Fashion for Women During the 1920s

Written by julie james
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Fashion for Women During the 1920s
The corset fell out of fashion in the 1920s. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

The 1920s ushered in an era of power for women: They were granted the right to vote in 1920, and a youth revolt had begun as the younger generation were angered by the loss of so many young men in World War I. Women cut their hair into short bobs, hemlines rose during the decade and the supermodel look of today --- the skinny, prepubescent look --- began. Women's fashions went from conservative to body-baring during this decade.


Prior to the 1920s, women generally wore black, wool stockings. According to, women's legs were showcased for the first time when ladies began to wear stockings rolled to the knee. The stockings were often embroidered from the ankle to the knee, and were generally beige in colour to allow for the appearance of nudity. Pastel-coloured stockings also came into style, and were made of real or artificial silk. One type of artificial silk was called "art silk," known today as rayon. Since rayon stockings were shiny, women often powdered their legs before going out, to dull the shine. A brightly-coloured band of rubberised thread helped to hold up the knee-high stockings.


Women's dresses in the beginning of the 1920s began to de-emphasise the womanly shape. They were generally shapeless, loose, drop-waisted and fell to about calf-length. Busts and hips were hemmed in with special undergarments as to mimic the shape of a young girl. During the mid-1920s, hemlines began to allow movement for dancing as the jazz age was booming. Hemlines were asymmetrical, or included pleats or slits for movement. Sleeveless dresses also came into fashion to allow bare arms to be seen. Dresses sometimes featured elaborate beadwork. According to, between 1926 and 1928, hemlines were at their shortest. While the dresses themselves remained shapeless, the hemline rose to about the knee. says that the elaborate appliques, beads and fringe are the first dresses we now call "cocktail" dresses. Evening dresses were often made of light, flowing fabrics such as chiffon and taffeta. By 1929, dresses became longer again. Legs were sometimes still visible as sheer, longer overskirts were worn over shorter linings.


The defining hat of the 1920s was the "cloche" hat, which was felt, very close-fitting and often worn tilted and pulled down to the eyebrows and over the ears. In order to wear the hat, women had to have flat, short hair, and tilt their heads up in order to see. The small brim was often turned up in the front or back. Cloche hats had little or no embellishments.


Mass-manufacturing of shoes began in the 1920s, and became considered an essential fashion accessory. Mary Jane-type shoes, featuring an ankle strap with a large button, was very much in style. T-bar shoes were also the norm. Heels were often over 2 inches high, and embellished with diamantre trim, which resembles a tennis bracelet, and sequins.


<p> indicates that the 1920s saw the invention of using matching lining fabric in a coat with that of the dress being worn. The length of coats was long until 1926 when shorter coats with hemlines at the knee came into fashion. Long or short coats were wrapped to one side, with some type of embellishment, such as a large button or buckle to secure it. Shawl-type fur collars on coats came into fashion in the 1920s.

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