Women's Dresses From the 1920s

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Women's Dresses From the 1920s
Kimonos inspired some 1920s dress styles. (kimono image by Francis Lempérière from Fotolia.com)

Considered to be the first modern decade, 1920s fashion abandoned the corseted, Edwardian clothes that were all the rage in the preceding era for loose, yet body-skimming dresses. While the flashy, fringed style of the flapper frock might be the decade's most famous, a number of dress styles left their mark on the Roaring Twenties.

One-Hour Dress

Invented in 1924 by Mary Brooks Picken, founder of the Woman's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in Scranton, Penn., the one-hour dress piqued the interest of women across the U.S. for its simple lines and ease of construction. When naysayers claimed creating a dress within an hour was impossible, Picken put on a public demonstration in New York City's Grand Central Palace, constructing one in under 34 minutes. The relaxed fit, sheath dress pattern book featured a variety of design details, such as a belted drop waist, that could be assembled together. The dress was typically finished with short sleeves, three-quarter length sleeves or sleeveless, however, variations were made to accommodate longer sleeves, such as the tapered Dolman.

Chemise Dress

A tubular, typically waistless and sleeveless ensemble, the chemise dress of the 1920s featured straight, unfitted lines sometimes worn gathered and belted low on the hips. Though the term wasn't widely applied during the decade, dresses classified into the chemise style by fashion historians sported wide straps and light fabrics. These design elements gave the garments characteristics common to the chemise undergarments of previous centuries.

Hemlines of the chemise dress varied from the risqué hip-length to more conservative knee-lengths, with some chemise evening gown hems brushing the floor. Chemise dresses were often worn under sheer silk or chiffon overdresses decorated with beading, fringe and lace.

Kimono Dress

A style reminiscent of a jacket dress, the 1920s kimono style sported wide, open sleeves and a belt that most often fell low on the waist or high on the hip, creating a deep V where the dress meets at the front. Under-blouses and scarves were often worn with the kimono dress to make them more modest. More daring wearers wore only their one-piece camiknickers underneath, leaving a hint of their undergarment exposed at the neckline of the kimono dress. This added to the decadence of a garment that detractors claimed should not be worn outside the boudoir. Kimono dresses with higher, conservative necklines achieved popularity during the decade, and the wide kimono sleeve found its way onto a number of dress styles.

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