]