After the first war ended in 1918, fashions became youthful and boyish; psychologically woman tried to replace the huge number of men wiped out. British exports declined, unemployment rose and there was a General Strike in 1926. The boyish fashions for women (cylinder-shaped shift dresses, short ‘bobbed’ hair, flattened breasts and undefined waists) were combined with dramatic eye make-up and lipstick. Most young women had jobs, flats and independence and many did not marry due to the loss of fiancés. Partying, dancing, smoking, drinking and following fashion was common, encouraged by the rise of cinema-going and actresses’ lifestyles on and off the silver screen. For the first time the entire lower leg was revealed, clothed in the cheap, shiny beige or pink rayon stockings.
20a Wedding of Marion Beauchamp-Wall, 1928
The bride’s outfit was given to the Maidstone Museum collection in 1983. It was made from the train of her own mother’s wedding dress of 1896. Marion designed the dress herself; the tulle frills were very fashionable at the time. The train was a Honiton lace scarf belonging to the bride’s great grandmother and is probably mid 1840s in date. The bride’s attendant is wearing a petal edged dress with a fichu, and the longer skirt length with a natural waistline that was coming in as 1930 approached. Domed crowns and wide, drooping brims were the latest hat shapes.
Photo reproduced from original in Rougemont House, Exeter
20b Party Dress, beaded chiffon, c.1925-27
Tangerine silk chiffon, heavily embroidered with glass beads in blues and oranges, with butterfly and floral motifs. It was worn over an underslip of toning silk (which has been reproduced, as the original was missing). The hem is lobed, one of the many fashions in uneven hems of the 1920s period. Special occasion dresses like these were almost a luxurious throw away to be worn once or twice and then discarded. The beads are far too heavy for the chiffon and would have damaged the garment. The vogue for curious, non-naturalistic flowers, was related to the twenties styles in interior decoration, ‘primitive and barbaric’.
Kentish Provenance, donor/ date unknown
20c ‘Cami-knicker-petticoat’, blue rayon, 1920s
The tubular line of 1920s dress meant that underwear became pared down, often into ‘new’ combined undergarments. The cami-knicker (camisole and loose-leg knickers) and also the cami-bocker (camisole and closed directoire elasticated knickers) were available in a range of silk, crêpe, lawn or rayon in a range of colours. This garment combines the chemise with press-stud fastened directoire knickers, hidden by a short tunic ‘petticoat’, split to the waist each side. Made of ice-blue rayon, woven in vertical stripes alternately shiny and dull. Labelled: ‘Sweet Nell’ Underwear, guaranteed non-ladder. British Make.
20d Cloche hat, brown velour, ivoride pin, c.1923-24
Deep crowned bell-shaped hats first appeared in 1908, and the helmet shape developed over the 1920s to a brimless hat. ‘Cloche’ means bell in French. Our example, in cocoa brown velour, has a curious brim decoration on the right side shaped like a rabbit’s ear. This ‘ear’ encloses a hat pin of synthetic horn, set with white pastes (glass). Worn over a short ‘bob’ hair cut (or even shorter ‘shingle’), the brim would have been worn low on the forehead. Coloured eyeshadow, dark pencilled brows and a small red mouth against a powdered, pale face was the look below the cloche brim.
Purchased for Museum Collection in 1980, part of a group of 104 from London
20e Evening bag, pastel metallic beads, c.1925
Rectangular envelope shape made of metallic glass beads woven into a cotton fabric. Influenced by the Art Deco style of the 1925 Paris exhibition, its motifs are jazzy, geometric shapes. Intended to carry only the fashionable accessories of cigarettes, lipstick, powder compact and handkerchief, the small, decorative, modern bag was soon an integral part of a woman’s wardrobe.
Given by Mrs J. M. M. McGwire of Folkestone, in 1979
20f Stockings, grey-green rayon, late 1920s
Early twenties stockings were in neutral colours for day wear; flesh colours were unusual until later in the decade. Silk stockings were getting cheaper and women on high wartime wages had bought them. Artificial silk (later called rayon) developed from wood cellulose and acids in the 1880s, and was first used in England for light bulb filaments. Later, a safer form of rayon, viscose cellulose, was made with caustic soda and patented in 1904 by Samuel Courtauld & Co. Artificial silk was often plated onto wool or cottons for strength. Our example ‘Invicta non-ladder brand’ is of this type, and has a toe and top of cotton to give longer wear.
20g Dance shoes, black satin and pastes, 1924-27
A bar style dance shoe, with a pointed toe and curvy, Louis heels is absolutely typical of the 1920s. These black satin examples have white pastes set into the heel, making them catch the light exotically during a dance. Made in Norwich, during the post 1914-18 period, when shoe manufacturers were concentrating on the home market.
Given by Mrs D. Dobell of Maidstone, in 1972
1920s – What’s New?
Edward VIII, 1920s
During this decade he promoted the wearing of suede shoes, plus fours, panama hats and Fair Isle sweaters (multicoloured geometric design).
The most primitive form of shoe, originally made of leather, sandals first became fashionable in the modern world in the 1920s when it became permissible for women to show more of their feet.
Le Jardin des modes, 1922
Monthly magazine first published by Lucien Vogel. It is one of the most prominent fashion journals in France.
La Garçonne, 1922
Written by Victor Margueritte and published in this year, this book was considered to be extremely risqué. The heroine became the symbol of the liberated modern woman. The Garçonne style came to be identified with a boyish silhouette, short hair and little make-up.
The discovery of this tomb caused an escalation in fashions for draped, flowing dresses, fringes, headbands and pyramid and scarab motifs.
After a competition to find a new name for artificial silk ‘rayon’ was named by Kenneth Lord, senior. Rayon is made from cellulose. As man-made fabrics were cheaper; they helped spread new fashions to a wider range of people. Today this fibre is called ‘viscose’.
Scottish inventor, John Logie Baird transmits recognisable human features by television.