FASHION IN THE 1920s

In the aftermath of World War I, America entered a prosperous era and, as a result of her role in the war, came out onto the world stage. Social customs and morals were relaxed in the giddy optimism brought on by the end of the war and the booming of the Stock Market. New music and new dances came on the scene. Women got the vote in 1920 and were entering the workforce in record numbers. The nationwide prohibition on alcohol was ignored by many when it suited them. There was a revolution in almost every sphere of human activity, and fashion was no exception.

Clothing changed with women’s changing roles in modern society, particularly with the idea of freedom for women. Although society matrons of a certain age continued to wear conservative dresses, forward-looking and younger women now made sportswear into the greatest change in post-war fashion. The tubular dresses of the ’Teens had evolved into a similar silhouette that now sported shorter skirts with pleats, gathers, or slits to allow motion to rule women’s fashion for the first time in history.

The straight-line chemise topped by the close-fitting cloche hat became the uniform of the day. Women "bobbed," or cut, their hair short to fit under the popular hats, a radical move in the beginning, but standard by the end of the decade. Low-waisted dresses with fullness at the hemline allowed women to kick up their heels literally in new dances like the Charleston.

Jean Patou, a new designer on the French scene, began making two-piece sweater and skirt outfits in luxurious wool jersey and had an instant hit for his morning dresses and sports suits. American women embraced the clothes of both designers as perfect for their increasingly active lifestyles.

By the end of the Twenties, Elsa Schiaparelli stepped onto the stage to represent a younger generation. She combined the idea of classic design from the Greeks and Romans (think "tunic") with the modern imperative for freedom of movement. Schiaparelli wrote that the ancient Greeks "gave to their goddesses . . . the serenity of perfection and the fabulous appearance of freedom." Her own interpretation produced gowns of elegant simplicity. Departing from the chemise, her clothes returned to an awareness of the body beneath the gown.

During the Twenties, Tirocchi clients asked for designs by known designers rather than work with Madame Tirocchi directly to create gowns for them. Most of these dresses were copies produced by New York fashion houses like Harry Angelo and Maginnis & Thomas, although some came from the New York City department stores B. Altman and Lord and Taylor.

Some Tirocchi clients purchased designs by old favorites from the ’Teens, like Agnes, Callot Soeurs, Jeanne Lanvin, Poiret, and others. However, they bought a lot from the new designers Chanel and Patou (who was the special favorite of the young set).

[ printable version ]

  The Family
      Couture   |   Art
      Magazines   |   1900s
      1910s   |   1920s
      1930s   |   1940s
  The Business
  The Clients
  The Workers




Think about what social forces have changed the way people dress in recent years?

Think about how different generations are clothed now. Do you think fashions are shared among people of different ages?