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What Goes Around Comes Around: 1920’s

Thursday 24 November 2011

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Words Spindle

So, I know they say pets often look like their owners, but women wanting to resemble the canine form?! Only in the 20’s hey…


It’s true, the ‘Roaring Twenties’ was the decade that witnessed women smoking furiously to echo the streamline shape of the ideal pet; a greyhound. Post-war fashion movements were sparked by the social situation; a period of sustained economic prosperity.  Dressing fashionably became both a trend and a social statement, allowing women to break free from rigid Victorian life. It was a period of artistic dynamism; art deco and cocktails screamed ‘chic’, and young, rebellious women labelled ‘flappers’ swayed seductively to jazz music.


These bright, young, (skinny!) things led the way with fashion. They could be seen flashing legs and arms in flesh-coloured stockings and loose, drop-waisted dresses. The ‘Kate Moss for Topshop’, line launched in 2007, was visibly reminiscent of the 20’s, featuring flapper dresses and elaborate capes. The bra was taken seriously for the first time, in order to minimise the bust, so the flappers could, er, ‘protect their modesty’, whilst they danced the night away. Avant-Garde accessories were a must. Russian water-rat fur was used as a trimming, fans of vulture feathers were dipped in gold and swathes of satin cocooned the female form. No sense of irony in coining it the ‘Decade of Decadence’ then…


The 1920’s were responsible for a revolution in women’s’ sportswear; key designs by Gabrielle Chanel and Jean Patou, to name a couple. Sportswear has reappeared in waves; in the late 20th century in the fashion empires of Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren, and the early 21st century with more of a couture emphasis, in Zac Posen and Derek Lam’s work. By 1926 genders were bending, giving rise to the Gar?onne frock and boyish bob haircuts – women were invading male territory for the first time, and it… was…great!


Without doubt, the most influential designer of the 20’s was the one and only, Miss Coco Chanel. The ‘Chanel Silhouette’ personified the 20’s with her LBD design in 1926. It was famously revitalised by Audrey Hepburn in the 60s and by countless others throughout the 1900’s and into the current century. Despite being notoriously unpleasant, Chanel was leaps and bounds ahead of others designers, introducing both elements of menswear and the ‘modern’ concept of simplicity to her womenswear. Simplicity’ and androgyny have been fundamental to the 21st century; mannish suits and boyish brogues a-plenty!


‘Fashion icons’ in the 20’s were primarily actresses and singers that were followed and imitated, driving them to ‘fashion icon’ status. Clara Bow, Colleen Moore and Gloria Swanson were American actresses of the silent film era who were beheld as the most glamorous of’ laydeez, posing with feather boas and shingled haircuts, oozing class and austerity. Hollywood starlets Kate Bosworth and Nicole Richie are two of many to sport this shingly-style.  

 Once again, fashion has re-invented styles from almost a century ago, drawing inspiration from the most bizarre of sources. First women mimicked a greyhound’s shape in the 20’s, then copied a poodle’s hair in the 70’s (afro wigs), will we soon be accessorising with tails and ears?! Let’s just hope nobody tries to greet you in the manner of a canine friend…!