1920s Fashion

1920s Clothing

 

Three Men in Suits, 1926

[Garden Fete at Broughton House] (1926)

Title: [Garden Fete at Broughton House]

Date: (1926)
Film-maker: Not Known


The men in this still are formally dressed and despite the summer season they wear three-piece woollen suits consisting of jacket, waistcoat and trousers. Their outfits are accessorised with homburg hats and the men hold walking sticks and umbrellas. Walking sticks had been a favoured male accessory since the eighteenth century, although they declined in fashion during the twentieth century.

The West Sussex Record Office hold business records relating to Messrs. Lintott and Co., who were walking stick makers of Witley, Surrey. The company was founded in 1858. They bought the cutting rights of local woods and had their own plantations. The business operated until 1968 and the West Sussex Record Office has documents dating from the 1920s.

You can search the West Sussex Record Office’s online catalogues, on the West Sussex Past website.


Four Men in Suits, 1926

[Reigate Borough Carnival] (1926, 1927)

Title: [Reigate Borough Carnival]

Date: (1926, 1927)
Film-maker: J.Bancroft


The four men in this still wear three-piece suits. Two of the men wear ties, while two wear bow ties. A trilby, a homburg and a flat cap are held as well as walking sticks. They all have badges pinned on to their lapels.

 

Man in Panama Hat

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Title: Summer 1929

Date: (1929)
Film-maker: Ralph Staley


This film shows a group of men, women and children in summer clothing returning from the beach carrying towels, buckets and spades. The woman and the young girl wear light cotton summer dresses. The woman and man walking at each end of the group wear beach robes. Another man wears a dark jacket with floral buttonhole. His trousers, shirt, tie and shoes are light-coloured which along with his straw panama hat, was indicative of informal summer clothing.



Panama hats were traditionally worn in summer months and favoured for their lightweight properties. Panama hats were Ecuadorian in origin but during the Spanish American War of 1898, the American government reputedly bought around 50,000 such hats for their troops from merchants in Panama. This helped to popularise Panama hats in the West.


Man and Woman in Everyday Dress, 1928 – 1935

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Title: People and Places

Date: (1930s)
Film-maker: Lance House


This film of a garden walk shows a man in a three-piece suit, with his hair in a fashionable side parting. The woman wears a calf-length woollen coat and day dress with bow detail at the neckline. She wears a knitted cap that sits neatly on the crown of her head.

Bow details were fashionable at this period as a rayon crepe printed summer dress, from around 1930-1932 at Liverpool museum shows (1967.187.80).

 

Couple on Deck, 1929

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Title: [Boat Trip Along the Suez Canal: Port Said to Aden]

Date: (1929)
Film-maker: Dr. Catherine Violet Burne & Dr. Thomas Burne


This clip shows a couple in casual summer clothing on-board a ship. The man is dressed in light colours and wears a blazer, open-neck shirt and shorts, knee-length socks and white leather shoes. The woman wears a light-coloured V-necked dress. There is a belt, or an imitation belt, slung low at hip level, that follows the popular tubular silhouette of the decade. The pleated skirt is printed with horizontal bands. The woman accessorises the outfit with a string of pearls, a long thin scarf draped around the neck and a clutch bag.

She exudes the aesthetic that has become synonymous with the decade, not only in her style of dress but also in her behaviour as she is smoking a cigarette in public, a trait that was associated with the 1920s flapper. Her outfit bears a resemblance to those created and worn by Coco Chanel. To see a photograph of Chanel dated 1929, please visit the Getty Images website (2669347).

Another photograph in the Getty Images Archive shows a similar holiday outfit designed by Patou in 1926 that is light-coloured with contrasting horizontal bands around the hips. Getty Images Archive (3373973).

 

Group in Sunday Best, 1926

[Garden Fete at Broughton House] (1926)

Title: [Garden Fete at Broughton House]

Date: (1926)
Film-maker: Not known


In this image men and women are fashionably dressed for a summer garden fete. The men wear three-piece suits with homburg and trilby hats. The women wear dropped-waist dresses and hats decorated with corsages and ribbons. One woman wears a polka dot print dress. An edition of Vogue from June 1926 declared that, “polka dots are chic this season” and illustrated a white crêpe, dropped-waist dress with black polka dots designed by Edward Molyneux (See Vogue, early & late June, 1926 p.81).

This film depicts many fashionable traits of 1920s dress. In the above still, the woman on the right’s dress has a scalloped hemline and typical bar shoes are also seen. The rise of the hemline saw shoes gain an increasing prominence in the 1920s.

 

[Garden Fete at Broughton House] (1926)

Title: Gold Shoes

Date: (1920s)
Image courtesy of Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery.

Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery have a pair of women’s shoes from the decade. They are made from gold kid and satin and have a diamante stud button across the instep. They were made by Harrods Ltd and would have been worn for dancing (Item No. 85/481 A-B).

 

 

 


 

Carnival Crowd Scene, 1926

[Garden Fete at Broughton House] (1926)

Title: [Garden Fete at Broughton House]

Date: (1926)
Film-maker: Not known


This shot of the crowd scene shows not only the clothing worn by the middle-class but also working class people. For instance, a woman wears a long cotton striped smock garment and a plain cloche hat that is decorated with a hatpin. The children are not dressed as formally as the adults. Young girls wear cotton dresses that fall just above the knee with the ubiquitous cloche hat. The young boys wear blazers, shirts, shorts, knee-length socks and baker boy caps.

Originally, baker boy caps were worn by the working class but were then popularised by the Prince of Wales. As a result, they were considered democratic and modern. This type of baker boy cap did not vary in style and continued to be worn throughout the 1920s. A boy's tweed coat and cap from the 1930s is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (Item No. B.1211:1-1993).

 

English Man and Woman in 1920s Dress

Java Tour. Christmas 1929

Title: Java Tour. Christmas 1929

Date: (1929)
Film-maker: Dr. Catherine Violet Burne & Dr. Thomas Burne


In this image the lady wears a sleeveless dress with a bold geometric print that extends into vertical stripes on the skirt. The dress is worn with light-coloured stockings, bar shoes and a cotton cloche hat. The man is casually dressed in a panama hat and lounge suit with an open neck shirt.

The lady’s dress is reminiscent of the textiles produced by French textile and fashion designer Sonia Delaunay. She was known for her bold colours and abstract, geometric designs that were inspired by modern art.

 

Group Standing Outside a Cinema, 1928

[The Heath Cinema in Haywards Heath] (ca.1928)

Title: [The Heath Cinema in Haywards Heath]

Date: (ca.1928)
Film-maker: Not known


A group of young people stand outside a cinema in Burgess Hill. The men wear three-piece suits. One man wears the fashionable ‘plus fours’ style popularised by the Prince of Wales rather than full-length trousers. The women follow the fashionable androgynous silhouette of the period with knee-length hemlines. They wear interchangeable separates including sweaters, skirts, dresses and coats. One woman sports a necktie reinforcing the boyish look. Their clothing is probably ready-to-wear rather than made by a dressmaker. All the women have bobbed hair and none wear hats.

In the 1920s, women with bobbed hair were seen as scandalous and even in the thirties, such short hair was still considered daring. This is seen in Monica Dickens’ novel Mariana (1940) that chronicles a young girl called Mary’s coming of age during the 1930s. In 1931, Mary was sixteen years old and longed to have her hair cut. Although she wanted a more grown-up appearance she noted that, “They [other women] really all had short hair. She wondered whether they had gone through these pangs before they bobbed it.” (Monica Dickens, Mariana, London: Persephone Books, 2008, p.149.)

 

Everyday 1920s

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Title: [Goodwood Hunt]

Date: (1929)
Film-maker: Ralph Staley


The couple are walking along the seaside promenade. The man wears a three-piece suit, and a tie and holds a walking stick. The woman wears a dark coloured, open front coat with fur collar and cuffs.

This style of coat was popular during the 1920s. The use of fur during the interwar period was not contentious. An advertisement by a London-based packaging company Willets and Sons used a fashionable woman dressed in a similar style coat to the one seen in the film. It also has a fur collar and cuffs and was worn with a cloche hat. See the Victoria and Albert Collections (Item No. E.3232-2004).

Liverpool Museum has an example of a maroon wool coat with deep rabbit fur stand-up collar and cuffs, dated 1925-30. See Liverpool Museum (Item No. WAG 1967.187.2). 

 

Grandma and Pam

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Title: Summer 1929

Date: (1929)
Film-maker: Ralph Staley


Pam and her Grandma play on the beach and promenade. Grandma wears a fashionable cardigan suit with a v-necked jumper beneath and a pleated skirt that falls just below the knee. She wears bar shoes, a straw cloche hat and holds a parasol. The loose style of the decade and the idea of wearing interchangeable separates transcended age boundaries. Pam wears a sleeveless loose-fitting cotton dress with a drawstring dropped-waist and bloomers beneath. She also wears a straw cloche hat, but with a ribbon detail.

Straw hats were lighter than the traditional felt cloches and thus ideal for summer wear. A pink straw cloche hat dating from around 1925 can be seen at the V&A’s collections online (Item No. T.422-1977).

Parasols were popular up until the 1920s as a pale complexion was idealized. A bronzed complexion represented those who laboured out-of-doors. It was not until the 1920s that the suntan held social cachet when it became associated with leisure time and travel. The older generation continued to use parasols as Virginia Woolf’s protagonist, Mrs Dalloway, from her 1925 book of the same title illustrates. Woolf noted that on an, “extraordinarily hot day… old ladies on the tops of omnibuses spread their black parasols; here a green, here a red parasol opened with a little pop.” (Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992, p.18).