The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement within the African American community that began during the 1920s and thrived through the 1930s. Coincidentally, these are the same years of the Great Depression of the United States. Factoring in a highly depressed economy makes the grandeur of the clothing styles relating to the Harlem Renaissance even more impressive. The Harlem Renaissance boasts some of the most elaborate and dashing trends in fashion ever seen in the history of the United States. The period is characterised by dashing suits for gentlemen and beautiful evening gowns and pearl jewellery for ladies.
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Men's Clothing Styles
African American men wore suits during the Harlem Renaissance period. These suits were made of various materials ranging from wool to Lenin. Suits during this period were designed to make an affirmative statement concerning the joy of living. In many cases, suits were tailored to fit the individual. With regard to the style of men's suits during this period, some suits were formal suits similar to those worn in today's fashion while other suits were made with tails on the back of the suit jacket, reminiscent of those seen on tuxedos. However, the most outstanding style of men's suit during the Harlem Renaissance was the zoot suit. Zoot suits are known by their long suit jackets and baggy-fitting trousers. These suits were often complemented by a matching hat with a feather. These suits were by far the most elaborate of all men's fashion at the time.
Women's Clothing Styles
During the Harlem Renaissance, women wore extravagant ball gowns and brilliant cocktail dresses. Women often would sew their own dresses and add sparkling rhinestones and other decorations. Many women would complement their attire by adding silk gloves and high-heeled shoes to their ensemble. Women's fashion during the Harlem Renaissance was designed to express elegance, gracefulness, and flamboyancy. Women were innovative and capable of creating styles of dress that had not yet been seen in American society. At the time, women's fashion also needed to be comfortable to accommodate for the extravagant dancing style that characterised the time.
Along with the zoot suit and feathered caps, men often wore pocket watches with the chain of the watch hanging outside of their suit. Not only did these watches serve a practical use, but they added flare to the attire. Harlem Renaissance men also would wear a handkerchief in the suit jacket pocket that matched the colour of their suit. Pearl jewellery was the signature accessory in women's fashion at the time. However, women often wore a ring on top of their glove in the evening. Women also wore fur coats and beautiful shawls to complement their attire.
Overall Appeal of Harlem Renaissance Fashion
Fashion trends that developed during the Harlem Renaissance period continue to influence many sectors of modern society. These fashion trends can be seen in movies such as "Malcolm X" and "Harlem Nights." It also has been highlighted to help sell real estate. Harlem Renaissance fashion has become widely accepted and showcased by Americans in almost every sector of modern society.
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