1920s Fashion: Trends, Style, Fashion Icons And Makeup

History of the types and styles of fashion of the 20s for women, girls and men, all the trends, influences, accessories, clothes and icons that characterized the women’s and men’s fashion of the twenties: inspired by Parisian trends and by the desire to live and have fun, from flapper girls to Charleston to new clothing fabrics, let’s discover together the first great fashion revolution that still characterizes and influences the catwalks and clothing habits today!

In this article we will take a look at the fashion of the 20s of the twentieth century. After having talked about the way of dressing at the beginning of the century and in the 10s, now we continue on our journey of discovering the fashion of the last century, in order to have useful references to the creation of theatrical costumes for shows set in this historical era.

The Importance Of 1920s Fashion

By analyzing the history of the types and styles of fashion of the 1920s, we realize how this was a very important decade for this fascinating sector. In fact, it was precisely in those years that skirts began to shorten: sensuality began to make its way along the line of what were the so-called Parisian trends.

This completely new climate in the fashion world was very strongly influenced by the wars that had just ended and that had caused terror and also a lot of suffering in people. However, there was a great desire to react: therefore, fashion was one of the sectors where they tried to make a difference. Gradually the garments became more and more rich in ribbons, sequins and scarves. Skirts became shorter, men’s clothing patterns began to make their way.

Among the most popular were the “Prince of Wales” or the “pinstripe”. There was also a particular all-female influence: flesh-colored stockings began to spread: these clothing elements appeared for the first time in the 20s fashion scenario, history and the icons of that period influenced the trends in the way people dressed.

The revolution reflected in the clothing of the time

The period from the end of World War I to the 1930s is usually referred to as The Roaring 1920s. This can already explain the enormous change that society is undergoing, in particular with regard to the female universe and the fashion of the 20s.

The freedom that women now breathe is perfectly reflected in the fashion of the 20s, and stylists take the opportunity to create clothes with more colorful and lighter materials, decreasing forms of constriction, such as corsets and bustiers, typical of the ‘was Victorian. Only elastic corsets remain, made with synthetic materials and already equipped with zips.

The first synthetic fabrics in 1920s fashion clothes

The 1920s clothes are shortened a lot and the first synthetic fabrics are used, also due to the scarcity of materials during the Great War. Tailored suits are replaced by ready-made suits, which can be purchased in the first malls or by mail through the catalog. The great influence of a new musical genre from the USA is undoubted: jazz. Girls who frequent jazz clubs wear short, fringed dresses and are called Flappers. They smoke in public, wear their hair short (the Bob cut), sometimes wear men’s clothes (à la garçonne) and enjoy a ruthlessness never seen before. Typical icon of 1920s fashion.

For the day, the most popular 1920s dress is straight cut with soft lines, the ancestor of the sheath dress, with a hem that reaches the knee, already presented in 1916 by the designers Lanvin and Chanel, which will then be taken up in the following fashion. The peculiarity of these dresses is given by the lowering of the belt with respect to the line of the natural waist; belts are used on tunics placed much lower, on the hips, or they are just fake belts sewn always low.

A garment introduced in the fashion of the 20s is also the blouse with a sailor neckline, which arrived in Europe as early as 1917 with the American troops. It is immediately adopted by new designers, such as Chanel, who begins to produce them with fabrics typical of men’s clothing, such as jersey, and are worn with a pleated skirt and a cardigan held closed by a low belt. On colder days the girls wear a tight coat or cardigan, while for the evening the arms can remain uncovered, wearing only a cape on the shoulders. A great classic among 1920s clothes comes from the genius of Coco Chanel: the little black dress, also renamed Ford Dress, due to its great popularity.

Women’s fashion in the 1920s

During the First World War, with the men engaged at the front, the women began to enter sectors hitherto unthinkable for them. Both as regards the women of the people and those of the wealthiest social classes, there is a need for simpler and more practical clothes, which give freedom of movement in a much more dynamic life than in the past. The edges are shortened. First at the calf, then from 1925 to the knee and for the first time Europe turns its gaze to America through cinema and to the free style that stands out in the dance halls with rhythms such as the fox-trot, the hi-hat and jazz.

The Flapper Girls

“Flapper” is an American slang word that can have two different meanings: on the one hand it defines girls who have recently become women (referring to the onomatopoeia that simulates the flapping of the wings of a bird, which is learning to fly); on the other hand it was the name by which, in England, novice prostitutes were called, to then transform themselves and go to indicate any teenager who was too restless.

The main features of this new women’s fashion of the 1920s were: 

●Excessive makeup

●Short skirts and ankles on display

●Short hair

Fashion that then spread to slightly older ladies and that found its maximum expression in dances such as hi-hat, fox-trot and jazz, for which very low-waisted dresses were created (moved to the height of the hips), in which the terminal part of the skirt was formed by innumerable rows of glass beads, silk fringes, or rows of feathers, which during the dance moved swaying and shimmering, following the movements of the body.

The charleston clothes were often accompanied by hats-hairstyle network pendant with terminal of apparel, or fascia with the large feathers center. Inevitable in these evening outfits were the very long strings of pearls around the neck. A fashion that comes not only from dance but also from cinema, for which Hollywood actresses such as Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer and Louise Brooks should be remembered.

Coco Chanel

It is 1919 when Gabrielle Chanel opens her first fashion house. She specializes in the use of jersey in cutting-edge designs, such as low-waisted skirts with soft pleats, wide or sailor blouses, loose-fitting jackets or men’s sweaters and cardigans to be worn over straight skirts.

From this it can be understood that from the very beginning Chanel aimed at the functionality of the clothes: every woman could easily dress herself, since the fasteners were all within reach.

The first of the important innovations of this stylist, in the early twenties, is to be found in the introduction of fashion to the garçonne, the short haircut, which was born by a fatality: having burned part of her hair with a stove, she also cut the other part. From here on, over the course of the decade, this cut expanded to most of the female universe. This fashion then also poured into clothing.

It was 1921 when, for the first time on the market, a still iconic perfume, the ” Chanel N.5, ” developed with the help of the perfumer Ernest Beaux, perfumer of the Tsar, who emigrated to France due to Russian revolution. Thus was born a new ideal of perfume, the fruit of a manufacture, a feminine perfume» which smells «of woman, because a woman must smell of woman and not of rose». It took the name of Nº5 as it corresponded to the fifth essence chosen by Chanel (but it is also said that 5 was her favorite number).

Jean Patou

Patou was one of the first designers to personalize garments with a monogram. How Chanel opened her first salon in 1919 and how she is one of the most important supporters of the garçonne style. Its production of sportswear and swimwear is of great importance. In 1922 he created the tennis outfit for Suzanne Lenglen, consisting of a pleated skirt in white silk, cardigan and headband of the same color. In 1924 he opened the first atelier for the exclusive creation of sportswear and swimwear.

For this designer, color is of great importance, so much so that every season his collections change the shades radically: he invents colors such as, for example, Patou blue and dark dahlia.

Men’s fashion of the 1920s

Unlike the previous decade, in which it had not presented particular changes, men’s fashion is also strongly affected by the ferment and dynamism of the twenties. The most significant innovations come from England and in particular from the Prince of Wales, Edward, who renounced the throne in favor of his brother (George VI) to marry the American Wallis Simpson. Regardless of the dictates of etiquette, a lover of sports (especially golf) and country life, he becomes the symbol of much more comfortable forms:

●jackets with wide and drooping shoulders,

●wide or short pants (worn with checked socks), called Oxford bags,

●frequent use of a type of fabric that mixed checks and stripes, called Prince of Wales.

Since 1928, the Spezzati have established themselves in men’s fashion, suits in which the jacket and trousers had different colors. Other trends that take hold in the 1920s are the use of light colors for the day, double – breasted jackets and the cuffs at the hem of the trousers. It remains in vogue the cylinder, black silk for the evening and gray for social occasions like the horse races. From the United States comes the new derby fashion, a new version of the bowler hat. Also begins to spread the felt hat, flattened and flattened, as seen in gangster movies.

The newspaper “La moda Maschile” (a periodical already active since 1903), promoted a competition in 1929 for which even seven hundred proposals arrived from all over the peninsula: a sign that, despite the influence of Anglo-Saxon fashion, Italy could count on craftsmanship very fervent, which will then see its maximum splendor from the end of the Second World War onwards.

The New Men’s Fabrics From The 1920s

As far as men’s fashion is concerned, the 1920s were greatly affected by the historical dynamism of that period. In fact, the man began to choose much more comfortable shapes than in the past by abandoning the label. The jackets became more saggy and loose, the pants short and very baggy. In the 1920s, many new fabrics also arrived, some very particular. These fabrics began to make their way: it was during that period that the idea of ​​the broken piece or the spasmodic use of the Prince of Wales fabric spread. Not to be forgotten, the very famous felt hats, a symbol of that period.

Dresses, Style And Fashion Of The 20s

As already mentioned, when it comes to women, the 1920s are those of the flapper girls. So it is possible to recognize this style from the Charleston dresses, with a cut that left the body free. These garments were made with light and soft fabrics, such as Jersey, also widely used by Coco Chanel. Other fabrics included silk and chiffon. The dresses were full of sparkles, beads, embroidery and fringes.

Even the pearls were a ubiquitous accessory. Distinctive sign of the style of the Twenties, even the dark color, the shades of ice or beige. In those years, the suit also spread a lot while for men, the most popular suits were those with fabrics such as Prince of Wales, pinstripes or strange combinations of broken suits.

The Fashion Accessories Of The 20s

The 1920s were also those of the new hairstyles. The look of the flappers was recognized by the presence of bands in the hair (perhaps with some feather or fringe) and by the presence of necklaces such as long strings of pearls. Even the hairstyles were able to symbolize this style with carrè, beautiful bobs and hair worn straight or at most with some well-defined waves. For men it was instead the inevitable hat of felt.

The Make-Up Of The 20s

The 1920s are also characterized by the particular type of make- up that women use. In fact, at that time the eyebrows were thin and arched, the lips in the shape of a heart and the complexion was rigorously pale. The most popular colors as lipstick, on the other hand, were dark: the lips were purplish, brown or burgundy. The eyes were always painted with dark shades. Even the shoes were always very elegant for women and comfortable for men. At that time, the first type of men’s walking shoe also began to make its way.

The Beauty Icons That Inspired 20s Fashion

In the 1920s, it was essentially the beauties of the world of cinema that determined the fashion trends that were characteristic of that period. Among the most loved icons were Louise Brook, Greta Garbo, Clara Bow. But also stylists like Coco Chanel or others coming mostly from Paris, totally influenced the style of that historical moment.

The charm of 1920s fashion

1900 marks an important moment for French fashion. For the first time, a space in the Pavillion de l’Elegance dedicated to the luxury creations of the most famous fashion houses of the time was set up within the Great Universal Exposition in Paris. A real novelty. Fashion finally came out of the dusty ateliers to be exhibited no longer to a small circle of customers but to a much wider audience (equivalent to a fair or presentation today).

For the fashion houses it is a unique opportunity to raise awareness of French grandeur in terms of style. There are many brilliant tailors who participate in the event with their creations making themselves noticed by the ladies of high society (the only ones who could afford such expensive clothes). Starting with Charles Frederick Worth, Empress Eugenie’s tailor, he was responsible for the creation of Haute Couturefor his taste and for the extreme luxury of his creations.

Madame Paquin, who in addition to designing the first fashion show with music in 1906 was the first woman to establish herself in a hitherto male environment, so much so that she was elected President of the Grandes Esposition Universelle de Paris. And then, Doucet, with its fluid creations and precious embroideries, Redfern, his first suit, Jeanne Lanvin the first to diversify the collections for each age group; Vionnet invents the diagonal cut and the draped dress. These are some of the most prestigious names of the time.

The 20s fashion returns to the 2020 fashion shows

The newfound freedom also affects hairstyles. At the beginning of the twentieth century the Gibson Girls (illustrated by the hand of Charles Dana Gibson) represent an image of young women, independent and self-confident, with their hair gathered up, with a soft and disheveled effect. Poiret instead introduces turbans, more wearable in place of the exaggerated hats of the time. In the mid-20s the Flappers, the most unconventional and rebellious, adopted the masculine cut. Similar hairstyles can still be seen on runways today.

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