Socio economic changes that occurred during
the First World War 1914-18 and became accepted, changed the role of women in a way that no amount of campaigning by a few
liberated ladies could have.
The costume history image in our minds of a woman of the 'Roaring
Twenties' is actually likely to be the image of a flapper. Flappers did not truly emerge until 1926. Flapper fashion
embraced all things and styles modern. A fashionable flapper had short sleek hair, a shorter than average shapeless shift
dress, a chest as flat as a board, wore make up and applied it in public, smoked with a long cigarette holder, exposed her
limbs and epitomized the spirit of a reckless rebel who danced the nights away in the Jazz Age.
High fashion until the twenties had been for the richer women
of society. But because construction of the flapper's dress was less complicated than earlier fashions, women were much more
successful at home dressmaking a flapper dress which was a straight shift. It was easier to produce up to date plain flapper
fashions quickly using flapper fashion Butterick dress patterns.
The flapper fashion style flourished amid the middle classes
negating differences between themselves and the truly rich, but continuing to highlight some differences with the really poor.
The really rich still continued to wear beautifully embellished silk garments for evening, but the masses reveled in their
new found sophistication of very fashionable flapper clothes.
After the war when women's dress became more mannish, each year
seemed to get more severe in line which almost emphasized the feminine woman beneath. Female clothes became looser and more
shapeless in fit. The bust was suppressed, the waist disappeared, the shoulders became broader and hair shorter and shorter.
Narrow boyish hips were preferred. The silhouette emphasized a flattened chest and womanly curves were eliminated as the line
became more simplified.
The slender flat chested tanned body and face of a 15 year old
became the desired silhouette of the bright young things of the 1920s. Health and beauty clubs helped women refine their silhouettes
whilst getting fitter and healthier.
It was a difficult time for the former matrons of Edwardian society, the previous
leaders of fashion whose style of dressing became as passť as their rounded figures and older faces. More youthful women who
could party all night and carry the boyish fashions well were all the rage.
Although the 1950s are thought of as the first time of the teenager
and the 1960s as the era when the young first led fashion there is no doubt that the possession of a youthful body was a prerequisite
of twenties fashion.
The arms were bared not only for evening, but also for day and
the legs were covered in beige stockings visible to the knee which gave an overall more naked look than ever before. Feet,
ankles and calves formerly hidden and encased in black stocking were suddenly on show. Young women always wore black wool
stockings until the end of World War I.
By the 1920s stockings with patterns were hot fashion items.
Embroidery snaked around the ankles and up to the knees. Flesh and soft pastel colors were popular and they were made in either
silk or artificial silk known as art silk later called rayon. The rayon stockings were very shiny so girls powdered their
legs to dull them before venturing out.
The great fashion designer Gabrielle Chanel 1883-1971
self styled herself to be known as Coco Chanel. By 1920 the silhouette of her clothing designs had come to be the epitome
of 20's style. The work of other famous designers beside hers seemed old fashioned and outmoded belonging as they did to the
pre World War One era.
She promoted the styles we associate with flappers. She worked
in neutral tones of beige, sand, cream, navy and black in soft fluid jersey fabrics cut with simple shapes that did not require
corsetry or waist definition. They were clothes made for comfort and ease in wear making them revolutionary and quite modern.