What did women actually wear during the 1920’s
The first thing you might be thinking of when someone says “1920’s” is the flapper girl. The flapper, despite popular belief flapper girls,were not respectable women. (which in the early 20th century was very important). Typically the style was worn by actresses, and young women trying to break the social norms of the time.
(Article about flappers in case of confusion here. It’s a really good article even if you already know what it is)
In the 1910’s the Edwardian era, women wore long dresses and very conservative clothing. Showing an ankle, was the worst thing you could do as a proper Victorian or Edwardian lady. You can’t change centuries of proper dress with one change of a decade. You can’t go from forbidden to show ankle to thigh-high in a change of decade. But in the 1920’s one thing certainly did change. Modern fashion as we know it. So back to the flapper, not every girl was a flapper, and if you were a flapper your dresses weren’t thigh high, it would most likely reach below your knee, and even then it wasn’t much.
So where did this stereotype begin? Actresses such as Josephine Baker, Zelda Fitzgerald, or Louise Brooks were movie stars of their time so they got a lot of press and attention. Also when people do historical cosplay they want to appeal to the modern eye. Well first let’s begin with one thing. Flapper girls did exist, it was a fashion subculture, and the highly fashionable hairstyles of the time were a direct rip of the flapper. Actresses and young women would wear these styles, bob their hair. The whole style was a feminist movement.
In the book “Flappers, 6 women in a dangerous time.” It states “The freedom to wear comfortable clothes was Almost as crucial as a right to universal suffrage no woman could claim effective equality with a man while her organs were being slowly crushed by whalebone corsets and her movements impeded by bustles and petticoats that added stones to her body weight” in other words women of the flapper era were saying “heck you” to the centuries of how society confined them to tight corsets, and uncomfort. The 1920’s for the first time in centuries, women were starting to dress and act for themselves instead of for catching the male gaze. This was the flapper movement, women in the United States finally got the vote in 1920 and now they wanted their personal freedom. The flapper movement was more of a feminist movement than anything else. Women would roll their stockings, curl and cut their hair like a bob, wear shorter dresses and release themselves from the confinement of the corset. Does that mean all women dressed like a flapper? No, the flapper was more of a style you would see in magazines, but not in everyday life. Sort of like Japanese street fashion, you see Japanese street fashion all over the internet but when you actually got to the Japanese neighborhood of Harajuku, you don’t actually so much Japanese street. So what did women actually wear in the 1920’s, if the flapper wasn’t as popular as we think today.
First thing first, if a woman in the 1920’s wore a dress that had the hemline above their knee they would either be a prostitute or a dancer. So we can just assume that every woman in the United States and Europe was not a prostitute or a dancer. (Fashions varied differently from country to country, but the United States and Europe had similar to identical fashion throughout history, and even to this day.) So what did women actually wear during the 1920’s. The female silhouette was to be as straight as possible. You have a waistline? Unacceptable! Cover that waist up with a straight dress, that goes below your knee of course, you don’t want people to think that your a prostitute or a dancer. Many people think that women stopped wearing corsets during this period, well some women did not. But truth be told most women wore corsets. Unlike the corsets of the past decades these corsets were designed to flatten the bust and hips to provide a more straight silhouette for the time. And then I will include some photos of the actual fashion of the time.
See, compared to what most people think 1920’s fashion is, it’s actually quite conservative, but really similar. So why do most people think that 1920’s is super revealing and such. Movies of today and of the 1920’s both reveal the stereotypical flapper. For back then it was to differentiate the the movie stars from real people. The movies of today want to appeal to the modern audience, so by pulling more revealing clothing that appeals more to the audience of today it might make more sales. Unfortunately this is the case of many historical dramas. So be skeptical. I hope I informed you a little more on 1920’s fashion. If you are interested in fashion history please comment what you would like to see next, or if I said any inaccuracies please correct me!