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1920s fashion trends that defined the decade

These truly decadent trends are still relevant today...


1920s fashion© Photo: Getty Images
Orin Carlin
Content Writer
Updated: July 12, 2023
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The 1920s were defined by a culture of indulgence – think Jay Gatsby's wild parties in 4D. That quintessential ‘Roaring 20s’ celebratory spirit was all about excitement, a tantalising  novelty that arose following a burst of unprecedented economic growth. 

Technological advancements brought the radio and motion pictures to the fore, which, in turn, allowed a new assortment of models, dancers, singers and actresses to prosper and inspire.

MORE: 80s fashion for women: 6 incredible style moments we still love today

READ: 1970s fashion trends that we still love in 2023

Naturally, not everyone sustained affluent lifestyles, but those who were rich enough to partake absolutely made the most of the truly dynamic decade.

Who influenced our fashion in the 1920s?

English actress Elsie Randolph dressed in stunning eveningwear designed by Norman Hartnell.© Getty
The decade was defined by unabashed decadence

The flapper look was all the rage among young women across Europe and the USA, consisting of 'short' skirts – hems that rested at knee level – bob hairstyles and slinky slip-style dresses. Across the pond, growing contempt for Prohibition meant that speakeasies (illicit drinking clubs) were rife, as were wild dance crazes such as the Charleston.

Not a Strictly fan? All you need to know is that the vigorous, energetic steps lent themselves to utterly decadent outfits, adorned with feathers, beads, fringing and sparkly embellishments – demonstrated perfectly by dancer Josephine Baker's glitzy costumes.

READ: The fashion trends from the 1960s that we still adore today

RELATED: Marilyn Monroe: 7 of the actress' most striking portraits

On the screen, actresses Greta Garbo and Anna May Wong were known for their truly showstopping accessories, but when it came to the emergence of the androgynous look, aka "La Garçonne", Louise Brooks paved the way. With her ultra-shiny boyish crop and sharply tailored suits, she had a huge impact on the fashion of the age.

Wanting to give your current wardrobe a 1920s-themed overhaul? Keep scrolling…

How we chose the pieces 

After combing through the decade's photo archive, we pulled out the trends that are still utterly relevant today. We then scoured the internet's top fashion sites, taking into account style, price point and quality, to help you infuse your wardrobe with a splash of Roaring 20s glamour.

1920s fashion trends

Flapper dresses 

The flapper dress symbolised rebellion among young women © Getty
The flapper dress symbolised rebellion among young women

One of the decade's most defining trends, the flapper dress represented a pivotal moment in the history of womenswear. Steeped in revolutionary spirit, the style championed a much shorter hemline than was previously customary. Named after the subculture of Western women who adopted the look, the silhouette was straight and loose with a drop waist. The length sat around the knee – considered scandalous back then. The dress shape was worlds apart from the Gibson Girl's cinched-in waist, the precursory feminine ideal created by American artist Charles Dana Gibson.

Sequin embellishment mini woven dress - Karen Millen
Sequin embellishment mini woven dress - Karen Millen

This round-neck mini by Karen Millen perfectly captures the spirit of the age. Infused with embellishment, the piece is crying out to grace the dance floor. Featuring the holy trinity: sequins, fringing and diamante, it feels suitably high octane for a lavish affair. The flattering yellow gold hue feels flattering, and would look amazing alongside glitzy platforms and a dash of hedonism.

Feathers

Marion Davies wears a wide-brimmed hat and feathered shawl© Getty
Playful plumes were all the rage

Because of their enchanting, kinetic energy, feathers added a sense of drama to any outfit and were often incorporated into the costumes of dancers. Feather-lined headdresses, boas and fans influenced the showgirl aesthetic, and these accessories provided performances with an extra sense of flow and movement.

Laurie convertible feather-trimmed floral-jacquard mini dress - Leslie Amon
Laurie convertible feather-trimmed floral-jacquard mini dress - Leslie Amon

Featuring a stylish floral jacquard, Leslie Amon's Laurie design is achingly cool. The vibrance of the Tiffany blue hue alongside the form-fitting silhouette gives a mermaid-esque glamour, and the ostrich feathers add a playful, frothy touch.

Beading

Anita Garvin in a costume constructed from strings of pearls © Getty
Beading added a sense of unapologetic glamour

Rich embellishment gave clothing a sense of decadence, worlds apart from the austere, practical garments worn by women during the First World War. Utilitarianism was replaced by lustrous fripperies that caught the light. Dresses were embedded with meticulous beading and encrusted evening bags featuring Art Deco designs were the must-have accessory.

Brooks Bag - Shrimps
Brooks Bag - Shrimps

Featuring clear spherical beads, Shrimps' Brooks bag has a certain geometric charm. The colourless effect lends itself to working with various different colour palettes, and the piece would pair beautifully alongside clear mules if you fancy a matching moment.

Pearl necklaces 

Louise Brooks holds a long string of pearls © Eugene Robert Richee
Pearls were a key 1920s jewellery trend

Pearls took on a new meaning in the 1920s. Having previously represented regal opulence, the gemstone underwent a shift, becoming synonymous with liberation when long strings were adopted by flapper girls. Offering outfits a luxurious cream touch, the pearl landscape also changed the following decade with the birth of cultured varieties.

Nyala gold-tone pearl choker - Cult Gaia
Nyala gold-tone pearl choker - Cult Gaia

Cult Gaia's Nyala necklace features three strands of freshwater pearls set on delicate gold-tone chains. Presenting a contemporary alternative to the long strings of the 1920s, the choker style feels fresh and elegant, and would look excellent teamed with a strapless form-fitting midi for maximum impact.

Sequins

Cleo Mayfield rocks a super glitzy dress in 1927 © Getty
Sequins are a contemporary party classic

Sequins experienced something of a revival in the 1920s and their light-reflecting quality made them perfect for dazzling party outfits. Howard Carter's 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun sparked a newfound cultural obsession with Egypt, and the movement, known as Egyptomania, lent itself to gilded glitz. Sequins flourished in popularity, and we are still hypnotised by their lustre today.

Long sequin dress - Zara
Long sequin dress - Zara

Comprised of a simple slip mini with a glistening maxi overlay, this piece by Zara feels ethereal and elegant. The semi-sheer effect offers a hint of skin, as does cut-out sleeve detailing. Style with holographic platforms and drop-down earrings for dose of major shine.

Little black dresses

Coco Chanel's famous little black dress being sold at auction © Getty
Coco Chanel's famous little black dress being sold at auction

The wardrobe staple that we now know and love is credited to Coco Chanel by fashion historians. In 1926, Vogue published her sketch of a simple black dress, predicting that it would go on to become "a sort of uniform for all women of taste". Heralded for its versatility, the little black dress can be styled up or down depending on the occasion. The classic piece epitomises understated evening elegance, and no woman's wardrobe is complete without one.

Alycia ruffled poplin-trimmed popcorn organic cotton-jersey mini dress - Mara Hoffman
Alycia ruffled poplin-trimmed popcorn organic cotton-jersey mini dress - Mara Hoffman

Rich in 1980s flair, Mara Hoffman's Alycia dress features a statement cool-girl ruffle and a flattering textured finish. Crafted from 100% organic cotton-poplin, the design feels interesting and poses a welcome alternative to a classic slip shape. Style yours with a voluminous blow dry and scarlet lips for a sense of timeless chic.

Cloche hats 

A model wearing a cloche hat © Getty
Hats were often styled with a statement brooch

Boyish hairstyles were all the rage for women, and millinery followed suit. Created by Caroline Reboux in 1908, the cloche is a fitted, bell-shaped hat, often positioned low on the forehead. Cloches were often crafted from felt and by the end of the decade, it became fashionable to turn the brims upwards.

Vacation raffia cloche hat - Erdem
Vacation raffia cloche hat - Erdem

Crafted in Italy, this Erdem sunhat has the classic cloche silhouette, presenting a stylish alternative to the wide-brim. With a grosgrain band and drawstring fastening, style yours with a classic black one-piece swimsuit and padded slides.

Mary Janes

Louise Brooks wearing Mary Janes © Getty
The shoe style was popular among flappers

With their childlike charm, Mary Janes were adored by flappers. The style features one or more straps across the instep, often finished with a glitzy button or buckle for added interest. The practical design was ideal for dancing the night away, and have come back into fashion this season thanks to the likes of Dior, Versace and Prada.

Stuart MJ 90 Pumps - Stuart Weitzman
Stuart MJ 90 Pumps - Stuart Weitzman

This playful pair by Stuart Weitzman feature a functional 60mm block heel and a subtle chrome buckle. With a glossy sequin finish, they would work perfectly alongside semi-sheer patterned tights and mini shift dress for a 1960s edge.

Hello! Fashion shares the style icons who changed the face of 1920s fashion:

Josephine Baker

1920s Fashion Josephine Baker© Getty
Dancer Josephine Baker led an incredible life but was renowned for her quirky, flamboyant costumes

Clara Bow

1920s Fashion Clara Bow© Getty
Actress Clara Bow successfully navigated the transition from silent films to the 'talkies', photographed by Eugene Robert Richee

Carole Lombard

1920s Fashion Carole Lombard© Getty
Photographed in 1929 by Edwin Bower Hesser, actress Carole Lombard sports tight finger waves

Jean Harlow

1920s Fashion Jean Harlow© Getty
Actress Jean Harlow sports a collared shirt and high-waisted wide-leg trousers

Coco Chanel

1920s Fashion Coco Chanel© Getty
Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel, here photographed by George Rinhart, first introduced her tweed suit in 1923

Marlene Dietrich 

1920s Fashion Marlene Dietrich Look© Getty
German actress Marlene Dietrich was heralded for her roles in silent films and the following decade was known for rocking tuxedos

Greta Garbo

1920s Fashion Greta Garbo© Getty
Swedish Actress Greta Garbo poses in leather gloves and a sleek jacket on the set of her 1927 film Love

Mae West

1920s Fashion Mae West© Getty
Known for her platinum curls and forward-thinking playwriting, Mae West's effervescent spirit defined the decade

Anna May Wong

1920s Fashion Anna May Wong© Getty
Anna May Wong, considered the first Chinese-American Hollywood movie star, is the ultimate cropped bangs hair inspiration

Louise Brooks

1920s Fashion Louise Brooks© Getty
Actress Louise Brooks' glossy blunt 1920s bob will go down in hairstory

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