Women’s Fashion in the 1920’s
Throughout history, women’s fashion has been influenced by many factors, Women’s rights, prohibition, and many more. This influence was a big impact on women’s fashion that created a movement of change. Women showed more skin, giving a less feminine look. As flappers also popularized, women followed those trends wearing dresses, and embracing the “boy body”.
In 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed giving the right for women to vote. Not only did this give women more freedom with their political opinions, but it sparked many controversies because women believed that they had a bigger role to play in political decisions and things that were only believed men could do. For example, because women were becoming more active, the trend of wearing heavy undergarments faded. Women began by wearing corsets, which caused rib deformations and supposedly caused, argued by Victorian-era doctors, diseases. In a New York Times article, it explains that doctors in the nineteenth century had problems with corsets for causing disease without any evidence, because of not having the proper training. By the end of the 1920s, women still were not free from the body-constricting corsets, but as time slowly progressed, women began wearing bloomers, and eventually panties. Women also increasingly engaged in sports, which was not common before the 1920s. Sports like golf and tennis became more popular for women to participate in. For golf, women wore knee-length skirts, and in tennis, lightweight and slim-fitting dresses. Alison Kass, a Journalism major, explains “Although women of a certain age still continued to dress conservatively, forward-looking younger women now made sportswear into the greatest post-war fashion.”(8) Not only was sportswear comfortable and stylish for women, but it also gave them a new trendy style of clothing for women all around the United States to make a statement about women’s rights.
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As another way to express their newly earned freedoms, women dressed less feminine and more masculine. Women wanted a more masculine body and embraced looser fits. In an article about women and prohibition, it explains “The female form was suppressed with dropped waistlines, looser fits and boxier clothing.”(P.5) The previous trend of small waists and tight clothing was discarded, and women embraced their “boy body”(P.4) to start a movement. During this time, women also started to work out to get an overall slimmer body to achieve the ideal flat chests and small figure. Yhe-Young explains “A skinny woman with flat breasts resembling an immature boy was the stereotype of a fashionable woman.”(54) Many famous designers were inspired by this masculine trend and used it as a way for business. Knickerboxers, a popular men’s clothing item, was also becoming popular in the ’20s, and women used it as a way for comfortable clothing in the house, and even the workplace. Another way women used the masculine look to their advantage, was bob haircuts. During the Victorian Era, hair was highly valued for women and was shown as a symbol of femininity and status. With the bold look of bobs, it was often banned, along with sleeveless dresses. The Eastern Teachers Agency in Boston even went to the extent of declaring that they “did not want female teachers with bobbed hair[,]” and explained that it was not proper for teachers. Fass believed the reason for this was “explicit expression of women’s sexuality[,]” which was unusual for men at this time period. This era of time gave women the ability to express who they really were, and give them a chance to show their dedication to women’s rights. Going against the women’s stereotypes and dressing less feminine gave people a greater understanding of why they deserved rights, and why they should have the same sexual equality as men.
Flappers became a major trend in the 1920s and were a crucial change in the way women dressed. Flappers were girls whose goal was to live their lives to the fullest, to an extent. They wore shorter dresses with tassels and cut their hair short which was a much different style then it was in the early 1900s. The reasoning behind this new trend of clothing is so the women who were flappers could move more freely. Kass explains that women began to “embrace their personal styles” (6). As flappers started becoming more popular, designers who designed traditional clothing started losing business. Kass also explains that during the time before World War I started, “the couture business suffered a loss in business. Poiret and other designers were called into the military and forced to close their couture houses” (7).
Prohibition is the 18th amendment, banning alcohol manufacturing and consumption. One of the main groups to support this law was women. Women were the main group to support prohibition because it led to violence, mainly against women. An organization called the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, which was a group of women who supported temperance. Not only could they be in an organization, but they also got to be involved with politics which was not usual for women during this time.
During the early 1900’s women’s fashion made a drastic change. From tight corsets to loose fitting dresses, women used getting more rights to their advantage. This time period was a major turning point for women and fashion, which gave women more power to fight for what they believe in.
- Kass, Alison. “American Fashion Through the Decades.” Http://Library.wcsu.edu/Dspace/Bitstream/0/592/1/ALISON KASS.AMERICAN FASHION THESIS.pdf.
- Lee, Yhe- Young. “Controversies about American Women ‘s Fashion, 1920-1945: through the Lens of The New York Times.” https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1724&context=rtd
- Landscape Change Program-
- Jens Hilke- University of Vermont https://www.uvm.edu/landscape/dating/clothing_and_hair/1920s_clothing_women.php
- Prohibition Sparked a Women’s Fashion Revolution http://prohibition.themobmuseum.org/the-history/how-prohibition-changed-american-culture/prohibition-fashion/
- 1920-1929 https://fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu/1920-1929/
- Fashion In The 1920’s http://tirocchi.stg.brown.edu/514/story/fashion_twenties.html
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