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The Origin & History of the 1920s Flapper Dress

Updated on November 18, 2011

Dresses - 1928

Original Beaded Flapper Dress
Original Beaded Flapper Dress
McCall Quarterly (Fall 1928)
McCall Quarterly (Fall 1928)
The look of the 1920s
The look of the 1920s
As the 1920s progressed, hemlines became shorter.
As the 1920s progressed, hemlines became shorter.

The Flapper Dress of the 1920s

The flapper dress is one of the most recognizable garments of the Roaring Twenties.

The loose waist, the slim fit, the shortened hem, and simple construction are all details of women's 1920s fashions. Of course the 1920s weren't just flappers, speakeasies & gangsters, although these are what the decade is remembered for.

Fashion is Always Evolving - The Evolution of the Flapper Dress

The fashions of the 1920s exist in stark contrast to the Victorian era fashions. The Victorian era was marked by women dressed in petticoats, corsets, and crinolines.

These torture devices accentuated women's breasts and butt, while effectively making her immobile through use of fashion accessories that smashed her internal organs, cut off circulation to her legs, and literally decreased the function of her lungs.

The flapper dress, and the dresses of the 1920s in general, were designed for beauty, movement and comfort. They "let go of the waistline" as famous designer Coco Chanel said.

The first half of the 1920s, women's dresses still reflected the "old fashioned" dresses of the previous generations, they were billowy, frumpy, and shapeless. Not very attractive at all.

They were the dresses you'd imagine your grandmother would wear (sorry grandma).

By 1925 women's dresses were evolving under the watchful eyes of fashion design legends like Paul Poriet, Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Jean Patou, and Jeanne Lanvin. (more on each of these designers below).

The developing fashions were primarily French, Paris was, and arguably still is, the fashion hub of the Universe.

As the styles of 1920s fashions evolved the dresses became more "streamlined" the excess materials were stripped away, the hemline rose to the woman's knee (how indecent!!).

Fashion & Society

1920s fashions reflected the society from which they arose. This was a time of rapid change, rapid movement, and rapid development inn many aspects of society.

Technology made it possible to circumnavigate the globe in a matter of a day or two via airplane, whereas 10 years earlier it would take a month.

Automobiles allowed young people to travel long distances in relatively short amounts of time, making the cities accessible to young folks who wanted to enjoy the liquor of the illegal speakeasies and the sounds of Jazz.

The Art Deco movement inspired and influenced the fashion. The geometric shapes, the bright colors, and stark contrasts began being reproduced in the dresses of Paris and New York.

All of this social movement reflected the progress that inspired the entire generation, people believed in "manifesting destiny" and that the good times would never end.

Cast your vote...

What is the most famous aspect of 1920s fashion?

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    • jboland profile image

      jboland 6 years ago from Chico, CA

      Thanks for checking it out. Yes, it's kind of a hobby site that ran wild....

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Took a look at your 1920's fashion and music website. Looks like you are truly intrigued with that era. :))

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      The flapper dress was such a fascinating garment... especially when one considers its significance, and how different it was from the predominant styles from the previous decade. Loved the refresher on its origins!

    • jboland profile image

      jboland 6 years ago from Chico, CA

      Thank you both for the comments, I realize this hub is woefully incomplete. I am in the process of developing it.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Though a "glimpse of stocking could be quite shocking," the styles of the 1920's offered women more freedom than ever before. The Flapper changed the very concept of fashion for the rest of the century.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This was a fun hub to read. My mother used to say that if one lives long enough most all styles seem to be repeated again in time. Guess there is just so much that can be done to alter clothes. Men's ties are a perfect example. Thin to wide to medium and then over again. Solid, stripes, assorted patterns, and many ways to make a tie look different and modern? And then fabrics...

      A few fashions deserve to die and stay buried! Haha!