1920s fashion is one of the most recognizable elements of that decade. Women’s fashion changed most drastically, but the change was in fact general.
The most apparent characteristic of the 1920s fashion is paramount interest in making the body freer.1920s fashion is one of the most recognizable elements of that decade. Women's fashion changed most drastically, but the change was in fact general #history #fashion Click To Tweet
Dresses became lighter. In the case of women, layers of the clothing were lost, to make space for a far more essential cut. But even in the case of men, the cut of the dress became more comfortable and allowed freer movements.
The ideal of the young woman in the 1920s was the flapper, who dressed scantily, uncovering vast (as at the time was conceived) parts of her body, cut her hair like men’s. In Europe, especially in Germany, the New Woman didn’t shy away from actually dressing like men.
The ideal of the young men, especially in the US and UK, was the collegiate. The young man that went to college in numbers never seen before had their own style, clean-cut and comfortable, which even by young men who never went to college adoped.
The new ideal of fashion spread because young people practiced it, but also because the emerging film stars and the many magazines that became widely available popularised it.
Being a fashionable person, a flapper or a college boy, was expensive both in terms of time and money. Not everybody could afford it.
Still, everybody aspired to it, and many achieved it – or a very close version – because of the new mass market.
The mass production had allowed the prices to go down. Although there was, of course, a great difference in quality between the high production and the mass production, the last could produce at reasonable prices pieces of clothing that met the demands of the people who wanted to look like their ideals.
Adhering to a fashionable trend also meant to adhere to a way of life, to a philosophy. The way people looked in the 1920s became, less of a status symbol and more of a declaration of intents.
Makeup was maybe the great discovery of the 1920s fashion, and it was both a social and production innovation.
All through the 1800s, makeup was extremely unpopular. That was for a social stance, of course (everyone expected women to be clean, angelic and pure), but it had its root in a very practical reason: makeup was extremely harmful to the health. Up to the beginning of the XX century, the production of makeup involved poisonous materials. The only women who were willing to use it were those who employed it for their profession, namely actresses and prostitutes.
But scientific advancement allowed to produce makeup that was safer to use. By the 1920s those producing processes became economical enough to offer products sellable to most layers of society.
The New Woman – but men too, who also used makeup – were quick to appropriate this new opportunity to express themselves in a new, adequately shocking way.
A global experience
While all of these where changing chiefly happening in the Western World, they soon spread into many different cultures.
Several Asian cultures who had contacts and commercial exchanges with the Western World, adopted a Western look, at least their younger, wealthier sections. The Western look became quite popular in India, China and especially in Japan. This often went hand-in-hand with social criticism and a desire to change the society these youths lived in. This attitude often caused accusation of unpatriotism.
Stephanie Trinidad – The Modern Girl: Japan’s Generation of Change
Fass, Paula S., The Damned and the Beautiful. American Youth in the 1920s. Oxford University Press, New York, 1977
Kyvig, David E., Daily Life in the United States 1920-1940. How Americans Lived Through the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and the Great Depression. Ivan R. Dee Publisher, Chicago, 2002
Perrish, Michael E., Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1941. W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York, 1992