1920s dresses & flapper-style clothing: The most fashionable fabrics, lengths, necklines & more

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to or other companies. Qualifying purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

Fashion lessons from the '20s How to spoil the effect of beautiful clothes

1920s dresses & flapper-style clothing: What stylish gals were wearing in 1927

From the Harrisburg Sunday Courier (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) November 13, 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 Jemon 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.

Vintage clothing from the roaring twenties (4)

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.

Skirt lengths

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.

MORE: Vintage Women Coloring Book #7: Fashion Layouts from the Early 1920s

Straight coats

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.

Vintage clothing from the roaring twenties (3)


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  Flapper slang dictionary: 120 words to help you talk like they did back in the '20s

Vintage clothing from the roaring twenties (5)

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, astrakan 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.

Fashion from the 20s

  1. Decidedly new this season is the importance of the afternoon costume, and the relegation of sports clothes to things decidedly informal.
  2. The tweed ensemble is the most important costume in milady’s wardrobe.
  3. “Tabac” brown is the very explicit name for the loveliest brown of the season.
  4. A month ago, my frock with a drape was smart. Today, the smartest carry their drapes forward.
  5. Velvet is the fabric of the hour. Velvet in black is invincible.
  6. Just as every cloud has its shining lining, so too, has every smart evening wrap.
  7. Tailored coats look as if they had been cut up and put together again, so intricate is the geometric effect of their seaming.
  8. 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.
  9. One of the loveliest of the new slippers has a delicate instep strap clasped at the center by a brilliant buckle.
  10. Something new for evening are frocks of canary yellow, the new mauve tones, and raspberry.

Vintage clothing from the roaring twenties (2)

  1. Chanel’s ravelled skirt edge looks for all the world as if milady forgot to sew up her hem.
  2. The all-black coat and the tan toned coat with brown fur are leading for midseason chic.
  3. Fashion seems to have gone mad over prints. First printed velvet, and now printed satin!
  4. For the young lady of sporting tendencies, there is nothing smarter than the leather coat with raglan shoulders.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Simulated alligator skin, in colors which no alligator ever possessed — red green and blue — fashions some of the smartest raincoats.
  8. The stubby umbrella of last season is stretching into a taller more graceful affair.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
MORE  How to get the kind of expressive, dramatic 1920s eye makeup style popular during the silent movie era

Vintage clothing from the roaring twenties (1)

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 from the '20s How to spoil the effect of beautiful clothes

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.”

ALSO SEE: Vintage Women Coloring Book: Fashion from the Early 1920s

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 from the '20s How to spoil the effect of beautiful clothes (1)

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 from the '20s How to spoil the effect of beautiful clothes (3)

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.

MORE  16 breathtakingly gorgeous vintage evening gowns with long skirts so full they'd make a Disney Princess jealous

Fashion lessons from the '20s How to spoil the effect of beautiful clothes (4)

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.

MORE: Vintage Women Coloring Book #7: Fashion Layouts from the Early 1920s

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.

Fashion lessons from the '20s How to spoil the effect of beautiful clothes (2)

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

More stories you might like

See our books

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest