Fashion Flashback: Style From the ’20s and ’30s


A Fashion Revolution

After World War I ended in 1918, an enthusiastic and prosperous America celebrated with a new approach to music, dance, and, of course, fashion. As of 1920, women were working, voting, and gaining a new independence that was largely reflected in the clothing they wore. Picture above: Actress, Louise Brooks.

A Shift In Style


Typical chemise style of the 1920s

Prior to this shift in style, women wore conservative dresses that revealed little. However, since this social revolution, women’s dresses became shorter, looser, and easier to move in. The popular and shapeless low-waisted chemise style we picture flappers wearing was perfect for dancing the Charleston. Of course, it was the young and vibrant who embraced this new style, ditching their corsets and knickers and wearing undergarments meant to flatten their chests. While we started to see legs for the first time, curves were out of style and the boy body was all the rage! The bob hair style, cloche hat and Mary Jane shoes were popular styles worn with this loose-fitting fashion.

Class lines also blurred and for the first time the rich weren’t the only ones to explore high style. The shift shape of this popular dress was easier to make at home and therefore available to women of all economic statuses.

Back to Basics


Fashion designer, Coco Chanel

As often happens when times get tough, after the stock market crash, women looked to tradition and familiarity in their style choices. With a more conservative lifestyle came a more feminine approach to fashion–curves were back and emphasized by shoulder pads and cinched waistlines. Ready-to-wear style made its way on the scene as more and more women needed to work and appropriate clothing was necessary. Suits were popular and sweater sets were introduced. Women grew their hair out, wore smaller hats that revealed their faces, and donned chunkier shoes that made it easier to walk.

Hollywood Influence


Actress, Lauren Bacall

Of course, eveningwear never went away and the influence of movies encouraged women to go for ultra glamour! Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Vivienne Leigh, and Lauren Bacall quickly became style icons. Metallic fabrics and sequins also made its way onto the evening scene.

That Barbecue Dress


Actress, Vivienne Leigh

Vivienne Lee’s character, Scarlett O’Hara, wore this green and white “barbecue dress” in the epic movie, Gone with the Wind. Designed by Water Plunkett, this dress was the most copied in movie history. It was reproduced in many different fabrics and at different price points.

Get The Look


You don’t have to look like you’re wearing a Halloween costume to get a twenties look. Look for chemise or shift dresses that are straight and not fitted. Dropped waists and sequined or beaded accents add to this retro look. Of course, a cloche hat and Mary Jane shoes are perfect fall accessories. Here are some of our favorites:

Antik Batik tennis dress, $540, at; Foley + Corinna beaded tank dress, $323, at; Victor Osborne cloche hat, $313, at; Manolo Blahnik maryjanes, $685, at

Style for the Masses


As we said, one of the reasons twenties style was so innovative was that no matter how much money you had, you could attain fabulous fashion! So in honor of those of us on a budget, here are our favorite saves!

Eight Sixty tank dress, $62,; Arden B sequin dress, $78, at; Charlotte Russe cloche hat, $18.99, at; Tahari mary janes, $105, at

Check out our incredible slideshow on architecture from the 1920s and ’30s. And for more quotes, personalities and influential events from this period in time, go to the Fox Fan page, and Fox News FNCiMag for more top fashion and beauty articles!