As women’s role in society changed in the 1920’s so too did the style of clothing. Younger women started to wear shorter skirt lengths and embraced styles that allowed more freedom of movement. The 20’s were a time where new music and dance required a fashion style that allowed for one to move in a variety of ranges. This is also the time when the flapper style came to become popular. The flapper style is epitomized by a low waistline that was commonly black or fringed. These dresses were typically a lot flashier than past styles. The head wear of choice was bucket hats and they wore low-heeled shoes on their feet. The flapper style was a rebellious style against what was deemed proper behavior for women. This is also when the short bob haircut became popular for young women. (Kass, 8)
The Roaring 20’s saw a nation finally through with the recessions of war and emerging as an economic super-power. People celebrated the hard won peace of the first World War with flashy styles and comparatively liberal clothing. Gone were the conservative styles of the 1910’s. The starkest change came about in the silhouettes of clothing. Women’s clothing began to feature flat chests and low waists. Men’s suits began to be fuller and looser when worn. Corsets were completely abandoned and separate outfits for women were worn based on the occasion. While tailored suits were worn for everyday wear, more comfortable and loose-fitting clothes were worn for leisure activities. (Pendergast, 727)
The Clothing of the 1920’s
Robert Fransom (above) is one of the best examples of candid photography. By having pictures like this instead of staged sit-down formal photos, it becomes easier to see what people were wearing in their leisure time. In Robert’s case, this was most likely early morning ware in which he was photographed, showcasing a very light fabric to match the weather.
While it appears that not much has changed in men’s fashion, the slack suit that was in style during the 20’s had a lot more breathing room. Almost in contrast to the material conserving style of the 1910’s, the 20’s had much more fabric to them providing a loose, sometimes baggy looking appearance to them. The Mahwah resident Oscar Fransom (pictured above) is wearing this style with sleeves that hang from his wrists and pants that hang very low to the ground. This is the typical suit style for the era.
Another Mahwah resident displaying the suit style of the 20’s. At this time, suits were still the only fashion for men in public. There was however a bit more freedom in what style the suit had to be in. This gentlemen is wearing a material of a lighter fabric than Oscar Fransom. Prior to this, heavy fabrics were worn year round regardless of weather. In the 20’s, it became acceptable to wear lighter material in the warmer months like this gentleman pictured above. Another change was the switch to collars that were attached to the shirts worn with their suits.
Fashion for women, as usual, saw the starkest change of all. Leisure clothes like what Minnie Hagerman Fransom (pictured above) is wearing were a fashionable summer dress. There are two changes worth noting in what she is wearing. The first is the skirt length. Women were embracing more freedoms in their personal life during the 20’s. As a result, the length of the dresses decreased to embrace this cultural change. The second thing to note is the pattern. No longer is a plain base fabric the standard theme for women at all times. Leisure where embraced a number of patterns and fabrics that were as diverse as the women wearing them.