Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The 1920s in fashion.

This is the one everyone's been waiting for, I think. I've saved bunches of photos for all of you, mostly from Vintage Textile, the Kyoto Costume Institute (they are amazing), and the Life photo archives. I tried to label them so you could tell where they came from, and put dates on the ones who had them. You can find that info by putting your cursor over the photo and looking at the 'name' of it. Things unlabeled are most likely from Vintage Textile... I've got archives going back a decade of clothes I like, and at first I was sloppy about labels. Whoops.

As with the 1910s, fashion in the 1920s reflected what was going on, socially. The 1920s, more than anything, were about rebellion. Women chopped their hair (though, looking at the archives, I think a good percentage of women KNEW they looked better with long hair and left it that way; good for them), chopped their dresses, and went out and partied. Ostensibly they were celebrating the end of World War One, but personally, I think it was more an attempt to forget the horror of it (the casualty figures make my hair stand on end, just looking at them). After that, yeah, I'd be having a drink and a dance, too.

In the US, prohibition kicked in, in 1919. The general populace answered that with bootlegged booze and bathtub gin. Outlaws were popular heroes, the mob was thriving on the illegal sale of alcohol, and, well. Sociologists have written book upon book about the 1920s and why they were a hunormous party. To me, as I've studied it, it never seems like it was a party for sheer joy, it was a desperate attempt to ignore reality. It didn't work, and reality kicked their asses when the stock market collapsed in 1929.

But while the party lasted, they wore some amazing clothes.

Day wear was waistless, and mostly fitted like a sack. Yes, the first picture is listed as day wear. I'm a little skeptical myself, but Life says it's day wear. Look at her hair.

This kind of thing is really difficult to wear well, as the Life magazine photos show. Heck, even the mannequins look like they have no figure, and they're supposedly PERFECT. For all that the evening clothes were awesome, it takes someone built like a fourteen year old boy (or a fashion model) to really carry them. At least, the loose ones.

Knits as real clothes (rather than underwear or blue-collar work clothing) started to become popular; some of these dresses are made of jersey (tee shirt material).

Some of these dresses, while having a below-waist gather, are fitted enough that they would suit someone with a figure.

For the most part, though, they're very difficult to wear if you're working around figure flaws (and aren't we all?)

On the other hand, if you stayed up all night doing the Charleston and drinking bad booze, you'd likely be on the thin side.

A fascinating variety of evening gown became popular in the 1920s, and still is. The solid-colored 'slip' with a beaded or lace (or both) overdress. In most cases, the underdress is lost, but the overdress remains. Keep in mind when looking at them, the slip would have usually been in a analogous color and tailored to fit the wearer as closely as possible.

This is a clever way to dress. You can wash the daylights out of the slip, get a new one, whatever, and the beaded overdress is fine. The ancient Egyptians did something like this, with beads and plaiting over plain linen.

Chanel started up in this era (many of these clothes are her work), and she's the one who single-handedly introduced the idea of black as evening wear. Black was probably THE go-to color for the decade, if a woman wanted to look sophisticated. Metallics and beads were also popular, in part because they were available to the masses at affordable prices for the first time. (Just like the lace explosion of the Victorian era, when they first developed machine-made lace and women swathed themselves in it.)

And since I know you guys were psyched about seeing the 1920s clothes, here's the more of what I've got in my archives. There's a lot, because I love these clothes, too. Enjoy.


Kym said...

I do love those clothes... On other people.

Hourglass figure + sack/column dress = looking about 75 pounds heavier than you actually are. Unless the whole thing is made of spandex. Either way I lose. :(

amy said...

Me! Me! I have the body of a 14yo boy!! I'd like the black one, and the red velvet one just below it, for starters. I would wear both of those, assuming I had anyplace to wear them.

I would also like a gin & tonic to go along with them.

Louiz said...

They were the original "bright young things". The BBC have just finished a season on the glamour of the 20s, if you can catch it on any out of the UK BBC broadcast.

I've never been really interested in the 20s because I really don't have the figure. Even at my thinnest I could never have described myself as 14yr old boy. Much prefer the 50s myself.

Have you looked at the Victoria and Albert Museum's archives?

Emily said...

Oh, drooool.
Thank you.

Galad said...

I love the 20's clothes, particularly the last group. I couldn't wear them well but I like to look :-)

Roxie said...

It's the astounding ammount of detail and handwork that blows me away. How many hours of how many lives have gone into those awesomely beaded gowns? WOW!!

Donna Lee said...

I would have never been able to leave the house dressed in those (having breasts and hips and all). But, I love the look. I love the white one in the beginning and the red velvet and that black one.....

Alwen said...

Personally? The 20's stuff does nothing for me. I'm an 1890's kinda gal.

Rebel, what rebel? heh.

Amy Lane said...

Very nice! I had the chance to wear a circa 1920 Morticia Adams dress when I was in high school--damned spiffy. (And the casualty rates made my stomach turn.)

Anonymous said...

They're so beautiful, but SO not suited to my figure. Just about the only part of me I'm happy with is my waist! I LOVE all the lace and beading, though. Mmmmmm.

(BTW, guess what my kaptcha was for this post-mentioning-Prohibition? LEGAL. :-D)

BaronessVonVintage said...

I love the spirit of this time period, but I've found I can look passable only in some 20s dresses; this is because I have narrow shoulders and smaller arms. Most of the time though, my curvier hips just barely allow the drop waists to fall properly. That's why I'm a 30s gal...long lines, clothes that cling to the curves, neck and back details that draw the eye to the shoulders and back, and that lower hemline that hits the calves, which for me is a flattering length. That 11th image looks like a 30s gown (or maybe it's really late 20s?) In either case, that's the one my eye is drawn to most.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your hard work.