The 1920s dresses was a decade when women’s fashion choices were dictated by necessity rather than fashion; dresses for the job, church, and social occasions were all put to the test. The “day-to-day woman” moved into these affairs ready to do battle with what lay ahead in the name of fashion. It was during this decade that the birth of the first modern couture dress took place. The term “couture” was not coined until after the Civil War had officially ended. This was a term to describe a style of dress designed to be flattering to the figure and often mimiced the look of evening gowns or ballroom gowns.
During this time period, the idea of what a dress should “look like” was somewhat hazy. Colorful fabric pieces were experimented with to produce an array of hues that ranged from pastels to blues. The colors and patterns were usually wildly different from one another and the combinations were sometimes outrageous. One was hardly certain that a piece of clothing could be called fashionable unless it looked like the dress worn by movie stars. Yet, despite the outlandish nature of these experiments, some elements did find their way into fashions worn by women.
As time wore on, Victorian-style dresses began to slowly disappear from the fashion scene. Instead, the fashions most commonly seen in movies were inspired by the designs worn by the wealthy. These designs included intricate patterns, ornate details, and corset-like waistbands. Women who desired a more simple appearance began to wear variations on the party dress.
Party dresses were often designed to be less elaborate and feature such characteristics as satin, velvet, and netting. They were generally long and did not feature designs on them such as ruffles or lace. As the 20th century wore on, designers began to incorporate more feminine features into their clothing styles.
The decade also witnessed the rise of the cocktail dress. This dress was similar to the pique dress of the time, but instead featured a skirt that fell between the waistline and the legs. These dresses were usually knee length, with matching cardigans or bolero jackets. The look was very romantic and many women chose to wear this style frequently.
Although not always comfortable, the corset style dress was also made for comfort. Made from stiffened material, these dresses had padding along the shoulders and waistline. These dresses were ideal for women who were ill or disabled. They could be purchased in any fabric or style imaginable and often had elegant embroidery work. Many women bought their own corsets to express their own individual style. All in all, 1920s dresses were a far cry from the ones worn during the Great Depression.