Tag Archives: 20s fancy dress

How to recreate a 1920s look – part two: evening wear

Following on from my guide to Twenties day wear, here’s part two – how to dress for the evening.

I’ve written about my slight obsession with Otto Dix’s paintings before, but I have to return to his magnificent ‘Grossstadt’. The main scene, set in a Berlin club, shows a couple dancing along to a jazz band with several onlookers smoking and drinking. The woman about to step onto the dance floor, with her orange-yellow dress, slick Easton crop hair cut, pink feather fan in hand, to me perfectly embodies Twenties decadence and what Twenties evening dress is about: glamour, exoticism, magic, enchantment, excitement.

Against contemporary stereotypes, Twenties evening dresses weren’t short, certainly not above knee-length, and full-length gowns remained popular throughout the decade. Monochrome dresses in black and white, creme or  pastel tones were often worn with exquisite art deco shawls in geometrical or oriental prints.

Just as with daywear, the silhouette was boyish and dresses – always sleeveless – were straight up and down or cut to a drop-waist. Cape or cut out back details were very en vogue as were luxurious fabrics such as silk and fur.

Scalloped seams and heavy embellishments using embroidery and pearl details became popular on dresses as the decade progressed – leading up to the fringe detailing that we now associate with a typical flapper dress.

Similar to the daytime look, hair would be cropped in a short bob or Eaton cut and worn straight or set in Marcel or finger waves. Alternatively small curls would be piled up tight on the head. Tiara-esque silver headbands or elaborate crown-like head pieces were popular, often decorated with pearls and feathers.

For accessories women wore pearls or silver jewellery, plume fans were popular too.

To recreate the look:
If you’re based in London, do head to the Vintage Emporium just off Brick Lane for the most incredible Twenties vintage dresses and accessories. Online shop Dorothea’s Closet Vintage also stocks incredible Twenties vintage, even if you can’t afford it, get inspired by her stock. Again, check out Etsy, which harbours incredible treasures such as this emerald green Twenties gem (it’s nearly £600…).

Don’t be put up off if you can’t afford to buy any Twenties vintage – just be creative, improvise, make your own: a simple white, sleeveless, ankle-length dress dressed up with a stole and a homamade feather fan will work wonders.

How to recreate a 1920s look – part one: day wear

I have to admit I’m rather disappointed that so many Twenties or Prohibition events I go to are full of people dressed in cheap joke shop flapper costumes, paper mache gangster hats and such voluminous feather head pieces they look more Pocahontas than Clara Bow. I’m not quite sure where this mis-representation of Twenties fashion comes from but I guess with Boardwalk Empire (which I love by the way) propelling the look into the mainstream, things are only set to get worse.

So here’s my guide to doing the Twenties – Part 1: Day Wear

There is a real misconception that in the Twenties dresses were ridiculously short. They were in comparison to the previous Edwardian fashion where the mere sight of a woman’s ankle was considered positively scandalous. For most of the Twenties however, hem lines were just below the knee, apart from a brief period in the mid-Twenties when some skirts and dresses came in just above the knee.

During the Twenties the preferred silhouette was boyish and straight up and down without emphasising the female shape. This made corsets redundant and women were, for the first time, able to not wear very restricting shape wear. Instead, simple, taylored dresses or a combination of skirts with matching blouses or knitted tops – often in a drop-waist cut – were worn during the day. The colour palette was simple: black, grey, navy, white and  art deco prints inspired by geometrical shapes or flower patterns were in fashion.

Dressing during the Twenties was relatively formal compared to today’s standard and women would wear hats whenever leaving the house, as well as a matching coat and gloves during winter. Cloche hats and turbans were very popular, so were elaborate fur stoles and coat trimmings.

Shoes were kept simple and most women would wear brown or black T-bars or low-heels.

Hair was kept fairly simple during the day with many women opting for the easy to maintain bob cut, revolutionary for its time. Otherwise women would set their hair in finger or Marcel waves or would have tight curls that would peep out below their hats.

Make-up was strong, even during the day, with visibly painted on, thin eye brows, black kohled eyes and deep red lips. During the day jewellery and accessories would be kept to a minimum and women would rarely wear any accessories at all apart from the popular string of white pearls or a simple clutch bag.

Recreating the Twenties look with vintage is do-able but good condition clothing is both expensive and hard to find. A good starting point is Etsy.com.
These online vintage shops also all stock Twenties fashion:

Dorothea’s Vintage Fashion
Posh Girl Vintage
Past Perfect Vintage

It’s far cheaper however to recreate the Twenties style with highstreet or reproduction clothing. Clarks for example do a great range of T-bar shoes, Heyday Vintage has some fantastic art deco inspired blouses (pictured) and The Vintage Dressmaker offers a collection of bespoke Twenties day dresses.

Next time: evening wear