When you think of the Roaring 20’s, you probably think of flappers, The Great Gatsby, and all that jazz. But did you know these fashion trends reflected a major shift in culture?
Women were stepping out of the house for the first time, and this meant a new era of freedom for fashion as well.
Today, the looks are as fun and timeless as ever. With the right twists, we will show you how to bring the 1920’s to 2020!
What Was Women's Fashion Like in The 1920s?
By 1920, women’s role in America was shifting.
After WW1, Women were made part of a workforce, taking spots of men who were off fighting. After the war was over, women didn’t give up their newfound freedom - they expanded it. This meant leaving the confines of the house for both work and play.
With these new roles came new outfits. From formal dances to factory assembly lines, there were lots of fashion rules and trends to follow.
For example, while in the house, a 1920’s woman might wear a long house dress for ease and comfort. But when running errands out and about, more sturdy dresses or even pantsuits were favored.
For travel, long knits were ideal as they didn’t wrinkle during the long train rides. And for party wear, dresses were designed to be modest, yet move on the dancefloor.
Women had more choices than ever before - both in life and in their closets!
The Most Popular Styles of the 1920s
Fashion in the 1920’s was a mix of practicality and playfulness. While women of the time fit their outfit to the occasion, they were also pushing the envelope and expressing newfound freedom.
These elements are perfect to bring into modern times - as long as you follow a few tips to keep things firmly in the 21st century.
Fur Coats and Capes
Fur was the ideal blend of pragmatic and fashionable for a 1920’s gal. Fur coats, capes and collars were signs of status. Upper classes chose fox, sable or mink, while lower classes opted for squirrel, mole or beaver. A popular style was a long coat with a wide wrap-around fur collar with matching oversized fur cuffs.
Among college-aged girls, fur was perfect for the winter semester - it kept you warm and you didn't have to wash it. Going out on the town usually meant taking a car, and Model T’s and other early autos were open to the air and chilly.
One of the most popular furs for young women was - believe it or not - raccoon!
But don’t worry - you don't have to sacrifice any animals to get in on this trend. Today there are plenty of synthetic options that give you a classy - and warm - style.
Keeping fur just on the collar and cuff is enough to achieve a retro style.
And why not mix it up? Bright colors like pink or blue can update a fur look into an ultra-modern statement.
The Iconic Flapper Dress
Nothing is more ‘Roaring 20’s’ than a flapper - and with good reason!
Flapper dresses were unique to this time, sporting a higher-than-traditional hem just above the knee and a boyish drop waist that allowed for tons of freedom of movement. Combined with beads, fringe and tassels, flapper dresses were, and still are, made to move on the dancefloor.
In the 1920’s these frocks would have been worn to formal occasions where dances, like the Charleston, were sure to get everyone’s feet moving.
The eye-catching elements of a flappers dress are fun to wear, but to make it modern you need to avoid going overboard. Use a balancing approach, adding in one simple, modern element.
For example, if you have a fringe skirt, pair it with a lowkey button up to balance out the bottom. Or you can add a blazer on top for definition and a professional edge. The key is to layer a simple element on top of the dress.
You can also find vintage beaded and fringed tops, made to be worn with a matching skirt. But why not mix it up? These look great with trousers or other simple pants, giving you a perfectly modern day-to-night look.
Smock Coats for The Working Girl
For women working in factories, the right attire was essential to keep clean doing dirty jobs while maintaining a sense of femininity.
Smock coats let women do both, loosely covering their clothes from dust and debris so they still looked fresh going to and from the factory. As more and more young women entered the workforce, the practical garment became a trend.
Women loved the loose fit, which was comfortable and modest, and were able to add their own embellishments, like embroidery.
The smock coat can easily be updated as an outerwear staple.
Because the style of the coat is loose, combine it with fitted pants for contrast. Wear it with straight leg, light wash denim, and a t-shirt as a casual statement piece.
Alternatively, you could try it with leather leggings and combat boots for a more gothic look. Remember, the smock is meant to be versatile, so don’t be afraid to experiment!
Cloche Hats & Flapper Headbands
The one thing a 20’s girl never left home without was her hat. Whether summer or winter, no outfit was complete without some type of headwear.
For summer, there was woven straw and cotton, while in winter felt and hand-sewn cloche hats were more practical.
The cloche was the most iconic hat of the 1920s. Taking their name from the word for “bell” in French, Cloche hats were made of simple felt so they could form to the head and were designed to be worn low on the forehead - so low, in fact, that some women had to tilt their heads up to see!
With active dances like the Charlston all the rage, a hat wasn't exactly easy to keep on your head at parties. This is where the headband came in.
Whether jeweled or beaded, a fancy headband - worn right over the bangs of a bob haircut - was a great way to keep your hair in place as you moved without getting too hot.
Hats and headbands are easy to work into your look, as long as you get the right piece. Cloche hats are hard to find, but you might get lucky at a vintage store. If you do, keep in mind this hat was made to wear with the short bob haircut - so if you have long locks, you might want to pull them into a bun.
Pair with a high collared shirt or coat - like a trenchcoat - for a dramatic look. A coordinated (but not matching) scarf can really pull this look together!
Headbands can add a retro vibe to your next night out. If you have old, long necklaces lying around or find some thrifting, you can DIY something basic into a jazzy headband. With a few loops, you have the perfect new accessory for a party.
Pair it with something glam, like a short dress or skirt. You may want to consider putting your hair up to mimic the bob by wrapping your locks around the headband for an ethereal updo.
From the Jazz Age to Today
These trends are a fun way to bring some 1902’s glamour into daily life. The Roaring 20’s were an exciting time, with new horizons opening for women brave enough to enter.
We can keep this spirit alive - and have a little fun - with the iconic fashions that set these trailblazers apart. So go ahead - put on some fringe, pick up your headband, and let’s get stepping!
Love this style guide? Don’t forget to share it with your friends!
You might also want to look at:
What kind of jewelry did women wear in the 1920s?
1920s Hairstyles - How to rock the most popular hairstyles from the 1920s