See vintage 1920s dresses & flapper-style clothing
From the Harrisburg Sunday Courier (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) November 13, 1927
What stylish gals were wearing in 1927: Color is important
Fabric and color combinations, striking parti-color treatments such as blouses of one color and skirt of another, or print blouse and plain skirt are important notes in mid-season collections. The black skirt and colored blouse is especially favored, and more than one houses stresses yellow with black.
Yellow registers in every collection so far seen, the range running from pale tones on through rich lemon shades, and includes orange.
Red is astonishingly strong. For the most part, medium and lighter shades of vivid tone predominate, with brick verging on henna decidedly in evidence.
A particularly interesting note at one house is the combination of brown and white, brown and green and brown and beige. This continues the present season vogue for brown, and in combination with these colors, it is very effective.
1920s dresses & flapper-style clothing: Fabrics
Materials include silk serge, crepe flamingo, much crepe satin, much stiff satin and a good deal of moire, crepe de Chine, plain and printed chiffon, much lace, Georgette.
Printed chiffons are used by several houses. and one house stresses shot chiffon for dancing frocks.
For sports, the crepe skirt with wool jersey pull on and jersey on knitted cardigan, or wool fabric cardigan occasionally of plaid is a favorite, and entire costumes of wool jersey are also favored for sports, with sleeveless or long-sleeved pull-on or cardigan.
Crepe dresses are also often finished with sleeveless pull-ons in matching tone, perhaps run with a contrasting color thread or with metal.
Evening gowns show much rhinestone and crystal, and stress embroidery — and black and white combinations are popular for evening. Pinks, light blues and greens as well as some yellows are also in the evening lineup.
Practically everywhere there is a tendency to definitely stress longer skirts, one house at least showing skirts that are just about halfway between ankles and knees. The skirt that is merely noticeably longer than. the Majority seen for several seasons, however, predominates.
Tiered skirts are everywhere in evidence, on diagonal lines or perhaps pointing at each side. Some back fullness appears, but the rather flat back is seen in greater numbers.
1920s dresses & flapper-style clothing: Sleeves
The predominant sleeves in day time costumes including sports is plain and fitted, or else Bishop with narrow wristband. A very few flared sleeves have been seen, but not in sufficient numbers to be a real note.
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Coats run to straight lines, with some front or side fullness, the straight line coat predominating.
1920s dresses & flapper-style clothing: Necklines
Scarf bands as neck finishes are shown both on sports and tailored dresses, and detachable scarves are featured both in sports and many of the more dressy models, the handkerchief scarf continuing a favorite.
White satin cuffs and collars on tailored dresses constitute an interesting note, as well as high collar satin chemisettes with coat dresses.
Sports necklines may be round, V or square, and almost the same rule holds with afternoon dresses, taken as a whole.
The popular waistline is just a trifle low, although for variety’s sake an occasional frock is shown with stitched down pleats giving a decidedly low waistline. and some of the cloth tailored dresses show a normal waistline with ripple skirt.
The girdled hip line is continued, and there is a widespread approval of an irregular hemline.
The small hat continues to be the favored of all items of headgear. Velvet and felt combinations are very popular and metal ornaments more in vogue than jeweled ones, large metal rings like curtain rings being very smart.
1920s dresses & flapper-style clothing: Veils
The nose veil is more and more an accepted style with smart French women. and veiling houses are indicating confidence in a continued vogue for it by bringing out rather extensive lines.
Among the new gloves are these with very plain narrow turn over cuff, and also gloves with hand-tooled cuffs. Very smart. Light beige gloves in washable kid are offered to match the washable kid bags.
Suede gloves look very good for Spring. in line with the increasing vogue for suede footwear. Colored shoes show great promise, the line at present indicating shoes matching costume, hosiery matching gloves.
MORE: See 11 amazing hand-cut antique silhouette paper portraits from the 1920s
1920s dresses & flapper-style clothing: Important details that characterize the winter fashions for 1927
1. There is something new under the sun: fish mesh hose for evening.
2. The smarter the coat this season, the more unexpected its use of fur — and smart indeed is the coat with the fur jabot ruffle. Smart and decidedly flattering.
3. A touch of velvet is a touch of chic, for either frock or hat.
4. The flat furs, the curly flat furs, like caracul, astrakhan and krimmer, are decidedly a la mode.
5. Many of the newest coats let all their interest center on their unusual cuffs. which do intricate things indeed.
6. The newest silhouette of the season is the princess line, slightly fitted above the waistline. A prophetic new pote in the mode.
7. Of all necklines, the deep V is smartest — emphasizing its line by the use of flesh chiffon for evening and lovely old lace for afternoon.
8. The uneven hemline is the smartest hemline of all, which makes the draped frock the smartest frock.
9. Swallowtail for evening! Not for gentlemen, but for their smart ladies. For the swallowtail is the lovely new trock whose hem drags waistfully to the ground in the back.
10. Lelong blue is known as “LL” blue, and its neither blue nor green, but a suggestion of both.
11. Decidedly new this season is the importance of the afternoon costume, and the relegation of sports clothes to things decidedly informal.
12. The tweed ensemble is the most important costume in milady’s wardrobe.
13. “Tabac” brown is the very explicit name for the loveliest brown of the season.
14. A month ago, my frock with a drape was smart. Today, the smartest carry their drapes forward.
15. Velvet is the fabric of the hour. Velvet in black is invincible.
16. Just as every cloud has its shining lining, so too, has every smart evening wrap.
17. Tailored coats look as if they had been cut up and put together again, so intricate is the geometric effect of their seaming.
18. All that glitters may not be gold, but if it looks like gold, it’s very smart as is the new crystal and rhinestone jewelry.
19. One of the loveliest of the new slippers has a delicate instep strap clasped at the center by a brilliant buckle.
20. Something new for evening are frocks of canary yellow, the new mauve tones, and raspberry.
21. Chanel’s raveled skirt edge looks for all the world as if milady forgot to sew up her hem.
22. The all-black coat and the tan toned coat with brown fur are leading for midseason chic.
23. Fashion seems to have gone mad over prints. First printed velvet, and now printed satin!
24. For the young lady of sporting tendencies, there is nothing smarter than the leather coat with raglan shoulders.
25. The newest thing in ensembles is the straight coat of black velvet, trimmed from collar to hem with rows of fagotting, through which gleams a frock of gold or silver metal cloth.
26. For the very modern bride to whom an all-white wedding doesn’t mean a thing, is the frock of white taffeta and tulle splashed with silver medallions.
27. Simulated alligator skin, in colors which no alligator ever possessed — red green and blue — fashions some of the smartest raincoats.
28. The stubby umbrella of last season is stretching into a taller more graceful affair.
29. One of the smartest ways to prove that one is a slave to fashion is to wear the new metal link belt — a slave chain, hip size.
30. To feet that are not so small as their owners would have them, there is a new suede, of a dull finish, that has the magical effect of making ones foot look at least a size smaller.
How to spoil the effect of beautiful clothes: It isn’t what you wear, it’s how you wear it (1926)
No doubt you have heard the epigram about “It’s not so much what you say, as the way you say it.” You may even have used it yourself, a sort of “when-you-call-me-that-smile” idea.
And I’ve heard tell that a woman may say “No” and mean “Yes,” and that she may even say “Yes” and intend all the time to act “No.”
Fashion lessons: Before and after photos
And now this has become a perfect illustration of the truth about woman’s clothes.
For there has arrived in Hollywood a famous designer, one of those chaps whose lightest word sways the length of skirt and the position of the waistline, if you know what I mean, and says, “It isn’t so much what you wear, as the way you wear it.”
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He goes even further. He says that it doesn’t make any difference at all how stunning, how exquisite a frock may be. If it isn’t worn well, it might just as well be a tablecloth or a sheet. And, says he, a gown of the most extreme chic may look like a work of a small town seamstress and the simplest little house frock look like a model from the smartest house in Paris — all because of the way they are worn.
This designer is young Travis Banton, direct from Paris — and though of course, it’s Paris, France, he looks as though it might be Paris, Texas, because he has the outward appearance of a cowboy or prizefighter rather than a male dressmaker. And in truth, Banton was born in Texas, later going to France to achieve fame in the style capital.
They brought him over to design costumes for Leatrice Joy and the fourteen beauties of The Dressmaker from Paris, Paul Bern’s picture.
Fashion lessons: Learning how to wear the clothes
And the first thing he did was to upset everybody by these startling theories. “I don’t care so much about the clothes,” said Mr. Banton, harshly. “But these women have got to learn to wear them. That’s the main thing.”
He even insisted, to the complete horror of everybody on the Lasky lot, that the girls take the gowns home and wear them around, so they’d learn to be comfortable in them.
“Never wear a frock in public until you’ve become thoroughly acquainted with it,” he shouted. “It can’t be done. Learn how to sit and stand and walk in it. Learn how to give it the best angles.”
And they do say that there was almost a riot when one of the girls leaned up against something.
“Don’t lean on the furniture,” said the dictator of fashions. “That’s a dress you’re wearing, not a piano drape. If I’d wanted it draped on the piano, I would have draped it there myself. Stand up. What is the use of laboring for hours to create a line, if a woman slouches over or slinks over or stands like a wooden soldier, or leans on things?”
Fashion lessons: Hats and jewelry
He also insists that in the wearing of hats, every woman should follow this positive rule: Keep at least one eyebrow concealed at all times.
As to jewelry, Mr. Banton says it’s better to wear none than too much, and that simplicity should always be the aim and end of all effects achieved by jewelry.
“Rings can be worn on but one finger of each hand,” says he, “and if you wear more than one ring upon one finger, they must be of the same stones, unless you want to look like a five and ten cent store… You can wear many bracelets, but they must all be on one arm.”
The two things everyone who wants to be well-dressed must possess, according to Mr. Banton, are perfect self-unconsciousness, and an infinite capacity for taking pains in the little details.
Fashion lessons: Get out your dresses
After reading this, the wise woman will take herself in hand and see what’s what. Get out your dresses and study their lines. See where you can take off some useless trimming here and drape the skirt more becomingly there. When you finish, it’s ten to one your gown will be twice as smart.
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If you have a new evening gown, purchased especially for some important function, wear it around the house a few evenings before you appear in it in public. Try walking in it and, what is more important, try dancing in it. If it has drapery, see that you learn to manage the drapery.
Remember you are never at your best if you are “clothes conscious.” Try on your hats and study the effect before a mirror. See whether that new hat looks best with the hair drawn down on the cheeks or with the hair pushed back of the ears.
And remember, too, that ease and simplicity are the greatest assets of the woman who would be well dressed. The habit of studying the mirror doesn’t always arise from feminine vanity. It may be the perfectly natural — and also feminine — desire to look well.
Your mirror, if you ask its candid advice, will prevent you from wearing clothes that aren’t your type. It will also tell you the good points to accentuate and the bad points to conceal.
Caption for photo 1 (top of page): The wrong way to wear the extremely smart, plain black satin dinner gown designed for Leatrice Joy. Notice the destruction of the graceful lines of the gown and the messy appearance given by wearing the pearls in many strands
Caption for photo 2 (top of page): The same gown properly worn. Compare it with the other pictures. The train should be caught up and worn loose. One reason why a woman must become “well acquainted” with a gown before she can wear it to advantage
Putting jazz in the fashions (1920)
Today there are jazz stockings, phosphorescent hats, jazz slippers, pantaletted jazz skirts and jazz veils, and there are even jazzy ways of wearing your jewels. Here are some of the new syncopated styles that are working a revolution in the domain of dress.
By Jean Seivwright – The Washington Times (Washington DC) May 30, 1920
“And it came to pans that there was a great war, and after the war — JAZZ.” So our descendants may read in the chronicles of this century.
Of course, everyone has heard of jazz music — that conglomeration of musical notes and tones that seems to be what it isn’t and isn’t what it seems. But jazz is not limited to the harmonies of the violin and trombone. Stories and dances have jazz in them. You’ve read them and danced them, haven’t you?
And now come the jazz clothes. Of course, they are not always what clothes should be. At least, that’s to say if you still retain a pre-war mind with its just-so ideals of everything “done very precisely and in order.”
But they’ve some kick to them. They boldly proclaim the conflicting emotions of the day — the restless spirit that is rampaging about the world — seeking, seeking, seeking. Jazz clothes are the “reds” in the realms of dress, and what revolutions they are working in that domain always celebrated for beauty!
Now when jazz dominates style, the “old order passes.” Would you wear strings of pearls? Then do not loop them about your swan-like neck to fall in festoons upon your lovely bosom. Filmy tulle may accentuate the delicate texture of your akin revealed by a rather high, straightly-cut decolletage.
But, have you forgotten? Your newest evening gown is backless. And there, against the background of your own fair skin, you must drape innumerable rows of pearls or strands of sparkling jewels that will tinkle softly as you dance to the syncopated strains of your favorite jazz band.
1920s flapper fashions
Yes, many are the ways you can put jazz in your dress. In days gone by, you would wear the picture of your best beloved in a quaint golden locket that lingered near your heart. There you would be hidden from the gaze of the common throng.
But in jazzing times, you place it in full view of the world, albeit it stands a good chance of being trod upon at least should you find your self in a crowd. For it reposes upon your instep between the criss-cross straps of your jazz slippers.
Creating 1920s jazz fashions
One of the cardinal principles in creating jazz modes is to take anything you like out of its proper surroundings, and wear it elsewhere with all the nonchalance you can assume.
Perhaps when you went to school you learned that the Maoris who live in New Zealand dress themselves with the feathers of birds cleverly put together with flax.
Lovely Parisiennes now favor feather frocks for evening wear. But they have certain drawbacks which were not realized when Chanticleer was staged. They are rather trying if you sit down for supper, for unlike the birds, women cannot preen their feathers if they get rather rumpled up.
Yet despite this, the demands for the plumage of poor cock robin, the canary and the hummingbird are so great that another hue and cry will soon be heard — save the birds!
However, do not fear that this will curtail your enjoyment of any Bolshevist fashion. Should bird laws be strictly enforced in your state, there’s surely no law against cutting grass. In fact, we think that the suburbanite will rather welcome this mode, because he need not cut his lawn every week.
Yes, you may well wonder what’s coming next, but an enterprising creator of fashion recently made a cape of grass. He does not, of course, advise as to its serviceability, or comfort. Why should he? Has he not added another note to the collection of jazz styles.
1920s flapper fashions: Jazzy suits
A jazzy suit that holds much charm for the modern “gorgeous girl” whose life is set to syncopated measure
Another radical lazily leaning over the rail of a transatlantic liner saw the gleams of phosphorescence on the water. “Bravo,” he exclaimed and as soon as he came ashore he dashed to his workshop, where he originated a lace hat with a phosphorescent brim.
This gave its wearer the appearance of having a halo around her head. Perchance this particular damsel might not be classed with the saints who have attained such distinction.
But the very incongruity of this woman’s wearing it reveals but another trend of the present day’s rebellious spirit which glories in contradictions. It is not that these radicals object so much to the accepted laws of good taste, but they enjoy the zippy feeling that comes from giving them a jolt.
Of course, some of these jazz styles are decidedly reminiscent of other days.
At a recent sporting event in that country where fashion dominates the thought of many women there appeared several members of the gentler sex with parrots on their left shoulders. These were held captive by golden chains caught about the leg of the bird and the wrist of the lady.
Parrots versus falcons! Doubtless you’d favor the former, for parrots would undoubtedly accentuate the jazz spirit in their lively conversation.