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Flapper Dress History – 1920s

July 12, 2016

The flapper dress is an iconic and enduring symbol of a new and exciting period in fashion The roaring 20s were also famously known as the age of the flappers. This generation was described as reckless yet bright young people that excitedly and shamelessly,  smoked, drank and danced the decade away . Fashion changed throughout this period turning away from the suffocating corsets and enhancements on a fuller figure worn at the turn of the century.

Flapper Dresses 1920s

The silhouette in the 1920s was known as ‘la garçonne’, which illustrated the boyish and youthful figure that young ladies desired. With this new silhouette in mind, fashions changed to incorporate women’s wishes to hide their curves and showcase a svelte figure yet still exude a glamorous and flirtatious attitude. Flapper dresses were an iconic style of dress crafted in the 1920s and has become a notable look in vintage trends. There are several elements to its history and characteristics, highlighted below.

Flapper dress beginnings

In the mid 1920s waistlines dramatically dropped to below the hip and a few years after they had completely disappeared. During this time, hemlines started to creep up to above the knee but by the end of the century, hemlines crashed alongside Wall Street and the fashion industry returned to a glamorous and curvaceous silhouette in the early 1930s.

Flapper dress characteristics

There are specific elements that highlight the beauty of an original vintage flapper dress. These include:

  • Uneven split hems
  • Handkerchief points that are longer at the back
  • Art Deco and Egyptian inspired design
  • Seam decoration
  • Diagonal lines
  • Asymmetric trimmed necklines
  • Low cut necks and backs with thin straps
  • Pleated panels
  • Narrow trailing scarves

Flapper dresses were generally straight, sleeveless and loose providing a revitalised body confidence for women. The light fabrics gave this generation a new and provocative look for ladies that were historically reserved and covered up. For an element of glamour, dresses were adorned with beading and decorated with abstract design. This trend showcased the beauty of its intricate creation and the glistening sequins and embellishment added a touch of elegance.

flapper dress 1920s

flapper dress 1920s

Famous flapper dresses 1920s

As with many vintage eras, there is always a showcase of iconic designs that were created by fashion designers of that time. The well-known designer Edward Molyneux created one of the most fabulous flapper dresses in 1925. This dress symbolised the glamour yet minimalism of this statement trend. Its strong motifs and perfect cut gave it an edge over other designers. One of his statement dresses displayed beautiful orange silk paired with gold and silver embroidery, a stunning example of this famous trend.

The Flapper Dress in 1920s Evening-wear

Many people characterise 1920s flapper dresses with beautiful evening-wear. It was widely worn in social situations and raised the profile of extravagant party fashion. There were many variations with different motifs, luxurious beading and fabulous embellishments. Designer Edward Molyneux created many elegant evening-wear flapper dress examples that were a popular choice in elite social circles. His creations incorporated crystal beading and unconventional surface design. He also experimented with other luscious embellishments including ostrich feathers and buttons that resembled cigarette butts or lipsticks.

Vintage flapper dresses

This trend and style of dress is a popular choice for vintage collectors. Vintage flapper dresses are becoming more difficult to find and are considered an investment fashion piece. There are also many reworked and reproduction flapper style dresses available. This iconic style has also become a fancy dress must have when throwing a vintage fashion themed party.


Tassels, sequins and dropped hems have created a popular and distinguished look that represented a change in fashion and attitudes to femininity during the early 20th century.


Read more on 1920s fashions



Violet Romer

Silk satin beaded 1920s flapper dress