After WWI, women experienced a new sense of independence--but the fashion that came with this newly found freedom wasn't widely accepted at first, according to Whitney Chadwick and Tirza True Latimer's book "The Modern Woman Revisited: Paris Between the Wars." Cropped haircuts and boyish dresses were still being met with disapproval around 1918 to the beginning of the 1920s. But the style was perpetuated by the "office girl" and working-class women, and the practical look soon took over 1920s fashion.
The 1920s "Garconne" look
A new, more boyish silhouette began to make its way into fashion around the end of the 1910s, contrasting with the preceding "Gibson girl" look, which was more feminine and emphasised a woman's curves. Though the boyish look was coined the "garconne" in 1918, it didn't hit its height of popularity until in the 1920s, as fashionable women began to diet, minimise their bosoms and crop their hair to an eyebrow-raising chin length to achieve a more prepubescent look, according to Anne McCoy in her book "The 1920s and 1930s." The waistline of dresses dropped to hip level, and hemlines gradually crept up from below the calf to right below the knee toward the end of the decade. Popular accessories included cloche hats and headbands to accentuate the "bob" haircut, long strings of beads or pearls around the neck, and laced or low-heeled shoes.
Coco Chanel was one of the first designers to introduce easy-to-wear separates for day wear, giving career-oriented girls more options, according to the book "The 1920s and 1930s." The designer drew her inspiration from men's work clothes, fashioning suits, cardigans and skirts out of jersey, tweed and flannel. A Chanel suit epitomised simple elegance. Pleated skirts were topped by unstructured jackets with patch pockets. This suit and others like it were considered the "new uniform" for daytime attire, and the separates were often paired with a string of pearls, low heels and the bell-shaped cloche hat.
Ladies who lunched usually wore formal daytime attire called "tea-gowns," according to the book "The 1920s" by Kathleen Morgan Drowne and Patrick Huber. These elaborate shift dresses had long flowing sleeves in the beginning of the decade, but by the middle of the 1920s they were more slender in cut with short fitted sleeves. Made out of brightly coloured fabrics, tea-gowns were beautified with feathers, bows and artificial flowers. By 1926, the "gypsy girdle" was the accessory of choice, which was a large sash that fell around the hips and fastened with a bejewelled clasp.
Lavish gowns sparkled throughout the Roaring Twenties, worn everywhere from decadent evening parties to nights at the theatre. Wealthy women dripped in velvets, lame and crepe de chine dresses that sparkled with glitzy beading and rhinestones. The popular necklines in the beginning of the decade were scooped U- or V-shaped, but toward the end of the decade the emphasis was on the back, and dresses were cut low to in the back to display strings of pearls or beads. Additionally, the uneven hemline was considered fashionable, as designers used an uneven handkerchief or scalloped hemline to showcase the legs.
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