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Fashion and Culture among American Women in the 1920s

There are many types of people in the world today. The past has shown how fashion has changed. Each era has their own different style and fashion. The twenties was a particularly wild decade. After WW1, it was a time for change. “Women became rebellious and shocked everyone by their new style and morals”(Louise brooks Society, 3). Women before the twenties were more conservative and were obligated to act like ladies. The rising of music like jazz gave women motivation to be individuals and have fun. Dances like the Charleston had an influence on women in the twenties. Cutting hair and exposing skin was rare considering women in the past had never been daring or even thought about being rebellious like this. Women in the twenties were very different than traditional women in society.

Women’s fashion changed a lot in the twenties. The fashion went from “ladylike” to more daring. The typical woman in the twenties is considered to be a flapper. “No longer confined to home and tradition, the typical flapper was a young woman who was often thought of as a little fast.” (Louise Brooks Society, 1). They wore short skirts and dresses exposing their knees and ankles. People were shocked when women began to dress in clothes that exposed skin. “It offended the older generation because they defied the acceptable feminine behaviour” (Louise Brooks Society, 1).

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The older generation felt that the behaviour and fashion of the flapper were unacceptable. They felt women should stick to traditional clothing and fashions. Changing morals and values were unacceptable. The cloche hat, getting it’s name from the French word for “bell”, became a necessity for daytime wear. “The small hat fit snuggly over short hair and almost reached to the eyebrows”(Heath,28). It was often decorated with a pin in the front or a ribbon.

To the rest of the world, accessories seemed like a collage from history. “A craze for the styles of the World War I aviators took over the flapper world as girls introduced leather helmets, coloured scarves, goggles, and leather jackets” (Stein, 2). “Shoes and jewelry often reflected a craze of the court of King Tutankhamen” (Heath, 8). Earrings, bracelets, and necklaces often were an example of the presence of the Art Deco, Cubist, and African art movements. Fashion in the twenties definitely had a big impact on the world. Traditional women had never dressed this way or were into parties and music. Women had finally broken free from traditional skirts and dresses that were long. Their hair was no longer long and simple, but short and sassy. “Cosmetics came out of the whorehouse and into the mainstream. Women now wore powder, and called themselves sexual and attractive beings” (Shippey, 1). The use of makeup made women feel, more attractive as opposed to traditional women who felt that it was trashy and wrong. “In march nineteen twenty, the New Jersey Methodist Episcopal conference voted to raise the moral curtain” (Parker, 3).

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The music, particularly jazz, inspired many women to change and be more daring. The twenties were all about dancing and that is why it is often called the jazz age. When the jazz age came around, women began to take a liking to it and became flappers. “Dance halls with live bands abounded” (Heath, 1). This idea excited women and even men and sparked an interest in everyone’s mind. Dancing was thought of as a new and exciting way to express yourself and have fun. The twenties were called the roaring twenties because of the hype and excitement.

During this time, women were out of control and everything seemed crazy. Flappers were the talk of the town during the twenties. “While many people were putting soul and rhythm into music, European composers were stripping music to its core” (Heath, 3). There were other forms of music other than jazz, such as European music. The revolution of jazz was complemented by a revolution in traditional conservatory music (Heath, 4). Traditionally, women had never listened to music similar to jazz and it was all very new to them. “The flappers got down and dirty with jazz” (Heath, 22).

New styles of dancing evolved and women began to start dancing with a more physical tone. Youngsters would purchase the latest turns at the local record store, bring them home, roll up the rug, crank up the Victoria, and dance (Heath, 14). While children had normally been focusing on their studies and work, the youth in the twenties was interested in dance and parties. The young men developed new sounds and crazes. The swing and the Charleston (unknown, 3). There were a few dance styles of the twenties. They danced to the Charleston, the Black Bottom, the Fox Trot, Tango, and other exotic steps. The Methodist Episcopal book of discipline had always contained a ban on dancing and games (Parker, 18). The rules of women being conservative as far as dancing soon were overtaken by crazed women.

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During the twenties, women became rebellious. Being rebellious was a way of proving their point. They wanted to be different and break free from tradition. Traditional styles and morals became boring to women. Flappers wanted to excite their lives and this was a way to do so. Women had always been and acted alike and were perceived as ladies. They felt that it was time to change and be what they wanted to be. People were outraged by the changes in women’s morals and values everywhere. Rebels were taking over fashion and music during the twenties.

The period, as I define it, began with the end of World War I in 1918 – and ended with the beginning of the Depression 1929. In between was “The Jazz Age” – a time also referred to as the Roaring Twenties. It was a period of tremendous social change in the United States – as well as a time when youth began to play a prominent role in American culture. “The Twenties were a turbulent time, one too often stereotyped as the age of wonderful nonsense, Flappers and bathtub gin.”( unknown, 34).

It was an age of disillusion and cynicism, prosperity and a revolution in the moral and sexual code (unknown, 45). It was also the time that Louise Brooks – dancer, showgirl and film star – enjoyed her brief flirtation with fame. As with all the female fashion during the 1920s, the evening dress progressed to display more of the body. While the skirts were still full length, the neckline in the speakeasy became low-cut. Backless dresses also remained popular throughout the twenties.

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“At any rate, by nineteen twenty, the rebellion against Puritanism and stuffiness was widely visible” (Parker, 3). People were beginning to see the changing morals and new fashions of the flappers. The twenties were an era of pettiness, ignorance and poverty. “Working women were more persuasive, and after work, they were smoking, drinking, and speaking freely-shocking their Gibson-girl-era mothers” (Parker, 6). Mothers were used to traditional styles and every woman looking the same. They were outraged by the shocking change. “In nineteen twenty skirts were nine inches off the ground and by nineteen twenty-seven they were up to the knee” (Shippey, 1).

This showed that as the years went by, women became more rebellious and careless of keeping traditions in action. They could change their appearance subtly or drastically (Stein, 94). This is when make-up came into effect and women no longer looked all the same. They became somewhat individuals. Leathergoods shops were the place for women who led their own lives” (Shippey,42). These shops allowed women access to short skirts and dresses instead of shopping where they sold the same boring outfits. “Except for their silver fox or mink jackets, the sum of what they wore could almost have been packed into their handbags” (Parker, 3).

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Fashion and Culture among American Women in the 1920s. (2021, Feb 12). Retrieved January 28, 2023, from