Flapper Fashion: Trends of the 1920s Women’s Clothing

Flapper fashion was a cultural explosion of the 1920s that changed the way women dressed forever. This trend was all about creating a fresh, bold look that rejected traditional styles. Clothes were shorter, looser, and more comfortable than ever before, as women abandoned the constricting corsets of the past. Flappers were the embodiment of this new style, often wearing knee-length beaded dresses, cloche hats, and new styles of shoes that allowed for more movement. In this article, we’ll explore the most iconic trends of the 1920s women’s clothing and how they influenced fashion today.

Flapper Fashion: Trends of the 1920s Women's Clothing
Flapper Fashion: Trends of the 1920s Women’s Clothing

The Beginning of the Flapper Fashion Movement

The 1920s was a decade of great social and cultural change in many parts of the world, with women’s fashion being one of the most visible markers of this transformation. Flapper fashion, which emerged during this period, represented a rebellion against traditional gender norms and a desire for freedom and self-expression.

The Social and Historical Context of the 1920s

The flapper fashion movement was influenced by a range of factors, including changing attitudes towards gender roles, the aftermath of World War I, and the rise of the consumer economy. Women had been granted the right to vote in many countries, leading to a growing sense of empowerment and independence. Additionally, the horrors of the war had caused many people to reject old-fashioned ideas about propriety and decorum, leading to a more permissive social climate.

  • The Rise of Jazz Music and Dancing:
  • One of the biggest cultural trends of the 1920s was the rise of jazz music and dancing. Jazz was seen as a symbol of freedom and rebellion, and the dance styles that emerged during this period, such as the Charleston and the Black Bottom, represented a break with traditional ballroom dancing. The flapper fashion movement was closely linked to this new style of dancing, with clothing designed to be comfortable and easy to move in.

  • The Influence of Hollywood:
  • The rise of Hollywood during this period also had a major impact on fashion. Movie stars such as Clara Bow and Louise Brooks became fashion icons, and their short haircuts and bold makeup looks were widely imitated. Hollywood also brought new styles and fabrics from Europe, leading to a greater diversity of fashion options.

The Characteristics of Flapper Fashion

The 1920s was a revolutionary decade for women’s fashion. Women began to experiment with new styles and expressions that defied the traditional conservative look of the past decade. This was the era of the “flapper” – a term that described young women who rebelled against societal norms through fashion and other forms of self-expression.


The clothing worn by flappers was short, loose, and comfortable, designed to allow movement and ease of dancing. These dresses were called “shift dresses,” and they were made of lightweight fabrics such as silk, chiffon, and sometimes even cotton. Dresses were usually sleeveless and fell above the knee. The neckline often featured a “V-shape,” which was considered daring for the time.

Flappers also popularized pants for women, known as “knickerbockers,” which were loose-fitting and comfortable for sports and leisure activities. These pants were worn with a loose-fitting blouse or sweater and could be paired with a short jacket or coat.


Accessories were essential for completing the flapper look. Long strands of beads, pearls, and necklaces were popular, often paired with feather boas and scarves. Flappers also wore headbands with feathers and beads, hats with large brims, and even turbans. Gloves were essential accessories, often worn long and made of silk or lace.


The most iconic hairstyle of the 1920s was the bob. Flappers cut their hair short, usually above the chin, and often styled it with loose waves or curls. Women also used hair accessories such as headbands and barrettes to add decoration and style to their hair.

The Rise of the Beauty Industry

The 1920s was an era of great change, with women breaking free from traditional roles and embracing new ways of expressing themselves. The beauty industry underwent a similar transformation during this time, with new products and techniques that allowed women to experiment with their appearance like never before. This section will explore how the rise of the beauty industry impacted women’s fashion, from makeup to hairstyles.

Flapper Fashion and Beauty

The flapper look was all the rage during the 1920s, with women embracing shorter hemlines, looser clothing, and bolder fashion choices. The rise of the beauty industry played a major role in the development of the flapper look, as women began to experiment with new makeup techniques and hairstyles to complement their daring fashion choices.

  • Makeup: One of the most significant changes in beauty during the 1920s was the widespread acceptance of makeup. Women began to wear more makeup than ever before, with bold lipstick shades, dark eyeshadow, and rosy blush becoming incredibly popular. Mascara was also introduced, allowing women to enhance their eyelashes and create a more dramatic look.
  • Hairstyles: The short bob hairstyle became synonymous with the flapper look during the 1920s, with women cutting their hair to shoulder-length or shorter. This new trend was made possible thanks to new hair products, such as hair lacquer and hairpins, which allowed women to create more intricate hairstyles with ease. Finger waves, sleek bobs, and pixie cuts were all popular choices.

The Impact of the Beauty Industry on Fashion

The beauty industry had a profound impact on women’s fashion during the 1920s, as new styles and trends emerged that were closely tied to new beauty products and techniques.

  1. Bolder Fashion Choices: With the rise of makeup and new hairstyles, women were emboldened to make more daring fashion choices. Shorter hemlines, looser clothing, and more androgynous looks became increasingly popular, as women sought to express themselves in new and innovative ways.
  2. Customization: As beauty products and techniques became more accessible, women began to customize their appearance in new ways. Makeup allowed for more self-expression, while hair products made it easier to experiment with different styles and looks. This emphasis on individuality was a major theme in 1920s women’s fashion.
  3. Increased Demand: The rise of the beauty industry led to an increase in demand for fashion and accessories that complemented new looks. Women needed new hats, scarves, and jewelry to go with their shorter hairstyles, while evening wear became increasingly important as makeup allowed for more dramatic looks.

The Influence of Hollywood Trends

The 1920s was an exciting decade for women’s fashion, and Hollywood played a significant role in shaping these trends. The silent film era began in the early 1920s, and as films grew in popularity, so did the influence of Hollywood on fashion. Female actresses like Clara Bow, Greta Garbo, and Louise Brooks became fashion icons, and their on-screen wardrobes influenced the styles worn by women all over the world.

The Rise of the “Flapper”

Hollywood’s influence on 1920s women’s clothing can be seen in the emergence of the “flapper” style. This look became popularized in movies like “The Flapper” and “Our Dancing Daughters,” which showcased short hemlines, sleeveless dresses, and dropped waistlines. The flapper look was all about showing off a woman’s figure and being comfortable while doing it. This style diverged from previous fashions, which emphasized modesty and covered up the body.

The flapper style was also characterized by its accessories. Long pearl necklaces, cloche hats, and cigarette holders were all popular accessories seen on these women in films. The flapper style quickly became an iconic look of the decade.

The Impact on Hairstyles

Hollywood trends of the 1920s also influenced women’s hairstyles. The bob haircut became popularized by actresses like Louise Brooks, who wore the iconic cropped hairstyle in films like “Pandora’s Box.” The bob was a dramatic change from the long hairstyles of the previous decade and was seen as a symbol of women’s liberation.

Hollywood also influenced the use of hair accessories. Headbands and feathers were popular accessories that were often worn with the bob haircut. These accessories not only added a touch of glamour to a woman’s look, they also helped hold the hair in place.

The Influence on Behavior

Hollywood not only influenced women’s clothing and hairstyles but also their behavior. Actresses in these films often portrayed independent, confident women who were unafraid to take risks. This kind of portrayal was new and exciting to audiences, who saw these women as role models. The push for equality and women’s rights was growing, and Hollywood played a part in depicting women as strong and capable.

Women began to enjoy newfound freedoms. They began smoking in public, wearing shorter hemlines, and taking control of their own lives. The 1920s was a significant period of history in which women’s clothing and behavior changed dramatically.

Popular Flapper Fashion Designers

The 1920s was a decade of dramatic change and innovation in women’s fashion. Flapper fashion designers played a significant role in shaping the distinctive look that defined an entire generation. From Coco Chanel to Jeanne Lanvin, these designers created styles that challenged traditional notions of femininity and marked a shift towards modernism and individuality.

Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel is one of the most iconic fashion designers of the 20th century. Her innovative designs, including the introduction of the little black dress, revolutionized women’s fashion in the 1920s. Her flapper-style dresses were simple yet elegant, with an emphasis on clean lines and comfortable fabrics.

Chanel’s signature designs included dropped waists, boxy jackets, and loose-fitting clothing that allowed women to move freely. She was also responsible for popularizing the use of jersey fabric in women’s clothing, which was previously reserved for men’s undergarments.

Jeanne Lanvin

Jeanne Lanvin was another prominent flapper fashion designer in the 1920s. Her designs were characterized by their delicate, feminine detailing and luxurious fabrics. Lanvin was particularly known for her intricate beadwork and embroidery, which added a touch of glamour to her garments.

Lanvin’s designs were also notable for their use of color. She favored soft pastels and bright jewel tones, which added a playful element to her designs. Her flapper-style dresses often featured ruffles or tiers that added movement and grace to the garment.

Elsa Schiaparelli

Elsa Schiaparelli was a bold, avant-garde designer who pushed the boundaries of women’s fashion in the 1920s. Her designs were unconventional and often surreal, featuring bright colors, bold prints, and unusual motifs.

One of Schiaparelli’s signature designs was the “shocking pink” dress, a vibrant fuchsia-colored garment that broke with traditional notions of femininity. She also popularized the use of zippers in women’s clothing, which had previously been considered too masculine for women’s wear.

Schiaparelli’s designs were popular with a younger, more experimental crowd who were eager to break free from traditional gender roles and social norms.

Flapper Fashion Legacy and Influence

Flapper fashion was a defining moment for women’s clothing in the 1920s, characterized by short skirts, bobbed hair, and loose-fitting dresses. The influence of this fashion trend on contemporary fashion and popular culture is undeniable. It continues to inspire designers to this day.

The Roaring Twenties

The 1920s saw a significant shift in the role of women in society. Women began to assert their independence and break free from traditional gender roles. The flapper fashion trend was a reflection of this newfound empowerment. Women began to dress in more masculine styles, rejecting the corsets and restrictive clothing of the past.

Modern-Day Flapper Fashion

Flapper fashion is still very much alive today, with designers taking inspiration from the iconic looks of the 1920s. The popularity of vintage clothing has also contributed to the resurgence of flapper fashion. Modern-day flapper outfits are not exact replicas of the past but rather updated versions that incorporate elements of the trend.

  • Art Deco-inspired geometric patterns and prints are often used in flapper dresses and accessories.
  • Headbands with feathers or crystals are a nod to the 1920s trend of wearing headwear.
  • Loose-fitting dresses and skirts with dropped waistlines are still popular today, making them a staple of flapper fashion.

Flapper Fashion in Films and Music

Flapper fashion has also left an indelible mark on popular culture, particularly in films and music. Hollywood films of the 1920s often featured actresses dressed in flapper fashion, cementing its place in history. Today, films like The Great Gatsby and TV shows like Downton Abbey have revived interest in flapper fashion.

“The Charleston” dance, which was popular in the 1920s, has also influenced music and dance to this day. Its energetic and carefree movements embody the spirit of the flapper era.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions Answers
What materials were commonly used for flapper fashion? Flapper dresses were commonly made of lightweight materials such as silk, velvet, and chiffon.
What were the popular accessories for flapper fashion? Popular accessories for flapper fashion included headbands, long strings of pearls and feather boas.
What hairstyles were popular with flapper fashion? Short haircuts such as the bob, or finger waves were popular hairstyles of the 1920s.
What were the common colors for flapper dresses? Black was the most popular color for flapper dresses. Other colors such as pastels and brights were also worn.
What caused the rise of flapper fashion? The rise of flapper fashion was largely due to women’s growing independence and desire to rebel against societal norms at the time.
Are flapper dresses still popular today? Flapper inspired dresses continue to make an appearance in fashion today. They remain an icon of 1920s fashion.

Thanks for reading our article on Flapper Fashion

We hope you enjoyed learning about the trends of 1920s women’s clothing. Flapper fashion was groundbreaking in its time and continues to influence fashion today. Thanks for reading and be sure to visit again for more fascinating articles on fashion history and trends.

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