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Womens 1920s vintage clothing

August 11, 2015

The 1920s were an exciting time for women in Britain. In 1918, property-owning women over 30 had been given the right to vote, and by 1928 this was extended to all women over 21.War work in the First World War of 1914-1918 outside of the home had given many women a taste of independence. Womens 1920s vintage clothing reflects that sense of change.

1920s clothing for Women

Although many gladly went back into the home to become full-time wives and mothers again, many didn’t, and as well as all this, many middle and upper class households lost their servants after the war.

The sartorial freedom of womens 1920s vintage clothing

All these changes meant different fashions for womens 1920s vintage clothing were inevitable. The frills and flounces of late Victorian and Edwardian style seemed out-of-place for a nation mourning its dead and still suffering fabric shortages.


The elaborate corsetry that underpinned the old silhouette was impractical for a working woman, and besides, with no servant to cinch you in, how would you even put it on? Likewise hairstyles – heavy coils of hair required hours of leisure to wash, dry, and style, and the help of a servant was handy too


So the freedom of the new, shockingly short bob was literal as well as symbolic. With a bob, you just wash and go. Add a dash of lipstick – cosmetics were just getting going as big business, but still had a frisson of sin, as in the past, only prostitutes wore visible makeup. And finally, light up a cigarette as you walk out the door – many women smoked at home, but wouldn’t dare to smoke on the street. Only a modern, emancipated woman defied social norms like this.

Sequined womens 1920s vintage clothing

The flappers of the 1920s weren’t the first to wear trousers or enjoy uncorseted dresses; dress reformers had been campaigning for less restrictive, more hygienic clothing for women for about two decades by then.


However, with these modern girls it really stuck. Not only was womens 1920s vintage clothing worn without corsets, the dresses were much shorter than those of a few years ago – mid calf for day and sometimes even knee-length for evening, compared with ankle length in the 1910s. Day dresses could be made in fluid, casual looking jersey, pioneered by Chanel, and evening dresses encrusted with the newly fashionable sequins.


After King Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 1922 with gold metal sequins sewn all over his clothes, women looked for the same flash and sparkle as the Royal Egyptian. They had to content themselves with plain metal for the most part and not gold though – which was still very heavy! The most daring of these dresses were also sleeveless too, and they wore them for the new, energetic way of dancing to new, strange jazz music.

Rebellious womens 1920s vintage clothing

Fashionable women were also quite fond of opium in some circles, and several also sported tattoos. George V, then on the throne, had a tattoo or two, but it was quite naughty for ladies. So, smoking, drinking, crazy dancing, taking drugs, wearing sparkly skimpy clothing and putting on too much makeup – the original owners of your womens 1920s vintage clothing may have been more outrageous than any teenager today!



Josephine Baker dances the Charlston in the 20s.
Society ladies sometimes had hidden tattoos (although this is a circus performer of the period).

1920s actress Clara Bow, modelling a bobbed hairstyle and lipstick.

1920s woman, smoking and wearing trousers.

A 1920s evening dress.