From minimalism to embellishments, boyish silhouettes to feminine curves, our perception of fashion today is different to that of the 1920s. The 1920s saw the emergence of one key statement trend of classy minimalism; women started to dress for themselves refusing to be sexualized in their search for individualism, contrasting so strikingly to previous decades. In doing so, the 1920s laid down its foundations for fashion today. Contemporary fashion has made it its own by modifying existing styles creating up to date key trends whilst maintaining the original influences. The era still continues to strongly influence modern fashion today.
In 1923 The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced: the foundation of individualism and inspiration for innovation. Women began to surpass men in their expression of individuality, substituting curvaceous silhouettes for shapeless fittings; broader shoulders and straighter hips.
The 1920s was the introduction of androgyny; short hair and a masculine silhouette. The short slicked ‘Eton Crop’ and the kinked ‘Marcel wave’ was the forthcoming hairstyle whilst elaborated up-dos and tight curls were passé. Female wear became shapeless and loose; narrow boy hips and suppressed busts. Society was changing rapidly after the war; no longer was the waist defining corset needed for the modern woman nor the excessive use of fabric. The new woman smoked Camel cigarettes and danced freely to the Charleston in her loose fitting flapper dress; an audacious yet sexual female. The secret was not the end of sexy, but the reinvention.
Coco Chanel was one of the first women to wear trousers, cut her hair short and rejected the corset. The most influential woman in fashion, she furthered the autonomy of women’s style. Whilst the hourglass silhouette faded, self-styled Coco, working in tones of beiges and creams, helped redefine a woman’s figure. In Chanel’s famous words she “let go of the waistline” creating a symbol of emancipation. A bold, independent thinker was born resisting the stereotypical house-wife and conforming to Chanel’s previously unknown designs, stripped of excessiveness and intricate detail, wearing minimalist fashion. Inspired by male wear including sailor outfits and labourers’ dungarees, Chanel’s masculine influence was the inspiration for her distinguished flapper dress. The term flapper, defined as an ‘ungainly adolescent woman who had not yet reached maturity’ related vaguely to Chanel’s androgynous approach towards clothing. This statement dress was straight and loose, dropping the waistline at the hips creating a sexual representation of women who pushed the boundaries of gender identity.
As the simple minimalist modern clothing set sail, the need to contrast instead of conform was assisted by beautiful statement accessories, particularly necklaces designed by Coco. Described as ‘gaudy’ the cutting edge necklaces made of beads and stones and sequins draped over the chest dangling to 60 inches in length embellishing women’s necks visualising the modern woman with a need to be noted. Hemlines gradually shortened as the expression of anarchy set in, originally skirt lengths only appearing shorter due to scallop cuts in the fabric however by 1925 skirts rose from 14 to 16 inches of the ground, unforeseen until the 1920s era. As expressiveness increased, a hat became a fashionable accessory which almost all females of the 1920s wore. Inspired by countries including Egypt (after the discovery of Tutankhamen), China and Russia, headdresses including tiaras, turbans and cloches were reinvented creating a stand out accessory contrasting with the minimalist clothing.
Whilst the embellishments and accessories gained popularity, ready to wear garments weren’t available until the 1930s whilst only two collections were available on an annual basis- an autumn and a spring collection. If a woman wanted a piece of clothing the process would take a time-consuming length of a few weeks up to a month replicating and altering the fabric; the reason as to why the designs of the 1920s were so simplistic- time and money.
We have adopted so many styles across all eras. Last winter the 70s ‘shaggy’ style was introduced; picture a glamour version of Daphne from Scooby doo: colour block oranges, purples and bright blues, knee high suede boots, trilby hats and faux fur either around our necks or clipped to a purse or bag whilst the 50s came back this spring with midi dresses cut just beyond the knee with fruit prints sewn in. This winter introduced the comeback of androgyny (to the extreme): down-to-the-knee ‘cocoon’ coats, bow ties, Chelsea boots, all teamed with pixie crops seen on both Agyness Dyen and Emma Watson.
However this spring, we see an adopted and changed revival of the true 1920s fashion: feminine, classy and elegant yet comfortable. You’ll find it all –dropped waist flapper-style frocks with added sequins for glamour purposes, loose silk pyjama trousers for masculine comfort, embellishment clutches for a touch of audacious-ness and those Zara velvet slippers. From Ralph Lauren to Gucci, Mark Jacobs to Celine, this season’s trend are an overriding sense of fun and frivolity.
This season’s Chanel runway saw comfortable wear transformed into comfortable fashion. Recognizable traits were still on the catwalk, keeping to the theme of minimalism with a ‘white’ theme yet still in touch with it’s daring side swapping the pearl necklaces for pearl spines (yes- pearls literally glued onto the models back). Gucci took the word ‘glamour’to a whole new level introducing the reinvented flapper dress with an embellished drop waist which would make any designers mouth drop whilst Etro, who’s collection was entitled ‘The New Jazz Age’ focused on simple silhouettes highlighted with sequins, beads and sprinkled crystals for that added oomph.
The revival of the 1920s fashion has made for an exciting new aspect to this summers trends. Whilst the 1920s era was the introduction of individualism, this years style in terms of individuality has spread wide open from Chanel’s minimalist approach to Gucci’s overload of sequin embellishments. Comfortableness to quirkiness, silk trousers to a crystal coated clutch, 2012 is here with a bang.