Reel and Retro

Presenting the Past

The Roaring Twenties were the Bee’s knees

To think it was 100 years ago! 100! Dang!

Can you imagine what life was like in the 1920’s? Well… let me grab my time machine and take you for a spin. You will probably find everything you want to know about Retro Style in the 1920’s. This is gonna be a hoot!

To start off, paraphrasing Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, and sometimes it was the worst of times.” and in 1920 the average life span in the United States was about fifty-four years, whereas today it’s about seventy-seven years.

The Economy in the Roaring 20’s

 The economy of the United States, successfully transitioned from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy. especially farming and coal mining. The US became the richest country in the world per capita. At first, the end of wartime production caused a brief but deep recession, the post–World War I recession of 1919–20. Quickly, however, the economies of the U.S. and Canada rebounded as returning soldiers re-entered the labor force and munitions factories were retooled to produce consumer goods.

In the 1920s, drugstores weren’t only places to pick up prescriptions — they were also soda and candy counters.

Frankfurt Pharmacy in Rosemead, California, in 1927. Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Home-front Heroines

It is so remarkable and understated how Women really defined society in the 1920’s. A lot of the men were off defending our country in World War 1 and the women stepped up and took care of the home-stead. They worked in manufacturing and factory jobs, farmed, raised children and nursed our soldiers. They fought a war as well and earned as much respect. The Spanish flu pandemic was upon us and no-one was immune. They became more independent and confident than ever before by pursuing their dreams and managing their environment. What became of it by the time the 1920’s were here?

Prosperity, a new found freedom for women as well as more rights and society was fun. The 1920’s represented an era of change and growth through its industry, its inventions, and its creativity.    

In the Roaring Twenties, a surging economy created an era of mass consumerism, as Jazz-Age flappers flouted Prohibition laws and the Harlem Renaissance redefined arts and culture.

Interesting Events


The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on August 18, giving women the right to vote.


The famous and iconic “Chanel No. 5” perfume is created by Coco Chanel.


The classic novel “The Great Gatsby” is published by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

  • Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Sears Robuck opens its first retail store in Chicago, Illinois in 1925. Sears had been selling through Home Shopping Catalogs since 1893 and would continue selling through catalogs for next 70 years at the same time as building one of the largest chain stores in the country.


Route 66, a major U.S. road running from Chicago to Los Angeles, is opened.


Amelia Earhart flies across the Atlantic Ocean as a passenger, becoming the first woman to do so successfully.

Daily life for the Homemaker

Art Deco was the style

Art Deco was the style of design and architecture that marked the era. Originating in Europe, it spread to the rest of western Europe and North America towards the mid-1920s.

In the U.S., one of the more remarkable buildings featuring this style was constructed as the tallest building of the time: the Chrysler Building. The forms of art deco were pure and geometric, though the artists often drew inspiration from nature. In the beginning, lines were curved, though rectilinear designs would later become more and more popular.



Prohibition, legal prevention of the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States from 1920 to 1933 under the terms of the Eighteenth Amendment. Although the temperance movement, which was widely supported, had succeeded in bringing about this legislation, millions of Americans were willing to drink liquor (distilled spirits) illegally, which gave rise to bootlegging (the illegal production and sale of liquor) and speakeasies (illegal, secretive drinking establishments), both of which were capitalized upon by organized crime. As a result, the Prohibition era also is remembered as a period of gangsterism, characterized by competition and violent turf battles between criminal gangs.

Johnny Torrio rose to become a rackets boss in Brooklyn, New York, and then relocated to Chicago, where in the early 1920s he expanded the crime empire founded by James (“Big Jim”) Colosimo into big-time bootlegging. Torrio turned over his rackets in 1925 to Al Capone, who became the Prohibition era’s most famous gangster, though other crime czars such as Dion O’Bannion (Capone’s rival in Chicago), Joe Masseria, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, and Bugsy Siegel were also legendarily infamous. Capone’s wealth in 1927 was estimated at close to $100 million.

Al Capone, c. 1935.

MPI/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The 18th Amendment did not outlaw alcohol consumption.   

Winemakers stayed in business by selling “wine bricks” that could be dissolved to make wine.

Popular 20s Slang

The slang of the 20s, like the slang of any generation, was conceived in the hives of counter-culture. It wasn’t so much a code to keep the police in the dark, as many movies and legends would have you believe, but a special code among those who wanted to appear as insiders.

Some of the most popular slang words of the 20s included:

  • Babe, Bim, Broad, Doll or Dame – A woman

  • Moll – A gangster’s girlfriend

  • Bearcat – A fiery woman

  • Dumb Dora -A stupid woman

  • Sheba -A woman with sex appeal

  • Stool-pigeon – A person who informs the police

  • Peaching – Informing

  • Finger – Identify

  • Bulls – Plainclothes police

  • Gum-shoe – Detective

  • Copper – Policeman

  • Bracelets – Handcuffs

  • Big House or Can – Jail or prison

  • In Stir – In jail

  • Blow – Leave

  • Bop, Bump or Clip – To kill

  • Chopper Squad – Guys with machine guns

  • Pack Heat – Carry a gun

  • Goon – Thug

  • Grifter – Con man

  • Meat Wagon – Ambulance

  • Chicago Overcoat – A coffin

  • Big Sleep – Death

  • Bean-shooter or Gat – A gun

  • Packing Heat – Carrying a gun

  • Can-opener – Safecracker

  • Glomming – Stealing

  • Bent – Stolen

  • Cabbage or Scratch – Money

  • Ice – Diamonds

  • Boiler or Bucket – A car

  • Cake-eater – A lady’s man

  • Dewdropper – Unemployed man who spends his days sleeping

  • Shylock – A loanshark

  • Sheik – An attractive man

  • Bangtail – Racehorse

For more:



And All That Jazz 

Styles of Music Popular in the Twenties

Jazz was the music of popular choice and some of the best known musicians were jazz musicians including Duke Ellington and Al Jolson. One other popular musician/composer was George Gershwin. Many of his songs are still recorded and listened to today. A popular dance of the times was known as the Charleston.

Popular Dance Bands

    Paul Whiteman, Nat Shilkret, Ben Bernie, Ben Selvin, Isham Jones, Fletcher Henderson, Leo Reisman, Ted Lewis, Rudy Vallee, Vincent Lopez

Popular Jazz Musicians

    Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Red Hot Poppers, Bix Beiderbecke, Benny Goodman, Fats Waller, Marion Harris, Adelaide Hall, Count Basie, King Oliver

Popular Blues Musicians

    Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Jimmie Rodgers, Victoria Spivey, Sara Martin

Popular Broadway Stars

    Eddie Cantor, Sophie Tucker, Fanny Brice, Helen Morgan, Ethel Waters, Florence Mills, Marilyn Miller, Al Jolson


Money and Inflation

If you have $100 Converted from 1920 to 2009 it would be equivalent to $1023 in today’s money.

And the wheels on the bus go round and round… Oh! Those are Cars!

If you could buy one now, for the price it was then, would you?

1928 Chrysler, $1555.

Pretty snazzy aren’t they? Wait! Was snazzy a word then?

Long before Uber and Lyft, cabs were classy vehicles.

Cabs looked a tad different than they do now. circa 1925
Dick Whittington Studio/Corbis via Getty Images

And what about the homes?! It’s so amazing that a lot of them were “kit houses” from Sears!

Home Sweet Home

Homes and Furniture From The Twenties

Price: Sectional $2,205

It is interesting looking at the furniture and fixtures you might find in a home from the decade, below are just two examples I found interesting from the more than 20 we have included on our 1920’s Furniture

Two Bedroom Country CottagePortable Bathtub With Water Heater

In the early 1900’s, a small, basic home kit could be purchased for $198. Other versions ran in the thousands. The Magnolia, pictured below, could be procured at the lofty sum of $6,488 in 1921.

From around 1908 to the 1940s, Sears sold an estimated 70,000 kit homes in about 270 different styles, ranging from Colonial to Tudor, and even small bungalows. Prices ranged from about $600 to $6,000, which translates to be around $8,400 to $84,000 in today’s money. This allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to become homeowners, through the Great Depression and even at the start of World War II.

Today, nobody knows for sure how many of these homes remain, but the ones that are still standing are hot commodities in the real estate market. Take for example a 1925 Colonial-style kit home in Washington, D.C., that sold in 2017 for $1.06 million, which was sold in the Sears’ catalog for $3,727 in the 1920s.

Hollywood and its Influence

Hollywood Blvd. – The Original Boulevard of Broken Dreams 

Very few wanna-be actors and actresses “made” the silver screen, others were plucked off by 9 to 5 jobs, some became prostitutes, others just lived their lives waiting for the call from general casting. Hollywood Boulevard was lit up, as always. The Hollywoodland sign was lit up to announce right where to go, Sid Grauman converted an Chinese Temple into a glittering shrine to the opulence of 1920s Hollywood. It was an elegant facade covering the seedy underbelly of a town that chewed people up and spit them out.

Grauman’s Chinese Theater: A Hollywood Landmark

On the outside, Hollywood in the 1920s was “the style capital of the world’ as one advertisement proclaimed. From Sunset to Hollywood Boulevard an entire flock of ultra-rich had taken over.

The movie business had taken over Hollywood. 

The Stars of Hollywood in the 1920s

America loved the movies.

As film began to include sound, musical movies captured the hearts of audiences.

A shot from the filming of a movie with dancers, circa 1920. Hulton Archive/Getty Images. 

They couldn’t get enough of the beauty and elegance of the leading ladies and the handsome actors. All of this belied America’s lust for sex, sex, and more sex.

Jack Warner said,

“There were indoor sports in some of the movie mansions that would have felled whole platoons of PTA mothers.” 

-Jack Warner

The movies sold sex, and some of the sexiest stars:

Hollywood in the 1920s: Leading Actresses

  • Gloria Swanson
  • Mary Pickford
  • Agnes Ayres
  • Coleen Moore
  • Myrna Loy
  • Clara Bow
  • Norma Shearer

Hollywood in the 1920s: Leading Men

  • Gary Cooper
  • Rudolph Valentino
  • Douglas Fairbanks
  • Al Jolson
  • Charlie Chaplin

If you saw Jean Harlow in Immortal Idols, you will see how her style came from the 1920’s era, especially in films like Hell’s Angels.

If You are a Woman, You Would Have Been A Babe, Bim, Broad, Doll or Dame . But If You Weren’t A Flapper, You Could Just Blow!

Ha! Ha! Look at me using that Slang. It’s just what it is. That was the time and that was the style.

The original Flapper-girl was Zelda Fitzgerald:

This is what it really was like, the outfits, the shoes, the hats and the whole jazzy attitude.

Luxe fabrics, flapper girl silhouettes, and art-deco style dominated the fashion world in the ’20s.

And Those Shoes! They’re Hotsy-Totsy!

I love going to:


How Do You Do That Do?

The craze in the 1920’s was the ‘Bob’, and the little pins to hold it in place or make the pin curls came from this style… the bobby pin.

Here’s our guide to women’s 1920s hairstyles. The Roaring Twenties were book-ended between two global cataclysmic events – namely, the aftermath of World War I and the financial crash that led to the Great Depression. The Great War had taken many lives, and this shadow cast a desire to live for today and embrace life. It was off with the old – literally in the case of hemlines and hair – and on with the new. The bob was the hairstyle of the decade, and was symbolic of women’s new-found freedom, rights, opportunities and options.

Louise Brooks with thin and straight brows.

Variations of the 1920s Bob

The bob is the defining and dominant women’s hairstyle of the 1920s, with all its various lengths, textures and shapes. Most variations had a name and distinctive look of its own. Women would have adopted one of the styles, or used elements from their favorite bobbed look to suit their requirements. In other words, bobs were reasonably versatile and adaptable. Here is a look at some of the more popular styles.

                Plain Bob

The classic bob with a straight-cut fringe and hair ending just below the ears. Also called a “Buster Brown”, after the cartoon character’s bobbed hair. For those without a fringe, a side parting was the thing and the hair was held back with a bobby pin or slide.

                Charleston Bob

A softer-looking bob named after the popular dance of the decade. The hair came to just below the ear lobes and had large, soft waves in it. It was very fashionable in 1925.

The Charleston Bob


Kiss and Make-Up

Society’s Attitude

Makeup had been deemed inappropriate for many decades and only worn by a certain type of woman (tarts and floozies!) and stage performers.

While some Victorian and Edwardian women did use makeup, it was used very discreetly however, in order to remain “socially appropriate”. It wasn’t until the 1920s that makeup came back with a vengeance.

At the start of the decade, makeup was still on the more cautious side, especially the wearing of lipstick. However, by the mid-1920s, makeup was openly worn and applied in public. By the end of the decade, not only was wearing makeup fashionable and respectable, it was de rigeur.

Film Stars

Cinema and its leading ladies had a tremendous influence on women. Not only did actresses and their on-screen personas influence the makeup and hair fashions, they demonstrated how the modern women could now behave.

Actresses were seen as glamorous stars and, consequently, the faces of women such as Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson, Louise Brooks, Greta Garbo were much admired and copied.

Film fan magazines, like Photoplay and Motion Picture Magazine, followed the private lives of the film stars, as well as being full of adverts for various cosmetic products.

Cosmetic manufacturers were quick to see the lure of the silver screen beauties and, as a result, started to use film stars in adverts to promote their products. Their success led magazine advertising increased dramatically throughout the decade.

The average woman may not have had such an adventurous lifestyle as portrayed by the leading ladies in films, but they could at least attempt to emulate how the stars looked.

Clara Bow (1927). Her main rival early on was Colleen Moore, as both played flappers.

Colleen Moore on the cover of Photoplay (Jan 1926)

1920s Makeup Overview                               

The main aspect of a classic 1920s makeup look is a smooth, natural complexion with a rosy rouged cheek. Lipstick colour would be matched to the cheeks and a dainty lip shape was the thing. In other words, full lips were not appropriate. Thinner eyebrows were “film star fashionable”, often drawn curved beyond the natural brow line.

Evening and daytime makeup etiquette was considered to be different. That is to say, what was acceptable for parties was not acceptable for day wear.

Subsequently, women had more subtle day makeup, and different colours and application for evening makeup. In particular, a dark smoky eye, so often seen as essential 1920s, would not have been worn by the average woman during the day. This was more the “film star flapper” look, with eyes made up for the movies, or something kept for parties and evening wear.

“It girl” Clara Bow, whose eyebrows were drawn on low and sloping below her natural brow.

The cupid’s bow is the lip shape most associated with the 1920s. To create this look, the upper lip was drawn heart-shaped, even going outside of the natural lip line. Likewise, lipstick on the middle part of lower lip could be applied just outside of the lip line, especially for those with thinner lips.

This resulted in creating a smaller-looking, dolly-like mouth. However, lipstick was never applied to the full corner of the mouth. In other words, lipstick would not be used to create a full mouth, as this was considered to be vulgar. 


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There will be more on the Retro Style of the 1920’s in the blog, Reel and Retro. While you’re here check out Immortal Idols and recommended movies in Keep it Reel

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