1920s flapper fashion and how to emulate it

The '20s Issue

click to enlarge COURTESY OF NORTHWEST MUSEUM OF ARTS & CULTURE
Courtesy of Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Fashion has come a long way in the last 100 years, beginning with the liberated clothing choices of 1920s flapper girls who could newly vote, loved to dance and were entering a booming post-war workforce. To throw things back at your next Jazz Age-inspired party, we've put together a few tips for creating an authentic ensemble.

Throughout the decade, hemlines rose all the way up to the knee, and silhouettes became looser and less movement-restricting. Other trends in the 1920s set norms still in the fashion industry today, including celebrity influence, the "little black dress," and women owning several pairs of shoes for different functions. Legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel notably embraced wearing pants, and women began regularly wearing makeup.

Likewise, some of the stuffier elements of men's fashion in prior decades eased up, ushering in more casual "sportswear," like sweaters, knickerbockers and short suit jackets.

While black-and-white photos of the era can be deceiving, 1920s clothing was actually quite colorful, notes local vintage fashion reseller Fay Ripley of Red Leaf Vintage.

Take, for example, one of the many pieces of 1920s attire in the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture's collection. From 1924, the deep teal chiffon dress features intricate beading and lacework with an Egyptian-esque motif, inspired by the then-recent discovery of King Tut's tomb. The formal dress was purchased at the time by 18-year-old Spokane resident Helen Huneke during a trip to Paris with her aunt and was last displayed in the MAC's 2011 exhibit Dress Code.

While wearing an authentic gown from the 1920s isn't recommended — 100-year old fabrics are incredibly fragile — replica 1920s gowns are fairly affordable and easy to find and won't tear to shreds as you attempt the Charleston.

Don't forget about accessories: a headband or cloche hat, long faux pearl necklace, T-strap pumps and an embellished clutch. Pin up long hair into a bob-like updo, don a smoky eye and some dark red lipstick.

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About The Author

Chey Scott

Chey Scott is the Inlander's food and listings editor. She compiles the weekly events calendar for the print and online editions of the Inlander, manages and edits the food section, and also writes about local arts and culture. Chey (pronounced Shay) is a lifelong Spokanite and a graduate of Washington State University...