Saturday, November 21, 2009

Women’s Fashion in the 1920’s: Timeless Perfection

I have always loved black and white movies. There seems to be something special about these movies. This is one of the main reasons why I chose to study this for my fashion portfolio. Starting off I had no idea how much of an imprint this fashion made and still continues to make in society. Fashion speaks volumes and has changed history. Women’s fashion in the 1920s is great example of this. The way that women changed their hair and their dress sent shock waves through society. People started to take notice, and women demanded equality. Fashion is what made it all possible in my opinion.

A lot can be said with a person’s hair style. At first I didn’t think a whole lot could be said with a person’s hair style. However the fashion in the 1920s proved me wrong yet again. The “bob” and boy cut look of the 1920s was a statement to society at the time. A statement of yes we are women, and guess what we deserve the same rights as you! That is really my summary of the hair style in the 1920s. It was a drastic change that people were not use to which got people’s attention. However it still in a sense showed that women were different. What I really like about it was that it didn’t detract from a woman being a woman. The curls, the hats, the make-up showed that women were still proud of being a woman. It taught me not to make a judgment about a person’s hair. In a way it has taught me to appreciate the differences that can be found in a person’s hair style.

One movie that comes to mind when I think about women’s jewelry in the 1920s is, Singin In The Rain. I don’t know if it was necessarily depicting the fashion of the 1920s but I believe a scene in the movie “nailed it right on the head.” During one of the songs in the movie it shows a bunch of women dressed up in different fashions. Every time that I watch it I am always amazed at how long the necklaces are. What jewelry in the 1920s taught me is that a way a person looks isn’t just because of the clothes that they have on. It is the way that they accessorize and dress themselves with the clothes that makes the fashion. Fashion is like a piece of art and a shirt is never just a shirt.

I first fell in love with the flapper dress after watching Singin In The Rain. Then after researching the style and look of the dress my appreciation for it grew. It is because the dress was not just a dress even though that is what I use to think fashion was. The dress was a statement and a movement for woman to be treated as equals. It also showed how much fun woman liked to have. Again I learned to not judge a person’s dress after studying the flapper dress. It’s a piece of art/movement that should be appreciated. The way you dress can say a lot and the statement that the flapper dress made changed history.

The most important lesson that I learned from this portfolio is that fashion can be fun. It is fun in the sense that there are no rules. Yes society tries to create rules and guidelines. But just like the women in the 1920s, I am the person who gets to decide my fashion/look. Fashion doesn’t have to be a pain and I don’t have to detest shopping anymore. By looking at it the way the women in the 1920s did, I can enjoy it. In my own ways I can make history for myself. I can do this by dressing professionally to get my dream job. I can add jewelry to create the perfect date outfit. Fashion doesn’t have limits, fashion is limitless.

Annotated Bibliography: Women's Fashion in the 1920s

Melanie Klein
FCSE 3080
Portfolio Part 1

A Look at the 20s Fashion Imprint on The World of Dress

I want to know more about the 1920’s women’s fashion because it has always been a favorite of mine and I want to find out more about its role in shaping the history of fashion.

Annotated Bibliography

Cleave, K. V. (2009). Fashioning the college woman: Dress, gender, and sexuality at smith college in the 1920s. The Journal of American Culture, 32(1), 4-15.

This source shows how fashion can speak and make history. I like that because that is why I wanted to look at the 1920s. I especially like how it links it to girls in college, it makes me wonder what their college campus was like. I would use this article because it shows how the 1920s dress was one of the most important fashion movements in history.

Pender, A. (2007). 'Modernist madonnas': Dorothy todd, madge garland, and virginia woolf . Women's History Review, 16(4), 519-533.

This source isn’t as strong as the other sources. It does talk about the 20s fashion and women who stood out during it. However that is not what I am looking for in my portfolio. I am looking more at the fashion and why it is still around today not on certain people.

Roberts, M.L. (1993). Samson and delilah revisited: The politics of women’s fashion in 1920s france. American Historical Review, 98(3), 657-684.

Lots of useful information is found in the source especially the historical facts from fashion of the 1920s and the affect of it. It is important to understand people’s response and what role fashion played in it. It can teach others that fashion shouldn’t be judged, that fashion is a unique complex issue that everyone has a right to. I would use this source because it talks about what the fashion of 1920s went through.

Gronberg, T. (1997). Beware beautiful women: The 1920s shopwindow mannequin and a physiognomy of effacement. Art History, 20(3), 375-396.

Again this sources talks about the uniqueness of the 20s and the movements that this fashion made. It however mostly focuses on the mannequins and the role they played in marketing this fashion. This source is a weaker source that I wouldn’t use for my portfolio but I would use it if I was doing a report on the marketing movement of the 20s.

Poggi, J. (2008, August 15). Fall fashion's '20s-inspired looks. Forbes, Retrieved from

This is a strong source in the fact that it describes the 20s fashion and points out how it can be found in today’s fashion which is why I wanted to look at the 1920s. It also talks how clothing can be fun and helps people escape which is a fact about dress. The article points out how dress builds on each other and that it is a complex process. It’s strong in the fact that it doesn’t underestimate dress and the power that it has on people. I would use this source.

Body, Environment & Dress: Women's Fashion in the 1920s

Pictures above showing the dress practice.

The people involved in the dress practice I am looking at are women. The what factor of my dress practice is the events of 1920s and the role that women’s fashion played. Women workers went on strike, and women’s rights became a big part of the 20s. Also prohibition was taking place in the United States during the 20s. The when is the time period of the 1920s. I am mostly focusing on the dress practice in the United States regarding women’s fashion but have looked at other countries. What was interesting was that fashion was a big part of the culture at the time because it was a very drastic change. Women didn’t stick with corsets and restricting themselves. Their dress changed to long silhouette styles of dress, with short hair (the bob), long flowing jewelry. The dress played a significant role as women changed history.

Certain things stand out to me as I have researched women’s fashion of the 1920s. Those things are the haircut referred to as the “bob,” the long flowing kind of pencil like dresses, then the jewelry. In the classification system the “bob” haircut can be in the shape & structure box in the fact that it shaped women’s faces. It also could fit under texture because not all the “bob” haircuts were alike some were curly, wavy, or straight. I would classify the dress worn by women in the 20s as an attachment to body enclosures and that it would fall under the volume/proportion category. It modified the proportion of women’s bodies as well as giving off a certain type of volume. Now the jewelry mostly the long flowing beaded necklaces women wore would be classified as an enclosure of the body, a wrapped enclosure. In my opinion it could fall under a lot of the categories such as volume/proportion, shape & structure, as well as surface design.

One of Sheldon’s somatotypes of the body can describe perfectly what type of woman was participating in the dress practice of the 1920s. That type would be ectomorphic which is linear and slender. That was the type of woman as well as the objective of the dress practice of the 1920s. Certain forces can be attributed to why woman were ectomorphic at the time. During the 20s some people couldn’t really afford to eat, some women in protest refused to eat in order for women’s rights and food wasn’t necessarily very important. I don’t think the body was a canvas for the dress however it was more like a frame where the dress would just fall into place perfectly on the woman. It was around this time when the importance of cooking and making food started to come into play in a woman’s life. However woman were still slender because certain bad nutritional forces has yet to make their debut in society.

Lots of things influenced this dress practice; climate, environment and occupation are certainly some factors. The dress practice came about because of the environment woman were in. It was a way for them to stand out, a way for them to get noticed while they were changing history. The layer of dress would be a two layer dress. The woman didn’t bundle up with this dress however on occasion wore the fur coats or other types of coats that complimented the silhouette designs of their dresses. This dress practice was also influenced by a woman’s occupation in society. They didn’t want to stand out anymore they wanted to be treated like the men (woman’s right to vote). Wearing corsets in this environment wasn’t working for woman, what did work was this dress practice because it got people to notice.

Dress & Culture Scale: Women's Fashion in the 1920s

Commercial Scale

-Decade was a time of “frivolity, abundance, and happy go lucky attitudes”
-Women went to school, in the workplace some went on strike.
-Women stood out more, going against what society expected of them.
-Paris fashion came into play in women’s fashion in the U.S.

-Clothing more affordable for working families
-With the growth of fashion magazines, fashion was advertised to women.

-A type of information system for fashion: Fashion Magazines (Vogue, The Queen, Harper’s Bazaar)
-Cosmetics industry grew
-Motion picture industry influenced women’s fashion. Famous female actresses set some fashion trends for the 20s.
-Clothing production methods improved.
-Rayon stockings were created giving a different choice for silk stockings.
Human Population -World Population in the 1920’s
-Big cities
-The U.S. in the 1920s

-Women’s Rights
-After WWI

-Women’s suffrage movement, women fought for the right to vote.
-More women went into college to get an education.
-Women wanted to be treated fairly (have the same rights as men)

-Less confining
-No more corset
-A masculine type of look
(example: women wearing hair shorter)
-Dress was loose, waistlines disappeared
(example: flapper dress)

The fashion movement in the 1920s is a great expression of the cultural history at the time. Historic movements in the 20s were usually accompanied with fashion that “stood out." Women were changing and going against what society had been doing for a long time. The corset defined women in the beginning. They had to be thinned wasted, big dresses, with the perfect look. Well the perfect look changed in the 20s. It became more versatile, it was more like the traits of a culture. They wanted to be more like men. They showed more skin. Emphasis was taken off the perfect shape. Dress flowed, and women just went with the “flow.” Women’s fashion in the 1920s is a perfect example of the change in the culture. Women had shorter hair, they weren’t “dainty” anymore. They expressed themselves, and wanted people to take notice.

C) (last choice)
Women’s fashion in the 1920s was a zeitgeist. Women’s fashion was the “spirit” of the 1920s. The modifications of the fashion show social values. Just like mentioned above the corset disappeared. Fashion magazines appeared in society. Famous movie actresses set off trends with their fashion. What women wanted was the right to vote. They wanted to be treated just like the men. This can be found in the fashion movement of the shorter haircuts, and with a more “flat” chested look. The trend of the time was to be different from the past. The 20s fashion changed drastically because values took a drastic turn in the 20s. The changes in fashion mostly came from modifying the dress. An example of this would be the disappearance of the waist line.

The Art of Dress: Women's Fashion in the 1920s

I would say that women’s fashion in the 1920s was both body dominate and body subordinate. Since it was a very drastic change of dress for women it grabbed people’s attention. This is why I would say that at times it was body dominate. An example of body dominate would be the shorter haircuts that women got. It was body subordinate in the fact that it made parts of the body, “disappear.” The corset drew attention to women making the waist get smaller and the bust get bigger. However the 1920s dress took attention away from the waist with no waistlines. Busts also seemed to get flatter as blouses and dress draped the body instead of being shaped to the body. Jewelry wasn’t really fit to the body, it was more loosely put on (draping the body).

B)(Refer to pictures shown above)
There is a specific look to women’s fashion in the 1920s. The dress drapes the body and does not bring attention to the body. Hair wasn’t necessarily long and hats were a common accessory. When worn correctly the message conveys that the woman wants attention. She is not dainty. She is a “down to earth” woman who wants to be treated fairly. If the fashion was to be deviated from then the person wouldn’t stand out as much. It would actually have a negative effect on the opinion of the person.

Women’s fashion in the 20s approached the cultural idea of the time on what was attractive. This came through women following the movie stars, and fashion magazines. It approached this idea at the time because it was different. The dress wasn’t constricting. It was a part of the culture in the 20s to wear your hair short, and to wear the dresses that were worn. The color, the style, the way certain fabrics were worn is what made the fashion attractive in the 20s. It was a look that didn’t necessarily hide a woman. It still was feminine. Not in the way that the corset was. The dress still made them stand out.

This dress went against the conformity of society and brought out individuality in women. It let women change their hair. They were also able to put on make-up differently. Women in a sense were able to be free. The fashion in the 20s allowed them to do this. It gave them choices and gave them change that hadn’t been around for them in the past. The dress showed how unique women really wore. They had attitude and wanted to be known for more than just their looks. Again an example of this is the bob, and the flapper style dress. It showed them as unique individuals who didn’t want to conform to society.

Dress and The Future: 1920s Women's Fashion

If you look at society today you can see elements of women’s dress in the 1920s and see how this fashion looks 80 plus years after the fact. This type of fashion hasn’t disappeared. However it has changed. Girls and women still wear their hair short. The “bob” style has been adapted to society. Changes have come through an a line cut or with women spiking their hair with hair gel. I have even seen people with hair to their chin in front but with short spiky hair in the back. Women would drape jewelry around their necks and down their body. This practice has been adapted yet again. Jewelry is still being draped around a women’s body but not at such lengths as it was in the 1920s. Even elements of the flapper dress are still around in today’s society. One example would be skirts that look like they belong on a flapper dress. When I did dance in junior high one of my costumes was a flapper like top. Also the flapper dress can still be found around Halloween time. With girls dressed up with the black flapper dress, long beads and a wig of the classing 1920s “bob” style.

People who are still wearing this dress our girls and women. I think this dress practice will never end. However as I have mentioned above it has changed. In a way it has been “culturally authenticated.” I believe a prime example of this is the way that the “bob” haircut has changed. There are multiple ways that a woman can wear her short hair. The dress practice has a future because it was a timeless fashion that will probably never be forgotten (you can especially see this from the pictures below).

Refer to pictures above to see how women's fashion from the 1920s has changed and what it might look like in the future.