Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Roaring Twenties

1925 daywear ensemble accessorized by the popular cloche hat
                                                            Created by Ana Delia Mercado                                                    

The 1920's in America were times of great change.  Coming out of the horror of the First World War, society exploded in many different directions.  The 1920's saw women voting, prohibition, the Jazz Age, and an incredible burst of affluence for the middle class.  The unbelievable rapid social changes that struck the country are illustrated by the fashions of the decade.   
The 1920's is the decade in which fashion entered the modern era.  It was the decade in which women first abadoned the more restricting fashions of past years and began to wear more comfortable clothes, such as short skirts and trousers.  Men also abandoned highly formal daily attire and even began to wear athletic clothing for the first time.  The suits men wear today are still based for the most part on those worn in the late 1920's. 

The 1920's are characterized by two distinct periods of fashion.  In the early part of the decade, change was slow, as many were reluctant to adopt new styles.  However, from 1925, the public pssionately embraced the styles associated with the Roaring Twenties.  The salient features of womens's clothing in the 1920's are short skirts and dropped waistlines.  The silhouettes of the earlier part of the decade are long and cylindrical, with the skirt falling 10" to 7" below the knee.  Despite the relatively simple silhouette, the wide variety of detail was astonishing. 

Example of early 1920's daywear. The doll is Holiday Voyager, released in 1997 by Mattel
The long straight style had a great many variations.  One extremely popular fashion was the Basque dress, or Robe de Style.  This dress style is best known from the beautiful creations of Jeanne Lanvin.  It is a sort of compromise between the straight Twenties silhouette and the old fashioned bell skirt.  It featured a tubular bodice that draped down to a dropped waist, then a full skirt ending at mid-calf or ankle.  These were very popular for afternoon and evening wear.

In 1998, Mattel released Dance Til Dawn, from the Great Fashions of the 20th Century series.  The evening dress is in the Basque style.
It was in evening wear that the innovations of Twenties style first appeared.  By 1926, women who grew up in a world that barely acknowledged knees were very nearly wearing their dresses above them.  This is when the modern fashion concept of the flapper first appeared. 

Another very obvious fashion feature of this time period was bobbed hair.  It was first introduced in America during and just after World War I, and popularized by society dancer Irene Castle.  However, for many of us, the late 1920's actress Louise Brooks is felt to epitomize the look of the flapper. 

A redefintion of Mattel's 1993 1920's Flapper, from the Great Eras Collection. The original doll was a blonde, but I switched it for another, to resemble Louise Brooks.

A society wedding dress designed by Charles Worth, circa 1924
Created by Irene Cosson
The look that is regarded as the flapper look only lasted about 3 years, from 1925 to 1928.  As the decade reached its end, fashion started to revert to a longer silhouette, and waist lines started to make a tentative reappearance.  High fashion had drifted onward, but the look of the Flapper lives on in popular consciousness.