American Fashion Fads of the Twentieth Century
A fad, or craze, becomes popular in a culture relatively quickly, but also loses its popularity dramatically. A fad that remains for a significant amount of time typically loses its significance in current popular culture as it evolves and becomes accepted into a society's everyday culture. In the past hundred years, fashion fads have been characterized by politics, popular movies, music and famous celebrities. Most fads just wither and quickly fad away, but do they quietly wait to be resurrected by another generation.
With the turn of the nineteenth century, fashions continued with much of the same the look of the 1800s. Women wore long skirts, long sleeves, high necks, and high button shoes. However, big changes were on the horizon, as many women were going to work outside the home and wanted a new independence. The ready-to-wear industry was blossoming and the eager and skilled work force, made up of immigrants flooding into America supplied the needed ingredient. The wearing of skirts and shirts that meet at the waist quickly became popular. This two piece outfit was called the Gibson Girl look. White linen with embroidery was spreading widely, but a new fabric, rayon, the first of the synthetic, technological miracle fabrics, produced at low cost and called "artificial silk," was important. It fell into disfavor for several decades but has made a comeback at the end of the century. Undergarments, including corsets to cinch the waist, were figure forming and confining. 3
The 1910s saw the start of World War I and the first American fashion show in 1914, as Paris was in the midst of war. In 1911, the lampshade tunic was popular. It was high waisted and stiffened to stand out with a slim skirt underneath. In 1912, the high-waisted Grecian dress and the Grecian hairstyle (hair drawn back to a small knot at the nape of the neck with curls on the side) were common. After war was declared in 1914, skirts became fuller and shorter and the "war crinoline" was popular, a tailor-made suit with a shorter jacket nipped in at the waist. In undergarments, the corset gave way to the bust bodice and an elasticized girdle to attach to stockings. Camiknickers (camisole and knickers in one piece) completed the underwear. After the war, the bob with bangs was a revolutionary new hairstyle. Make-up was discreet, usually only light powder. Shoes and boots had narrow toes and high heels. Buttoned shoes were common for daywear. 3
The 1920s in America were times of great change. With the end of the First World War, society exploded in a million different directions. The Twenties saw the women’s rights movement, the Harlem Renaissance, prohibition, and an incredible burst of prosperity for the middle class. Automobiles and electric appliances made people's lives easier and gave them more leisure time. The incredible, rapid social changes that struck the country were clearly illustrated by women's fashions of the decade. These fashions stand out among the decades for they show the demand by women for change. The “flapper” fad marks the century as the first major fad and for the first time in history, women’s legs are showing. The slim, tubular look of the flapper was “in.” Movement confining undergarments were rejected by women who wanted freedom. The flattener bra was used to help create the straight, flat look of the flapper. Another very obvious fashion feature of this time period was “bobbed” hair. The impact of bobbed hair and all it was felt to represent was enormous. The popular media of the time is filled with jokes, stories, cartoons, songs, theatrical skits, newspaper articles, and short movies, about bobbed hair.6
The 1930's and the Great Depression required economy and frugality in the area of fashion. The sizing system developed in the 20s was used by Butterick to create easy-to-make patterns so women could copy the expensive fashions of the movie stars as advertised in Vogue...
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