“Can’t repeat the past?. Why of course you can!” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I have recently re read the Great Gatsby in anticipation of the upcoming movie starring Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio. This promises to be a winter treat no doubt full of visual eye-candy as it is directed by Baz Luhrmann; who bought us such sumptuous delights as Romeo and Juliet (a personal fave), Moulin Rouge and of course the most expensive Chanel advert ever made staring Nicole Kidman. This movie has already had an impact on the world of fashion as demonstrated by 2012 summer fashion flowing down the catwalk. This is a look that will not be leaving us this autumn and winter with the look becoming more glamorous and high impact perfect for christmas parties.

The 20s was a time of great change in fashion for women there was a movement away from the stuffy rigidity of Edwardian fashion where women wore floor length dresses, with stiff collars and the classic S-bend health corset. This change in fashion was reflective of the newly liberated women of the women’s suffrage movement. Hemlines rose typically just below or on the knee which at the time was viewed as very controversial. The waistline dropped and was less clearly defined the looser fit and flowing fabric almost symbolic of the feeling of the youth at this time. One could argue this was the first emergence of a youth movement.

20s and 30s fashion was very elegant and streamlined. Although there was lots of beautiful beading work and embellishments, the clothing itself was not fussy in construction in comparison to the early fashions of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Indeed, the 20s was the era that Chanel introduced sportswear. Coco Chanel was a maverick at the time inspiring great change in fashion: she had a distinctive look with her sharp black bob and opting to wear trousers in society.

The look

Original 1920s and 30s items are rare, expensive and very delicate. Fortunately there are lots of items available on the high-street that are reminiscent of the style, the key is to look for signature items that replicate the feel of that time . There are also a number of specialist companies online specialising in 1920s and 1930s reproduction pieces, such as Putting on the Ritz. We have created some style boards of items currently available on the high street.

The silhouette:

The silhouette of the 20s and 30s was very streamlined with no obvious waist. The waist line was dropped.


Day wear typically consisted of day dresses with a dropped waist usually on the knee or just below. Ladies would wear cloches and gloves. Shoes typically had a small curved heel. Coats tended to have a wrap over shape and often fastened on the hip, falling in line with the dropped waist of the dresses.


Dress, jacket, cloche, shoes, bracelet

Evening wear

Evening wear of the 20s tended to be very luxurious. The fabrics were luxurious and often made of silk. There was heavy embellishment and often featured exquisite beading and pearls. The dresses were typically between knee length and mid calf. The dresses were sleeveless and real furs were popular. Real fur is widely available in vintage stores but there are many faux fur pieces that look just as good on the high street.


Dress,  turban, tights, clutch, eyeshadow, lipstick

 The flapper dress

The flapper dress is all about fun. This dress was designed to be danced in. It swooshes, it sparkles and is sassy. If you embrace only one element of 20s fashion, try a flapper dress!


Hats were very important to women of the 20s and, with the emergence of more streamlined hair such as the bob and the Eton crop, the cloche (french for bell) became the hat choice. Turbans were also very popular during this era as was beaded headwear.

Gloves were worn to complete looks. The gloves were either wrist length or gauntlet.

Women wore stockings there were usually natural in colour and seams as technology was not available to make them without.

Jewellery often reflected the influence of the Art Deco movement. Materials used for jewellery included carnelian, turquoise, marquisate, agate, jade and bakelite. The styling of the Orient was also very popular at this time. Don’t forget your pearls and beaded necklaces which were very popular.

The outline above is not definitive guide but it gives you an idea of the 1920s look and how to achieve this. Next week we will be focusing on hair and beauty of 1920s and 30s.


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