Stylistic Inspiration

Flapper Style examines four specific stylistic inspirations during the 1920s. Click on each picture below to explore how these different themes influenced designers during the jazz age.

American, ca. 1928-1932. Navy and white printed silk dress with wavy design.
An example of an art deco dress. Click on the image to learn more about Art Deco.

ART DECO || Starting with Cubism, in the first decades of the 1900s, artists throughout Europe and the United States increasingly moved away from representational art and instead began breaking down visual shapes into their most basic geometric forms. These artistic innovations trickled down to fashion design. Rather than draping the fabric around the body and following its natural shape with seams and darts, fashion designers used simple rectangles and other basic shapes to surround and concealed the form.

Probably American, ca. 1915-1925. Silk satin robe, light blue top shading to blue-purple at hem. Blue embroidered flowers with ribbons of couched gold thread.
An example of a dress inspired by the Western notion of the Far East. Click on the image to learn more about Exoticism.

EXOTICISM || The 1920s in North America and Europe saw a continued fascination with the Middle and Far East. Popular culture in the 1920s was saturated with imagined images of these “mysterious” and “far away places.” For example, an incredibly popular romantic film staring Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres called The Sheik was released in 1921. The next year, British archaeologists Howard Carter and George Herbert discovered the nearly intact tomb of King Tutankhamen in Egypt. Likewise, fashion of the Jazz Age did not escape the lure of exoticism: expensive textiles like silk would never be unpopular and Asian inspired motifs were all-the-rage.

American, ca. 1925-1929. Rust colored silk crepe dress with black trim, black and gold machine embroidered stitching, ties on side, three snaps at each side of collar.
Click the image to see more abstract garments.

ABSTRACTION || Inspired by the simplicity of sportswear and the influence of the Art Deco aesthetic, many garments from the 1920s are astoundingly geometric. Sometimes in pattern, almost always in form, the dresses are simple rectangles of fabric meant to hang loosely from the body. Connected to the Art Deco section of garments in this collection, we have chosen the garments below as prime examples of geometric form in 1920s fashion.

American, ca. 1924-1928. An example of the popular trend of robe de style dresses.
A romantic dress, click the image to learn more about romantic influences.

ROMANTICISM || All the dresses below are made of flowing, diaphanous, fabrics and decorated with floral accents – whether beaded or attached silks. Dresses like these illustrate that while the boyish figure was being popularized, there was still an emphasis on femininity in many fashion designs.


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