Dressing 1920s for a theme party or a vintage dance doesn’t have to involve a lot of money to commission a dress or hours combing through vintage shops. You don’t even have to buy a vintage reproduction online if you don’t want to. By employing a couple of style elements from the period, you could dress 1920s tonight with clothing you already have in your closet.
Wear a Cloche
Nothing says “1920s” like the iconic hat known as a cloche. Shaped like a bell (thus cloche, French for “bell”) and sitting just above the eyes, this hat literally screams 1920s. (See the photo at the top of this article for an example of me wearing one.)
The bonus of wearing a cloche is that it does your hair for you too. Any modern hairstyle can be disguised by pulling on a cloche and pinning up any long strands with bobby pins.
So put on a cloche. Just make sure you pull it down nice and low. We don’t want to see foreheads!
Ignore Your Waist
As we discussed in previous blog posts “The Ideal Figure” and “1920s Clothing is Not Just for the Skinny“, the style of the 1920s wasn’t characterized by a lack of hips but a lack of waist. Dresses were square in cut and had no discernible waistline. Most didn’t have a waist seam either. Find a modern tunic dress and tie a sash around your hips to add a little colour. Or look for a dropped-waist dress. I have found modern clothing from sundresses to mother-of-the-bride dresses that look 1920s because they have no waist or the waistline is down around the hips. Go to your local thrift store and see what you can find. Or just open your closet!
You don’t have to go shopping to find a new dress to be 1920s. You could just wear your normal clothes in a new 1920s way. Instead of tucking in your tops, let them hang over your skirt, obscuring yout waist. Or wear your belt low on your hips instead of around your waist. Fabulous actress and fashion icon of the 1920s, Tahlula Bankhead wears a long sweater over her skirt with the belt at her hipline in this photo from 1924. It may not be very pleasing to our modern eyes, but it is thoroughly 1920s!
|Note: Don’t worry that you’ll have to wear short skirts to dress like the 1920s. In the real 1920s, dresses didn’t show a woman’s knees. See?|
Do Your Hair
If you’re feeling ambitious, nothing screams 1920s like a bobbed hairstyle. But that doesn’t mean you have to get a haircut just for this weekend! “Bobbing” is what bobby pins are made for! Simply pin your hair up lock by lock until you’ve achieved a bob length. Doing finger waves before you start pinning can reduce the length of shoulder length hair to bob length. Or do some fabulous “Leia braids” like late 20s socialite June Molyneaux shown at right.
But what about the men?
Men’s fashions don’t change as radically decade to decade as women’s fashions do. But there are still a couple of things men can do to look more 1920s.
Wear A Vest
In the 1920s, a typical suit included a vest or waistcoat. If you have a three-piece suit — especially if it is very narrow in the pant leg — wear it!
Don’t Take Off Your Jacket
Men didn’t take off their suit jackets when they were indoors any more often than women took off their tops. Don’t forget that central heating wasn’t universal in the 1920s, so people dressed a little more warmly indoors as well as outside. Still, it’s not proper to take off your suit jacket; it’s part of your clothing. So keep those glad rags on.
BONUS: But Take Your Hat Off
Men wore hats wherever they went in the 1920s but not indoors! It is terribly rude to wear you hat inside. Although ladies keep their lids in place, gentlemen remove their covers when they step inside.
Still Want Something Authentically 1920s?
Make yourself something with a Reconstructing History pattern. There are no patterns on the market more period-perfect but sized and formatted for modern people.