1920’s Style Guide

The 1920s embraced the revolution sparked by WW1 and was an era of enormous cultural change. It was the age both consumerism and modernism, and was characterised by jazz music, flappers, speakeasies and gramophone records.

Here’s a quick style guide to give you an insight into American fashion during the 1920s to help you put together the perfect look for your character.

Women

The early women’s rights movement had a heavy influence on American fashion in the 1920s. Women were discovering a new sense of freedom whilst embracing rights of feminine self-expression and a much more prominent role in society. This liberal period led to an explosion of creativity of innovative styles in dresses, hairstyles, swimwear and shoes.

The defining dress style for formal events was a sleeveless dress or a blouse with pleated skirt, high heels and sheer tights. These would usually be made from materials such as chiffon, with hems tending to sit below the knee and dropped waistlines to give the impression of a rather boyish and youthful look.

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  • Jarlo Lace Swing Full Midi Dress (ASOS)
  • Retro Vintage Style Dress (eBay)
  • Long Art Deco Earrings (Trouva)
  • Dolce Giavonna Art Deco Dangle Earrings (Overstock)
  • Vintage Pearl Headpiece (BlueFly)
  • Flower Flapper Headband (ASOS)

For some – mainly the wealthier – their dress sense would be the epitome of glitz and glamour, never without a string of pearls and flashy diamonds. Others would accessorise with several pieces of art deco inspired jewellery and hair ornaments. The look would be completed with a fur shawl or wrap and a purse made of sequins, gold mesh, beads or other colourful and glamorous materials.

In terms of hairstyle, many decided to cut it all off as a rebellious, liberating reaction and thus the ‘bob’ became characteristic of the flapper girl and a popular style of the era. Cropped hairstyles were either finger waved or straight with bangs, and those who kept their hair long usually had it pulled back and tucked under to resemble the shorter bobbed style.

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  • Black T-bar Court Shoe (Dune)
  • Sequin Embellished Clutch (New Look)
  • 1920s Bob Wig (AllFancyDress)

The most striking trend of the Roaring 20’s was unquestionably “the flapper” style which was very dramatic, tasteful and feminine. Inspired by the Parisian look, the stereotypical flapper girl would wear a “shift” type dress with the waist dropping to the hipline to flatten the hips and chest. Hemlines, however, rose to just above the knee and were usually finished with an elaborate beading or fringing effect. Women did not go out in bare legs so underneath the dress they would wear silk or rayon stockings in a nude or pastel colour. These would be thigh high to cover the whole leg and held up with a garter.

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  • Black Flapper Dress (Dorothy Perkins)
  • Scallop Flapper Sequin Shift Dress (eBay)
  • Vintage Glamour 20’s Flapper Dress (Fruugo)
  • Multi-Layered Faux Pearl Necklace (Rosegal)

Spending a large part of their night dancing, flappers would need an elegant and comfortable pair of shoes to accompany the dress. A popular choice was a pair of dainty but sturdy T-strap heels in black, gold or silver. The iconic necklace of the flapper girl was a long pearl necklace which also tended to be wrapped around the wrist giving the look of several bracelets. Other accessories were worn to add a touch of sophistication to their outfit, most commonly a long cigarette holder or feather fan. Their look was finished with red lips, blushed cheeks and eyeliner.

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  • Blonde 1920s Flapper Wig (eBay)
  • Black Marabou Feather Fan (HalloweenCostumes)
  • Sequinned Cigarette Holder (PartyDelights)

Men

For men, fashion in the 1920s really entered the modern era and some of the suits worn today are still based on those worn in the late 1920s. The roaring 20s saw the introduction of tailored suiting to everyday attire and the rise of the flashier, looser jazz suit for evening wear. Black and dark blues were usually the only suit colours worn in the evening and most would pair with a long sleeve, collared button up shirt in a white or light colour. This would be tucked into the trousers which were usually high waisted, wide legged and worn slightly short to show off coloured socks underneath. A major fashion innovation in the 20s era was the trouser crease down the front.

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  • Regular Dinner Suit (Matalan)
  • Black Bow Tie (Dobell)
  • 1920s Pocket Watch (eBay)
  • Pin Dot Pocket Square (Hawes & Curtis)
  • Two Tone Classic Oxford Dress Shoes (eBay)

Bowties and neckties ruled the 1920s and hats were fashion ‘must haves’. Pocket squares were also essential accessories but for those who wanted to add a personal stamp, white gloves or pocket watches were popular choices. Most would then opt for shiny patent leather shoes or smart brogues, often two-toned.

The Prohibition era saw the rise of the American gangster, whose style had a great impact on men’s fashion. The way they dressed was a display of their wealth and power so their look was a lot flashier and more expensive than that of the average man. They were always seen wearing high quality dark suits, often striped, with matching vest and trousers. Over the top they would wear a heavy wool overcoat and a black or white fedora hat. Their look would be completed with a contrasting tie, expensive accessories and a cigar in hand. While most men, including gangsters, were clean shaven, a straight thin moustache was a signature piece for some gangsters.

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  • Navy Pinstripe Suit (Moss Bros)
  • Vintage Long Grey Wool Overcoat (Tweedmans Vintage)
  • Beechfield Fedora Hat (Universal Textiles)
  • Cane with Silver Handle (Party Packs)
  • Gangster Moustache (iLoveFancyDress)
  • Fake Plastic Smoking Pipe (Party Packs)