The key to the 1920’s silhouette

May 9, 2015

Thanks to the Suffragette’s woman not only won the right to vote (1902 in NSW) but also were freed from the heavily restrictive corsetry of past decades. Hence the 1920’s saw a much simpler shape, free from excessive amounts of material and extravagant skirt lengths, more suited to a time of leisure and comfort. Oddly enough though, as with most fashion trends, this new style was taken to the extreme and we found ourselves back in corsets designed to flatten the figure to achieve an extreme boyish look.

The opening credits from the film ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ always makes me smile as it follows Julie Andrew’s character as she updates her look only to find that for some strange reason her long string of beads keep bouncing from side to side while every other woman’s beads stay dead straight, she then realises she has to try the ‘new bra’ which flattens everything and finally her beads stay dead centre, I love this sequence, it demonstrates the massive style changes women went through during the 20’s

Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) Intro by zocomoro

To achieve the 1920’s silhouette one needs to be prepared to put aside the fitted styles we are used to now.  Many of the patterns from the 1920’s are basically straight up and down, there is very little and in many cases no use of darts etc to give shape to garments. Many dresses of this time were made to fit over the widest part of the body, usually the hips hence the the ‘dropped waist’ style was born.

Checkout Mrs Depew’s Etsy store and the range of wonderful 1920’s patterns she has available for ‘at home’ drafting (don’t panic, pattern drafting is far easier than you may think!).  Her 1920’s Flapper Kimono Sleeve Dress – this is a perfect example of the clean lines and subtle style of the era… and one I think I might have to make!

The other bonus of this style is that it limited the need to use complicated closures. Even though a zipper style closure had been invented in 1851 it was not as we know them today and it wasn’t until the late 30’s that the fashion industry decided to give them a try, therefore as closures prior to the late 30’s were generally a combination of buttons & hooks & eyes the emphasis was on keeping them simple e.g. along a small side seam split or a smallish keyhole at the centre back rather than a full back opening, so you had tone able to slip the dress on & off easily.

The 20’s was all about straight clean lines & showing off the arms & décolletage (not cleavage, 2 very different things!) along with the back & the legs from the knees down. So enjoy the 20’s, don’t worry about curves & cleavage, enjoy showing something else off… I dare you!

Next post… Hair and makeup for the perfect 1920’s look


  1. Reply

    Jessica Cangiano

    Excellent point regarding the differentiation between showing cleavage and decolletage. I don’t personally tend to feel comfortable with much cleavage on display, but I adore showcasing my decolletage, as I like my collarbones a fair bit.

    This was a lovely read, Wendy, thank you.

    Many sincere thanks as well for taking part in my latest blog giveaway and for your wonderfully nice comment on this week’s vintage outfit post. It’s always a sincere pleasure to hear from you!

    Have an awesome weekend,
    ♥ Jessica

    1. Reply

      Miss Wendy

      Thank you again Jessica, and yes, I couldn’t agree more there is something far more alluring in the hint of a beautifully accentuated collar bone! I am always drawn to a boat-neck (so popular in the 50’s) or a wide but high set ‘V’ neckline (and hello the 40’s)!

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