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1920s

1920’s Men’s Suits

The most formal suit a man of the 1920s might own consisted of a black or midnight-blue worsted swallow-tailed coat (“tails”), trimmed with satin, and a pair of matching trousers, trimmed down the sides with the braid or satin ribbon. These were worn with a white, waist-length linen or piqué vest over a starched white dress shirt. Dress shirts had buttonholes on both sides of the front opening, but no buttons. Men kept their shirts closed by threading removable buttons, called studs, between each set of corresponding buttonholes. A stiff, detachable collar attached to the shirt with collar buttons, and cufflinks fastened the French-style cuffs. A white bow tie, black silk top hat, white gloves, patent leather oxford shoes, spats, a white silk handkerchief, and a white flower butonnière completed the outfit. (1)

suit 01
The Comedian Harmonists (L to R): Robert Biberti, Erich Collin, Edwin Bootz, Roman Cycowski, Harry Frommerman and Ari Leschnikoff, 1920’s

Such a formal outfit, or “full dress”, as it was known, would have been appropriate for only the most important occasions, such as balls, large formal dinners, evening weddings, and opera performances. Not surprisingly, only wealthier gentlemen could have afforded – or would have needed – such a suit. (1)

A gentleman’s semi-formal suit, called a tuxedo, could have been worn to nearly every evening engagement. Like a full-dress suit, a tuxedo was made of black or dark blue worsted material, but the tuxedo jacket had not tails and the tuxedo pants were trimmed, if at all, in very narrow braid or ribbon. The tuxedo vest could be black or white, but, unlike the obligatory full-dress white tie,tuxedo ties were always black. In fact, just as today, party invitations that indicated that affair was “black tie” meant that men were expected to wear tuxedos. Men usually completed their tuxedo outfit with all the same accessories as the full-dress suit, except that instead of top hats they would wear a dark, dome-shaped hats called bowlers.

suit 02
Harlan Randall of the Washington Opera in 1925 Perfect collar and tie.

Tuxedos were appropriate attire at the theatre, small dinner parties, entertaining in the home, and dining in a restaurant.

A standard, conservative business suit in the 1920s consisted of a jacket, trousers and a vest and was sold in not just black but any number of shades of grey, tan , brown, blue, or green. Instead of a bow-tie, one would wear an ascot or a “regular” four-in-hand, which was a long necktie tied in a slipknot with one end hanging in front of the other. At the beginning of the decade, men’s business suits fitted relatively snugly, often with a jacket that tapered at the waist, but in later years the silhouette of business suits relaxed considerably and jackets became longer and roomier, with a less defined waist.

suit 03.jpg
Different examples of the 1920’s Business Suit.

Trousers had cuffs, front creases, and button or hook-and-eye flies throughout the 1920s (zippers were not widely used on trousers flies until the 1930s). Professional men wore business suits to work, obviously, but also to other daytime occasions, including theatre matinees and church services. (1)

Source:

(1)The 1920s (American Popular Culture Through History) by Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber, 2004

1920’s Men’s Trousers

Trends were changing and spreading rapidly in a short period of time. However, most 1920’s men’s trousers appear to be very close from the classic suit trousers that we know today.

During the first half of the decade, trousers were very simple, straight and slightly narrow. The waistline dropped just below the belly button and would be worn with either a belt or suspenders. Creases down the front of the leg became popular for the first time, emphasising the silhouette. Cuffs were also added and could be seen a little bit shortened, drawing more attention to the shoe and sock coordination.

trousers 01.jpg
The Yale University Whiffenpoofs of 1927. The cappella group embraces the fashions of the times with sharp, tailored three-piece suits.

As opposed to the previous decade, trousers were also worn as a separate from the suit jacket, creating a more individual and less conservative look.

trousers 02
1924 Sydney Police Mugshot, Guiseppe Fiori  (found on vintage.es)  – mugshot that looks more like a catalogue picture!

 

1925 saw the arrival of Oxford Bags, broad, pleated trousers which were worn by undergraduates at the English University. These soon replaced the slim trousers worn by most most young men and the fashion for looser-fitting trousers would last until the advent of denim 30 years later. (1)

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Oxford Bags seen on the streets of Britain, 1920’s.

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1920’s Catalogue promoting the Oxford Bags to be worn by young students.

Oxford bags were not a new invention: for some time they had been worn by athletes as an alternative to golf trousers which had been banned in the classroom. The 28” wide bottoms of the Oxfords allowed the trousers to be pulled over the top of their illegal knickers. The original functional size of the hems soon became overlooked as Oxford Bags grew in size, sometimes up to 40” in diameter! Trend-setting Ivy League students brought the fashion home after their stays in Oxford and ordered more pairs from their tailors. (1)

trousers 04
The comfortable functional aspect of the original 28-inch hems could be lost in grossly oversized versions as much as 40-inches in diameter. (1)

The dominance of loose trousers as city wear was, in fact, partly due to the rise in popularity of sport, in particular, golf. The fashionable golf trousers of the inter-war period were ‘plus-fours’, a version of the knickerbockers but with a fuller cut that allowed the fabric to fall 4” below the knees, thus giving them their name. Their success led the way for widely-worn suits that were ‘sporty’ though no longer worn exclusively for sport but also for strolls in the park on Sundays, for travelling and even by the young in town. (1)

trousers 06.jpg
Two young men wearing knickerbockers, 1926.

Source:

(1) Men’s Fashion in the twentieth century. From frock coats to intelligent fibres, by Maria Costantino, 1997

1920’s Men’s Shirts

During the early 1920s, most men’s dress shirts had, instead of a collar, a narrow neckband with a buttonhole in both front and back. Detachable collars, which came in a variety of styles, were designed with two buttons so they could attach easily to the shirts. Men could choose a collar that was stiff, semi-stiff, or soft, with flaps that were pointed, rounded, or wing-style (stiff points that folded down in front, like today’s tuxedo shirt collars), Washable collars were made of fabric; others were made of celluloid and could be wiped clean with a damp cloth. (1)

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Detachable collars available to order, 1920s

The shirt collar was to be the subject of one of the most fiercely-debated issues in men’s clothing in the 1920’s. Was it supposed to be soft and attached permanently to the shirt or stiff and detachable? Supporters of the stiff collar saw it as the bastion against the slovenly, casual manner of dress, believed to be the ‘American’ style of dress, that they felt was undermining the ideals of British male elegance. At a time when the American economy was booming and America’s impact on European culture was growing, it is not surprising that many felt under threat. (2) 

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Detachable collars available to order, 1920s

By the middle of the 1920s, however, many men preferred shirts with attached collars – they were softer and much more comfortable than most of the rigid, detachable collars. (1)

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Ramon Novarro, 1920s

The soft collar won the day and became part of everyday wear. In summer it was even worn without a tie, unbuttoned and draped wide across the jacket lapels in what was known as a Byron collar. At night, where wing collars remained chic with tails, an attached, semi-stiff, turned-down collar found an ally in the dinner jacket or tuxedo. (2)

Sources:

(1) The 1920s (American Popular Culture Through History) by Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber, 2004

(2) Men’s Fashion in the twentieth century. From frock coats to intelligent fibres by Maria Costantino, 1997

1920’s Men’s Fashion – Introduction

In a time of great changes in Womenswear, designers were also introducing innovative styles and shapes that quickly became very popular for men.

August 12, 1924. “International Boys Leagues. Thomas W. Miles and Simon Zebrock of Los Angeles at White House.” National Photo Co. – Shorpy.com

Distinguished London designers, based in Bond Street and Savile Row, drawn the latest fashions to be followed by many men across Europe and the U.S., and new icons of style such as Edward, the Prince of Wales, set the ideals of British elegance.


Edward, the Prince of Wales, 1924 – Google


It was a decade of timeless fashion and contrasting aesthetics. New colours and patterns could now be found in the wardrobes of men who were willing to take the risk.

However, there was only one king in every 1920s men’s attire – the tweed!

1926 © Getty Image


In the next series of posts, I will be exploring these fantastic garments and accessories in detail – from the tailored suit to the popular bowler hat, which continue to be classic menswear pieces to this day. 

50 Fabulous Pictures of Women’s Street Style from the 1920s

The High Point of street photography started in the 1920s, bolstered by the introduction of the Leica camera. Photographers let themselves be carried away by the flux of the metropolis with its paradoxical, ambiguous universe, and they photographed freely from the hand. Aesthetics changed: What was accidental, casual, surprising, fleeting, and also trivial in urban events became the subjects of these photographers. The camera served as an extension of their subjective view. (1)

April 21, 1927.
April 21, 1927. “Do ducks swim? Misses Eugenia Dunbar and Mary Moose.” The main focus here is of course the horse trough, once a common item of street furniture in many big cities. National Photo glass negative. Found on shorpy.com
Ladies at the pet shop.
Ladies at the pet shop. Found on artdecogal.com
1920's Greenwich Village Woman Hanging Poster. Found on fantomas-en-cavale.tumblr.com
1920’s Greenwich Village Woman Hanging Poster. Found on fantomas-en-cavale.tumblr.com
Chicago Women Eating Hot Dogs, 1920s. Found on 24hoursinthelifeofawoman.tumblr.com
Chicago Women Eating Hot Dogs, 1920s. Found on 24hoursinthelifeofawoman.tumblr.com
Berlin, 1928. Found on vintag.es
Berlin, 1928. Found on vintag.es
Walker Evans, Girl on Fulton Street, New York, 1929. Found on wehadfacesthen.tumblr.com
Walker Evans, Girl on Fulton Street, New York, 1929. Found on wehadfacesthen.tumblr.com
Budapest, Hungary circa 1928. Found on soyouthinkyoucansee.tumblr.com
Budapest, Hungary circa 1928. Found on soyouthinkyoucansee.tumblr.com
Girl playing Yo-Yo. Berlin 1920
Girl playing Yo-Yo. Berlin 1920s
Scotland, 1926
Scotland, 1926
Ladies noticed the camera and said hi!
Ladies noticed the camera and said hi!

The concept of studio photography was being replaced by shots documenting not only day to day life situations but also the fashions of the decade.

Harlem, 1927
Harlem, 1927
Street scene, Washington, D.C, 1924. Found on loc.gov
Street scene, Washington, D.C, 1924. Found on loc.gov
“Norma Shearer (Mrs. Irving Thalberg).” The Oscar-winning actress at the White House, July 24, 1929. junipergallery Fine-Art Prints by Juniper Gallery
Washington, D.C., 1922.
Washington, D.C., 1922. “Spring fashions at Easter.”junipergallery Fine-Art Prints by Juniper Gallery
1925 Easter Sunday, Washington, D.C. junipergallery Fine-Art Prints by Juniper Gallery
1925 Easter Sunday, Washington, D.C. junipergallery Fine-Art Prints by Juniper Gallery
Two gorgeous, smiling 1920s girls. Found on sydneyflapper.tumblr.com
Two gorgeous, smiling 1920s girls. Found on sydneyflapper.tumblr.com
Two stylish ladies in Milan, Italy, 1929. Found on lombardiabeniculturali.it
Two stylish ladies in Milan, Italy, 1929. Found on lombardiabeniculturali.it
American tourist -  Hôtle Ritz Place Vendôme, Paris 1920s. Collection Roger-Viollet / Lipnitzki. Found on mimbeau.tumblr.com
American tourist – Hôtle Ritz Place Vendôme, Paris 1920s. Collection Roger-Viollet / Lipnitzki. Found on mimbeau.tumblr.com
Jacques Henri Lartigue, Royan 1926. Found on mimbeau.tumblr.com
Jacques Henri Lartigue, Royan 1926. Found on mimbeau.tumblr.com
Mother and daughter, London, 1926. Found on flickr.com
Mother and daughter, London, 1926. Found on flickr.com
1920s Fashion by Puttnam on Getty Images. Found on pleasurephotoroom.files.wordpress.com
1920s Fashion by Puttnam on Getty Images. Found on pleasurephotoroom.files.wordpress.com
22
Washington, D.C. 1920s. Found on loc.gov
Young woman with dog, Washington, D.C. Found on loc.gov
Young woman with dog, Washington, D.C. Found on loc.gov

Stylish ladies were featured on fashion magazines and by the 1920s, Parisian Postcard photographers Seeberger Brothers were pioneers in what we call street style photography. They would attend every upper french society events to capture the latest fashions to be published in magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Haute Couture designers Chanel, Hermes, Vionnet, etc, rushed to send their models to be photographed by the Brothers at these events.

Day Dresses by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images. Found on hipstersleek.com
Day Dresses by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images. Found on hipstersleek.com
Elegance by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images. Found on hipstersleek.com
Elegance by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images. Found on hipstersleek.com
A black dress tapering in slightly at the hem, including a front panel decorated with tiny pleats. Designed by Jenny. Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
A black dress tapering in slightly at the hem, including a front panel decorated with tiny pleats. Designed by Jenny. Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Jacquet Dresses by Seeberger Freres, 1924 on Getty Images.
Jacquet Dresses by Seeberger Freres, 1924 on Getty Images.
A model wears a wrap over coat with a low-waisted embroidered and tasseled belt, with a fur stole and a cloche hat decorated with a velvet bow, October 1923 by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images.
A model wears a wrap over coat with a low-waisted embroidered and tasseled belt, with a fur stole and a cloche hat decorated with a velvet bow, October 1923 by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images.
1921:  A woman models models the latest fashion of the day in a Paris street by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images.
1921: A woman models models the latest fashion of the day in a Paris street by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images.
Eye-catching skirt and sleeves by  Seeberger Freres. Found on smoda.elpais.com
Eye-catching skirt and sleeves by Seeberger Freres. Found on smoda.elpais.com
by Seeberger Freres. Found on smoda.elpais.com
by Seeberger Freres. Found on smoda.elpais.com
Getty imagesCurved Dress by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Curved Dress by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Lacey Fashion by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Lacey Fashion by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Town Fashion by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Town Fashion by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Oriental silk dress by Seeberger Freres.
Oriental silk dress by Seeberger Freres.
Summer Dress by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images.
Summer Dress by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images.
Wide Brimmed Hat by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Wide Brimmed Hat by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Designer Fashions by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Designer Fashions by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Fashion By Lanvin by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Fashion By Lanvin by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Belted Dress by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Belted Dress by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Free Hanging Dress, 1926 by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Free Hanging Dress, 1926 by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Mix And Match by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Mix And Match by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Outlandish Hat, 1925 by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images
Outlandish Hat, 1925 by Seeberger Freres on Getty Images

Other photographers followed Seeberger Brothers steps documenting the most exquisite fashions at the races and other elite events.

Paris Fashions, 1924 by Topical Press Agency on Getty Images
Paris Fashions, 1924 by Topical Press Agency on Getty Images
Spaarnestad Photo Collection: Life Photos, Daywear, 1926 Auteuil, France. Found on geheugenvannederland.nl
Spaarnestad Photo Collection: Life Photos, Daywear, 1926 Auteuil, France. Found on geheugenvannederland.nl
Found on sydneyflapper.tumblr.com
Found on sydneyflapper.tumblr.com
Paris, 1920s. Found on zamantika.com
Paris, 1920s. Found on zamantika.com
Auteuil, 1925
Auteuil, 1925
Paris, 1920. Found on mashable.com
Paris, 1920. Found on mashable.com
Paris, 1920. Found on mashable.com
Paris, 1920. Found on mashable.com

SOURCES:

(1) The Art of Black and White Photography: Techniques for Creating Superb Images in a Digital Workflow Hardcover by Torsten Andreas Hoffmann, 2008

10 Fabulous Pictures of Women’s Hair & Make-Up from the 1920’s

Four beautiful examples of the 1920s Hair and Make-up most fashionable styles.
Four beautiful examples of the 1920s Hair and Make-up most fashionable styles.
Actress Agnes Ayres (Found on fineartamerica.com)
Actress Agnes Ayres (Found on fineartamerica.com)
Pola Negri in the mid-1920s styling a Cocunut Cut. This haircut was a must have for women who preferred the fringe, despite the unflattering name.  (Found on fineartamerica.com)
Pola Negri in the mid-1920s styling a Cocunut Cut. This haircut was a must have for women who preferred the fringe, despite the unflattering name. (Found on fineartamerica.com)
Beautiful portrait of Louise Brooks showing her iconic Bob Cut, 1920s
Beautiful portrait of Louise Brooks showing her iconic Bob Cut, 1920s
African-American beauty styling Marcel Waves, 1920s
African-American beauty styling Marcel Waves, 1920s
Actress Irene Delroy showing dramatic eyebrows.
Actress Irene Delroy showing dramatic eyebrows.
Vienna, Austria - Original caption: 1928 - Josephine Baker getting ready in her dressing room. She is depicted putting on make-up looking into a mirror. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
Original caption: Vienna, Austria, 1928 – Josephine Baker getting ready in her dressing room. She is depicted putting on make-up looking into a mirror. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
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Silent film actress Raquel Torres using a lip stencil.
Mary Brian / American actress. Photographed c1925. (Found on fineartamerica.com)
Mary Brian / American actress. Photographed c1925. (Found on fineartamerica.com)
At the soda shop, c.1920s
At the soda shop, c.1920s

1920’s Women’s Hairstyles Pt. 3

While white women worked hard to make their hair wavy or curly, many African-American women worked just as hard trying to make their hair straight. Black newspapers and magazines advertised dozens of special pomades, oils, soaps, shampoos, hot irons, and combs that were intended to help relax and straighten curly or kinky hair. Madam C. J. Walker, the nation’s first black woman millionaire, developed a revolutionary system to soften and straighten black women’s hair around the turn of the century, using a combination of special hair preparations and hot irons. (1)

Vintage advertising for Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company’s hair and toilet preparations.
Vintage advertising for Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company’s hair and toilet preparations.

In 1906, she founded the Madame C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company, and later she established a Harlem-based beautician school called the Walker College of Hair Culture, which claimed to teach its hairdressing students how to straighten kinky hair without using curling irons, and promoted a secret formula that supposedly accelerated hair growth. The Walker Manufacturing Company flourished during the 1920s under the leadership of Madame Walker’s daughter, A’Lelia Walker, one of the richest and most extravagant residents of Harlem during the Jazz Age. (1)

Madam C. J. Walker hairstyling demonstration booth, Chicago, 1920s (Madam C. J. Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society)
Madam C. J. Walker hairstyling demonstration booth, Chicago, 1920s (Madam C. J. Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society)

Madame C. J. Walker realised not only that the African-American community represented a virtually untapped consumer market, but also that many black women were attracted to products that promised a more “Caucasian” appearance and, by association, the social acceptance unavailable to those with kinky hair and other so-called “African” features. (1)

SOURCES:

(1) The 1920s (American Popular Culture Through History) by Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber, 2004

1920’s Women’s Hairstyles Pt. 2

The water wave comb was another implement designed to create wavy hair. Wet hair was set with a series of combs, often made of aluminium or celluloid, which gently pushed the hair into waves. A scarf or ribbon was then wrapped around the head to keep the combs in place until the hair dried into soft waves and the combs would be removed. Women also created “finger waves” by applying “finger waving lotion” to their damp hair, then combing and pinching their short tresses into waves with their fingers. Until the damp waves were completely dry, women protected their efforts with delicate nets made of real human hair. (1)

Fingerwaves, 1920s
Finger waves, 1920s

By the late 1920s, “permanent waves” were also available to women willing to undergo the strong chemical treatments. Although women went to great trouble creating curls and waves in their naturally straight hair, short hair was in general a real time saver. Women with long hair might spend several hours a week brushing, washing, drying, braiding and arranging their elaborate hairstyles, but marcelling short bob only took a few minutes every day. (1)

SOURCES:

(1) The 1920s (American Popular Culture Through History) by Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber, 2004

1920’s Women’s Hairstyles Pt. 1

Although popular conceptions of the Jazz Age suggest that every fashionable woman bobbed her hair during the 1920s, some women did keep their hair long. Long-haired women did not customarily wear their hair loose; rather, they pulled it back to the nape of the neck and wound it into a smooth chignon or knot. (1)

Jobyna Ralston, 1920s
Jobyna Ralston, 1920s
Aileen Pringle hairstyle, 1924
Aileen Pringle hairstyle, 1924

Another fashionable style at the beginning of the decade involved coiling long hair into two buns that rested one behind each ear. This hairstyle, known alternately as “earphones” or “cootie garages”, fell out of favour by the mid-1920s. (1)

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Natacha Rambova, fashion and movie set designer. Cootie Garage hairstyle with headwrap.

However, more enduring was the ubiquitous bob, cut short and straight at about chin-length, which dancing sensation Irene Castle introduced in the United States shortly before World War I. When other celebrities such as French fashion designer Coco Chanel and Hollywood star Louise Brooks also adopted this short, blunt haircut, women across the United States followed suit. (1)

Irene Castle by Edward Thayer Monroe
Irene Castle by Edward Thayer Monroe
Louise Brooks, 1920s
Louise Brooks, 1920s

Many women actually had their hair cut by men’s barbers, since some hairdressers, fearing that short, simple hairstyles would put them out of business, simply refused to shear off women’s long tresses. The bob could be worn with or without bangs, and was often accompanied by side curls plastered to the cheek or by a single curl dramatically set in the middle of the forehead. (1)

 Arlette Marchal, 1920s
Arlette Marchal, 1920s

Around 1923, the standard bob haircut began to evolve into different, even shorter styles. The shingle haircut, or “boyish bob”, tapered to a point at the nape of the wearer’s neck and often featured waves or short curls on the sides. (1)

Mary Astor, 1920's
Mary Astor, 1920’s

The even more radical “Eton crop”, which was trimmed above the wearer’s ears and shaved in the back, appeared in 1926. These streamlined haircuts were perfect for tucking underneath a stylish cloche hat so nothing but perhaps a side curl or two was visible. While young women in their late teens and twenties were the first to engage in the bobbed hair craze, by the end of the decade women of all ages were wearing the convenient and versatile bob. (1)

Eton Crop hairstyle, 1920s
Eton Crop hairstyle, 1920s

“Marcel waves”, as they became known, were a tremendously popular feature of the bobbed haircut. In 1872, Marcel Grateau, a French hairstylist, invented a method by which hair could be curled or waved with the use of curling iron heated on a stove until it was nearly scorching hot. By the 1920s, more convenient electric curling irons and crimpers became available, making it even easier for women to “marcel” their hair into deep horizontal waves that were then fashionable. (1)

This picture shows a step-by-step tutorial on how to make the Marcel Waves, 1920s
This picture shows a step-by-step tutorial on how to make the Marcel Waves, 1920s

SOURCES:

(1) The 1920s (American Popular Culture Through History) by Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber, 2004

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