The Art Deco Fashions of the 1920s
The fashions of the 1920s were inextricably entwined with the Art Deco period, which also rose to to prominence in the 1920s. For those who may not be aware, Art Deco was an art and design movement started in Paris in the 1920s that lasted as the dominant design aesthetic throughout the 1930s.
It was characterized by symmetry, geometric shapes and very angular and linear designs. It was also very much influenced by Aztec and Egyptian motifs. For an example of Art Deco, the Empire State building in NYC is very much in the Art Deco design. The Art Deco period can also be called called the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties interchangeably.
The Art Deco period was a direct response to the art and design movement called Art Nouveau, which flourished from the 1890s to the 1910s and featured very organic, fluid and ethereal designs. Pretty much the exact opposite of the symmetry and geometry of Art Deco.
The fashions of the Jazz Age were very much inspired by the whole aesthetic of the Art Deco movement. Whereas, the fashions of the Edwardian Period or the Belle Epoque (the Art Nouveau period) were defined by a more hourglass silhouette with the s-curve corset, long skirts, high collars, puffy blouses, big sleeves and a narrow waist, the fashions of the 20s couldn’t be more different.
Inspired by the Art Deco design aesthetic, but also in response to the changing role of women in society, skirts become significantly shorter. First to the calf and then to the knee. Dresses become more linear, creating a long lean line and accentuating a more boyish figure. The drop waist silhouette was popular and loose fitting shift dresses became the norm. Restrictive shape-forming corsets were out and the chemise or camisole and bloomers were in.
Women also begin wearing trousers for the first time. The emphasis was on clothing that women could move in, dance in and play sports in. The changes were revolutionarily and were considered bohemian at the time.
With Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby set to come out next Summer 2013, there is bound to be a renewed interest in the fashions of the 1920s. Already we saw quite a 1920s inspiration on the runway for Spring 2012, but with the saga of Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby splashed across the big screen by Baz Luhrmann the interest in 20s fashions will surely grow. I, for one, am not at all unhappy about that.
So, what were some of the signature pieces of the period?
Hats became smaller and were worn closer to the head. The cloche was the most popular and it was a snug hat, often made of felt, that was worn pulled down low over the eyebrows. It mimicked the bob hairstyle.
High heels became popular, but the heels were not more than 2 – 3 inches. Flats were worn as well. The most common types of shoes were t-straps, oxfords, peep toes and Mary-Janes.
Certainly the most recognizable of the 1920s styles, the flapper dress was usually worn over a slip and were straight and loose-fitting and left the arms bare. If there was a waistline it was a dropped waist. Often they featured sequins or fringe. Flappers got the name from their dresses flapping while they danced.
Separates become popular during this period. Jean Patou, a french designer, came up with two piece sweater and skirt separates made from wool jersey that changed women’s fashions forever.