Good morning! The amount of pictures I post showing the gorgeous fashions of the 1920’s is never enough!
Cultural critics were not incensed about ladies’ suits, which had hung in ladies closets since the fin de siècle and had loose jackets and full skirts in the Après Guerre. As designers made slimmer, straighter suits in the mid-1920’s, many critics found their tailoring and cut masculine and, when accessorized with shirts and bow ties, deviant. Some critics, like Eugene Marsan, who called suits “virile”, were being humorous. Marsan surely recognised that no one could fail to notice the gender of women wearing suits. Fashion reporters offered more serious commentary. They insisted that the suits were versatile and made from durable fabrics, hence practical, but also that they were “pretty” and “chic” – hence, feminine. They reported that well-cut suits in sturdy dark-hued woolens were the preferred city costume for spring and autumn walks in the park, shopping, and visiting. Society and women’s magazines alike recommended “morning suits” for travel on trains. The color range extended from black in 1918, to black with white or beige trim in the early 1920’s, to gray in the 1930’s. Long before that, a gray suit was de rigueur in the provinces. (1)
By the mid-1920’s, some fashion arbiters simply recorded without further comment that many ladies were wearing “mannish cut” suits. Those who remarked on the emancipatory implications of the suit insisted on its “coquetry” and reminded readers that coquetry in costume “is one of the most exquisite feminine qualities”. (1)
During the 1920’s, women’s suits contained many of the same features found in men’s clothing styles. Women’s suits were practical but elegant, usually made of wool, with straight, hip-length suit jackets worn over straight matching skirts, and typically came in the standard colours of navy, brown, tan, or black, possibly with white pinstripes. Jackets might be single-or double-breasted, or “edge-toedge”, which meant that the two front panels just barely came together and were fastened with a single metal link button (like a cufflink).
Coco Chanel introduced what has since become known as the classic Chanel suit: a boxy jacket trimmed with contrasting ribbon or braid, worn over a straight skirt. The jacket was lined in the same material as the matching blouse, and the jacket and skirt were made of soft jersey or tweed. (2)
The neckline was collarless, and the fabric around the neckline and front of the jacket was trimmed discreetly with narrow braiding or ribbon. The jacket occasionally had buttons or fasteners but was worn open. Tailored blouses often were worn untucked with a fabric or leather belt at the hipline. The Chanel suit was appropriately accessorized with matching scarf or some expensive jewellery. Women’s suits were considered appropriate attire for work or for travel, but not typically for entertaining. (2)
(1) Dressing Modern Frenchwomen: Marketing Haute Couture, 1919-1939
(2) The 1920’s by Kathleen Morgan Drowne, Patrick Huber http://www.fashionencyclopedia.com/fashion_costume_culture/Modern-World-1919-1929/Tailored-Suit-for-Women.html#ixzz3cTI8A73c
1920’s MOTORING COAT
Motoring was still an activity for the elite, however the privations of driving in a vehicle that broke down frequently and provided no retreat from the elements, meant clothing had to be functional and warm.
By 1920, the modern women made her appearance on the American road. The cumbersome picture hats and veils of the early motoring period had given way to snug-fitting cloches, and tailored motoring coats replaced heavy dusters. Whether a sedate housewife or a high-spirited jazz baby, the women motorist of the twenties announced with her very clothing that she took mobility for granted. (1)
Women continued to favour male motoring dress and this also crossed over into high fashion. Fur was still popular, with a fashion correspondent noting that the Motor Show in Olympia was transforming shop windows around London. She recommended the latest craze for fur-lined coats in tweed, wool velour and cheviot. Musquash and nutria were also being chosen by women motorists, while in Knightsbridge, one new store was offering women’s coats suitable for motoring made from men’s suiting cloth.
Accessories also followed the unisex trend; The Times described the arrival of neat leather caps as a fashion accessory for women in 1923. This style of sporty hat was worn in the iconic Tamara de Lempicka self portrait of 1929 in which she is driving a green Bugatti with leather cap and driving gloves – reputed to be based on an Hermès set that she had seen on the cover of the magazine Vu. As this portrait suggests, and Peter Thorold has noted, the car had become the ultimate symbol of modernity and emancipation, something that was reflected in the styling of clothes. Although no coat is visible in the de Lempicka portrait, by the late 1920’s the latest motoring coats from France were worn long, made of tweed or flannel with narrow leather belts and collars in fur or flannel. Wide raglan sleeves were popular – allowing freedom of movement – and collars could be military in style with buttons up to the neck.
In 1927, after Charles Lindbergh completed his historic transatlantic flight, the leather aviation jackets and helmets became the last trend on motoring coats, specially when riding in open automobiles.
(1) Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age By Virginia Scharff
Women’s outerwear reflected 1920’s in its entire glamour – these were luxury garments that not everyone could actually afford, however, they also became popular in different, and less expensive, fabrics and shapes.
Wrap over coats were the essential style, especially in the winter – large buttons and belts galore.
Some women’s jackets and coats also followed a more masculine and classic design adopted from previous decades.
Smart top coats with kimono sleeves either cut in one piece with the body sections or separately, and stitched into the main parts of the coat were very fashionable during the first half of the 1920’s. Sometimes low waisted pouch styled coat bodices topped slightly gathered or even frilled skirt sections. Winter coats with large shawl collars and roomy sleeves, patch or inset pockets, that buttoned high or low, were made in blanket-like materials as well as tweeds and fancier velours. (1)
Short, knee length, coats worn during the period, circa 1925-29, usually had straight, or ‘bolster’ shaped, collars, topping unnotched softly rolled reverse that buttoned on the hip line. Smart young flappers often ignored the fastenings and wrapped their coats tightly about their hips, causing the back of the coat to pouch. (1)
In the late 1920’s patterned chiffon was coming into fashion, and chiffon coats were worn over afternoon dresses. (2)
During the 1920’s, then, the idea of glamour evolved from its associations with Orientalism and the exotic into something approaching a distinctly modern, feminine style. It was a style that continued to connote artifice, luxury and sensuousness, signally particularly through the wearing of feathers and fur. (3)
Fur coats were of kolinsky, moleskin, musquash, squirrel, etc, and fur collars and cuffs were added to coats. In 1922 monkey fur was used as trimming; from 1920’s fox was the vogue, worn as a stole or for a coat collar. (2)
There was a steady demand for feather from farmed and non-endangered species such as ostrich and marabou, for use in stoles and boas. But during the 1920’s the demand for fur rose rapidly, completely eclipsing that for the feathers. By the beginning of the 1920’s, the fur craze in the United States was so frenzied that writers were comparing it to the Dutch tulip fever of the 17th century. (3)
Capes were also a very popular garment and, in the same way as coats, lighter and delicate fabrics like velvet were worn during spring and summer, and for the colder days, women would prefer heavier fabrics and fur.
These outer garments would also feature new designs influenced by the new art styles of the period. Amazing brocades, exotic, folk motifs and bold geometric patterns were beaded, embroidered, and even painted on garments.
(1) Women’s dress in the 1920’s: an outline of women’s clothing in Canada during the “roaring twenties” by Eileen Collard, 1981
(2) The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930 by Norah Waugh, 1994
(3) Glamour – women, history, feminism by Carol Dyhouse, 2010