1920s WOMEN’S WEAR

[Garden Fete at Broughton House] (1926)
[Garden Fete at Broughton House] (1926)

The change from Edwardian corseted, structured silhouettes to less shapely and more androgynous figures in the 1920s was created through loose-fitting garments that hung from the shoulders with a dropped-waistline.

Daywear typically consisted of either a wool or cotton dress with square neckline or a two-piece wool or tweed suit comprising sweater and knee-length skirt. Hats changed from wide-brim to neat cloches. Working class women wore simpler ready-to-wear or homemade versions of fashionable styles made from plainer, lower quality cloth.

Generally eveningwear comprised a dress with the hemline varying between the knee and the ankle. Eveningwear was made from more delicate fabrics than daywear such as lace, chiffon, silk and satin. It was often embellished with beading and fringing. Accessories included kid shoes, beaded purses and jewellery.

There was an increased range of retail outlets where women’s fashions could be purchased. By turn of the twentieth century, department stores were established which showcased new fashions for a wide public. In the 1920s, ‘madam shops’ were prevalent in most towns in South England, such as Joan Laurie’s in Worthing and Brighton. Madam shops offered a personalised service and knew their middle-class customers’ needs well. The working classes could buy ready-to-wear clothing and shoes from the multiple chain stores, while home dressmaking still remained widespread. Dress patterns were available not only in high fashion magazines such as Vogue, but also in working class magazines including Mabs.