Changing Silhouettes

shilouette line up

The Black Dress Silhouette is used to help illustrate the variety of 1920s fashion, both including and outside the typical Flapper style garment. By using the ‘little black dress,’ in Flapper Style, we have endeavored to represent the changing and various styles throughout the 1920s. It was Coco Chanel – in the 1920s – who first popularized the idea of a ‘little black dress’ for every occasion. (Below, see an example of a Chanel little black dress.) Before the 1920s, it was rarer to see women in black regularly as it was the traditional color of mourning. During the 1920s, however, black became a standard color for day and evening dresses.

A major shift in the decade’s fashion is illustrated below in our black dresses: the change in hemline length. When The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, hemlines were at their shortest hitting at the knee. They fell again to mid-calf at the end of the decade. Most day dresses throughout the 1920s were one-piece cylindrical garments with some fullness past the hips for maneuverability. Usually, there was a decoration – like a belt, flounce or silk flower – at the hip. Sleeves varied depending on the occasion and time of day, but usually afternoon and evening dresses were sleeveless. Often, as pictured in the first dress below, a jacket would accompany a sleeveless dress of the same fabric; the pieces were to be worn together, as one ensemble. Notice the hemlines in some dresses below are uneven. Uneven hemlines were popular in the 1920s, especially in evening dresses. Whether shorter or longer, each of the dresses below represents a major theme throughout all 1920s women’s fashion: decoration. Fanciful lace, elaborate fringe and heavy beading are all represented in the black silhouettes, showcasing various modes of 1920s decoration. Expensive fabrics and elaborate decoration helped keep the simple straight-line silhouette of the 1920s garment from being too plain. By the end of the decade the slimmer and more fitted style of the 1930s was seeping into some dress silhouettes, as illustrated in the last example below.


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