Reel and Retro

Presenting the Past

The 1920s Style

Get A Wow! Retro Style – 1920s

What can we learn from the 1920s women’s style, and why do we want to?

The 1920s style isn’t just about jazzy clothes and speech. It was a movement, a time in history where women claimed their individuality, freedom, and independence! 

While men were off to war, more women joined the workforce. Before the 1920s style, women wore restrictive clothing. For instance: A stiff collar, corset, long dresses, bloomers, and booties. Dear Lord, don’t show your ankles! And if you wore makeup (which they called “paint”) you were not a “nice girl,” you know what I mean. Perhaps they were perceived as elegant but, how… uncomfortable!

Can you imagine how long it took to get ready for the day? Ugh! It seems as though a woman’s existence was focused on being appropriate for a man. Then, like a wave hitting society, women gained the courage and confidence to say something like “screw that! If I’m going to work and take care of myself, I’m going to be comfortable and have fun doing it!” 

You go, girl!

Throw that damn corset out the window! Cut your hair how you like it, put on a little makeup, and bat those pretty lashes! 

They modernized. Everyone jumped on board, including designers. The old style of buttons and laces were replaced with more accessible, new fasteners. Hooks and eyes, buttons, zippers, or snaps.  A lot of women still made their own clothes, but if they could afford it, they bought the newest fashions. Necklines and dress waistlines were lower, hemlines were shorter and more revealing, and the colors were brighter and bolder.

Zelda Fitzgerald, the original Flapper.

Hollywood came into play and contributed to creating the “modern look” with glamorous movie stars such as:

Norma Shearer

Joan Crawford 

Clara Bow 

Louise Brooks 

Marie Provost 

Marlene Dietrich

Gloria Swanson 

Colleen Moore 

Greta Garbo

Other Fashion icons included: 

Zelda Fitzgerald

Josephine Baker

and other celebrities and members of royalty.

America experienced a fashion boom. She came in loud, proud, and prosperous, earning the title “The Roaring Twenties.” 

1920s Hairstyle Trends for Women

Mannequins were introduced and used to show women how to wear the new fashions and combine them with accessories. Here’s a list of what the trends were so you can get “the look.”

Let’s take it from the top:

Short bobbed hairstyles

The Bob: A ‘Dutch boy’ haircut that was straight, slick, and smoothly edged to just below the chin line and featured bangs.

The Eton Crop: A shorter slicked-down version of the bob style, famously worn by Josephine Baker.

The ‘Marcel wave’: A waved version of the bob hairstyle achieved by using heated curling irons that could quickly produce controlled waves.

The Castle Bob: (named after Irene Castle), was another version of the short cut bob, that featured little curls on the fringe and at the bottom.

The ‘Shingle’ bob cut: A haircut that featured a look of rows of waves and layers over a closely shaved neck (resembling the row of sloping shingles used on a roof).

All Snazzy and Jazzy

As for the clothes, if you didn’t dress like a flapper and stayed home for the day, a typical ‘day dress’ was the most comfortable. Either with short or long sleeves and hemlines that ranged between just below the knee to the ankle.

The housewife usually wore a simple cotton or rayon dress with white collars. These “house dresses” were called morning dresses and generally quite plain. 

“Frocks” were dresses that were often colorful solids, plaids (most popular), checks, or stripes and embellished with pretty embroidery and trim.

Because there were rigorous chores, women frequently wore aprons as well. Really, it’s not such a bad idea to still wear them, and there are some cute ones you can buy unless, like a woman from the 1920s, you can make your own. I hear that aprons are the easiest thing to sew.

I remember when I was a little girl (in the early 70s), my grandma, being a housewife, wore housedresses. I assume they were the most comfortable but they were cute too. The one I especially remember was red with little white polka dots, it zipped up the front and had pockets with ladybugs on them. I don’t know if she made it, but it’s more than likely.

When women were home, they ultimately wanted to be comfortable. A Japanese style kimono was also a sensible choice because it didn’t need ironing.

It wasn’t typical; however, some free-spirited women wore pants. They were either more like sporty knickers that ended just below the knee and ballooned out at the thigh or a wide-leg pantsuit called ‘Beach Pajamas. ‘ This style developed in the later 1920s, the pants were made of satin, chiffon or an Asian print and worn with a matching kimono style jacket and blouse.

Daytime Clothes, If Going Out

Errands were run while the husband was at work. Standard attire was a walking suit that consisted of a skirt, blouse, and sweater. The shoes were usually mid-heel Oxfords, Mary Janes, or T-Strap shoes.

Although women didn’t so much wear a corset any longer because they were more interested in looser fitting clothes that provided freedom of movement such as the camisole. They did often wear a “reducer.” It’s what we think of as a girdle to hold the tummy in for a smoother look.

The 1920’s style was an era of tailored dresses made of wool or a silk blend crepe and had a loose straight fit. The waistline of the dresses over time, dropped down into a drop waist with a thin belt. The dress slipped on over the head and often had a wide flat collar with a bow tie at the neck, details such as a row of buttons, pleats or tiered skirts were typical. Stockings were matte in black or tan. To keep with the “Flapper Fashion,” you would roll your stockings below the knee and use garters to keep them up. They also wore galoshes…

Good Gosh Galoshes 

Rubber overshoes called galoshes were one of the odd fashion trends, or fads, of the 1920’s. The galoshes had metal buckles, but they were rarely used. The galoshes were spread as wide as the tongue permitted, allowing the flaps to swish as the wearer walked. The term “Flapper” is believed to have derived from the rubber galoshes that “flapped” when walking.

Essential Accessories

During a regular day, accessories were kept simple, coordinating but not necessarily matching. Jewelry was left at home, but gloves and a cloche hat were essential. Scarves were another ‘must-have’. The scarf was rolled and tied around the head just above the browline and knotted at the side or back of the head. In the evening if going out, it was more common to wear a headband.

To convey the “modern look,” intense primary colors and sharp, geometric shapes defined the Art Deco style. It represented elegance and sophistication.

Cloche hats 

Cloche is the French word for “bell.” These hats were designed to be worn low on the forehead and usually made of felt, beads, or lace. They were also embellished with bows, buttons, ribbons, and feathers.

The Fun Flapper Style

The fabulous tomb of Tutankhamen had been discovered, and the movie ‘Cleopatra’ starring Hollywood actress Theda Bara presented the Egyptian style fashion and makeup. Add that to the Art Deco influence along with more prosperity, consumerism, and advertising with women wanting to express themselves in a modern and fun way… voila! You have a flapper girl.

Casual styles for day wear as worn by Norma Shearer in the photo

1920’s Fashion – Norma Shearer, Movie Star

Beaded evening dresses inspired by “flappers.”

An image you may have in mind when you think of a flapper’s dress would be the chemise style dress. It was unfitted and fell in a straight line almost to the ankle and had spaghetti straps. The style itself was simple but it was often beaded or adorned with sequins and/or panels added, creating a handkerchief style hem. 

Also was the fun, fringed flapper dresses or glamorous silk gowns for evening attire, and Coco Chanel became famous for her “little black dress.”

Thee Flapper accessories

Keep in mind the 1920s style of Art Deco added to:


Feather boas

Long strands of pearl beads

Costume jewelry with faux gemstones

Cigarette holders 

Cigarette cases

Small beaded purses (known as handbags) or clutches

Ooooh! Those are pretty!

Fringe wraps


Fabulous coats and wraps

Both men and women wore full-length raccoon fur coats.

Wrap coats with fur accessories were trendy.


The wealthy wore real fur coats and capes made of mink, fox and seal fur

Kick up your heels

No outfit is complete without the right shoes

There weren’t as many choices like we have now when it comes to shoes. But that didn’t stop them from stepping out.

The three main types of shoes were pumps, T-straps, and Mary Janes that had ankle straps. But, for the everyday practical wear, most women wore black or brown leather shoes that had a low heel and laced up past the ankle.


There were other options the flappers commonly wore such as 

The buckle pump – A black patent leather shoe with a round toe and antique silver-finished buckle.

The loop strap – Made from brown mesh leather trimming and had a spike heel.

And Parisian Step-In Bow Pumps – perforated for breathability and had a Cuban heel.

Putting on War Paint

It was a battle. Before the 1920s, if a woman wore makeup, she was considered loose and lacked morels. But Hollywood was making waves and movie stars exemplified beauty, wearing makeup and setting hair and style trends. A roaring 20’s gal gained confidence and independence. If she wanted to wear makeup, she would! And without being judged poorly. 

To get the look you need:

  • Loose face powder- in your skin tone or one shade lighter for early ‘20s looks.
  • Liquid Rouge- red, not pink or orange. Matte, not glitter.
  • Black or Brown pencil for eyes and brows.
  • Matte red lipstick and matching lip pencil.
  • Black or brown mascara.
  • Dark matte eye shadow- black, green, or blue.

Women plucked their eyebrows, used eye pencils, and applied kohl to their eyelashes. They also used lipstick to create an exaggerated lip line, applied face powder and rouge (they also applied rouge to the knees!).

Again I ask, Why should we care about the 1920s, and what example does it set for us now? Well, have you ever seen an era where women had to fight so hard to have what we don’t even think about today? Things like:

The right to vote

Get the education we want

Have the freedom to express your individuality by showing your ankles or wearing makeup. 

Let your lioness come out and roar like a 1920s woman!


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♥ Stay Fabulous, Darling! ♥

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