Here we are with our second edition of Decades of Fashion. After having looked at the Sixties, we will take a glimpse of the Roaring Twenties. These two decades actually have many common elements: both experienced post-war growth together with several social changes.
At the beginning of the Twenties, while Europe was trying to recover from the damages brought by World War I, America went through a period of economic growth. The increase wide-spread wealth gave birth to a consumer society and mass culture. Radio as well as cinema became very popular with Hollywood becoming the world’s film capital.
However, the main symbol of this time is the flapper, the new woman.
During WW1, due to the fact that men had been enlisted in the army, women had to take on many roles in society that had previously been reserved for men. They started working and therefore were able to participate in the economy. Moreover, in 1920 they obtained the right to vote, which ratified their new autonomy.
When men came back home, the social role of women was deeply changed and they were not willing to give up their freshly conquered freedom.
Young women therefore tried to declare their new status by adopting some typical male habits, such as drinking and smoking and showing very androginous looks. They felt free to enjoy the dynamic life of the city.
The main trends included bobbed hair, short, long-waisted dresses, cloche hats and art-deco decorations. This new fashion was ideally carried on thin, flat chested bodies and was meant to leave women free to move and dance to the rhythm of the most popular music of that time, Jazz.
The main protagonist of the fashion world in the 20s was Coco Chanel: with her strong attitude, she started designing loose clothes without the constraints of the corseted silhouette. Her main pieces often took inspiration from typical male suits and were made of simple textiles such as jersey.
Chanel’s target woman was deeply conscious of her new social role and able to participate in social life without the necessity of a man by her side. Chanel always promoted austerity in her collection as she wanted to underline that modern women didn’t need to seduce with provocative outfits in order to affirm theirselves. Self-confidance was to be established also by the use of make-up, that women started using copying the most important movie stars.
Zelda Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker fully embraced the trend of this free spirited, modernist era.
Reminding the aesthetic movement that was taking place in Europe, they perceived their lives as a piece of art and welcomed their new status to make a powerful statement: women have tasted the power, and they will fight to keep it.