Ladies fashion in the 1920s was obviously and almost obnoxiously flamboyant and “out there”. The era of history of the 1920s is one that is so dramatic and theatrical, particularly in regards to fashion that there may be no other decade other than the 1960s that brought such profound change and bold fashion statements as the 1920s.
The reasons that the culture became of frivolous and devoted to excessive behavior in recreation can be traced back to the end of World War I. It is a common social reaction to the end of a catastrophic war to become excessively hedonistic and uncaring about the future. The end of the first world war left behind that kind of free spirited and “live for today” feeling that resulted in bold and sometimes wild fashion statements.
But another advance in society can be given credit for how widespread these bold 1920s woman fashions became. During this decade, manufacturers of woman’s clothing developed better production techniques. That meant that while the designs were happy and fun loving, 1920s fashions were made to be durable and inexpensive. So even working class families could avoid to step out in style with clothing that held up well to multiple uses. This caused great social change that was inspired by 1920s fashions to spread beyond the wealthy and social elite and become a bigger part of American culture.
There was a lot of experimentation in woman’s fashion in the 1920s and part of that exploration was due to the beginnings of the woman’s liberation movement that would become more political in decades to come. It makes sense that the first way that woman would take a stand of individuality and freedom would be in fashion because fashion reflected how women felt about themselves and how they wanted to be perceived.
1920s fashion stated that women were strong, independent, glamorous, sexy and experimental all rolled into one. The corset was discarded and destined for museums so women’s fashions in the 1920s showed more leg than ever before. At the same time, woman’s fashions of the 1920s explored androgynous ideas allowing women to dress like men in clothing and even in extreme bobbed hairstyles that were slicked back. These were fashioned that would foreshadow more bold fashion changes to come in the 1950s and then again in the 1980s down the road.
As is often the case, the influence of movies stars and high profile fashion designers like Coco Chanel shaped what 1920s woman’s fashion looked like. And in that fashion is what set the stage for tremendous social upheaval for the better in the decades to come, that throws some light on the power even fashion designers can have on society.
Today, it is common for a fashion line to take off and spread rapidly. But the infrastructure for that tremendous move of fashion into the lives of everyday people was set in the 1920s. 1920s fashion designers and manufacturers took advantage of less expensive but very durable fabrics like cotton and wool. Artificial silk was developed in this decade and the skills of clothing designers put their talents toward taking what was routine and making it look exotic, exciting and fashionable.
We commonly think of the bold woman’s fashions of the era as the hallmark of 1920s culture. It helps to understand how mass production of clothes had a big part to play in how those fashions were accessible to everybody in the culture and not to just an elite few.
It is an interesting trivia fact that the first outdoor shopping mall where people could get access to the newest in fashions opened in Kansas City in 1922. That spread of fashion to the whole of the culture accounts to why 1920s woman’s fashion became so popular and well known. Had not been for the innovative work and abilities of clothing designers and manufacturers, those fashions would have stayed in the elite and not become nearly as well known and accessible to so many people from coast to coast.