Home / History / Costume for Women in Art Deco Period (1920-1930)

Costume for Women in Art Deco Period (1920-1930)

Costume for Women in Art Deco Period (1920-1930)

Shaila Sharmin
Dept. of Fashion Design
KCC Women’s College (Affiliated by Khulna University)
Khulna, Bangladesh
Email: shailasharminnet12@yahoo.com




Art movement and their influence on fashion:

Art deco:

The term art deco derives from the L’ exposition international des art decorative et industrial moderns, the name of an exposition held in Paris in 1925. The term has been applied to art typical of that produced in the 1920s and1930s. Art deco styles were characterized by geometric form that could be derived from artistic expression of the past or present. Egyptian and Mayan motifs can be seen in Art deco, as well as design related to modern art movement such as cubism, fauvism, and expressionism.

Art deco influences are especially notable in the fashion of the 1920s when the geometric lines of many garments can be seen to echo Art deco style lines. Art deco style can be observed in many fabric prints, embroideries, beaded decoration, and jewelry. Art deco styles underwent a revival in the 1970s.


Surrealism literally “beyond the real,” was a literary and art movement influenced by Freudianism that began a in the 1920s. Artists such as the Italian Giorgio de Chirico, the Spanish salved o Dali, and the France René Magritte painted nonconventional scans and objects, drawing on the sub-conscious imagination. By the 1930s surrealist could be seen as an influence on fashion.

Elsa Schiaparelli was a friend of many surrealist artist ,and surrealist influences are especially pronounced in her work in the 1930s.among the surreal aspects of her work were the use of body parts such as eyes. Mouths, and hand in unexpected places on garments or in prints. One organza dress had a painted lobster on the skirt. Suits had butterflies or cicadas as buttons. Fashion photograph of the 1930s frequently used surrealistic setting for their photographs of fashions.

Art deco
Art deco

Costume components for women (1920-1930):


As depicted in mail-order catalogs, undergarments cane in a wide variety of styles. Items included brassieres, which replaced the bust bodice of earlier periods. Drawers or knickers became paints in the 1920s. These were short, buttoned or elastics at the waistline, and often very decorative. Underclothing was generally intended to suppress the curves of women who did not naturally process the fashionable flat figure.

An evolution of the combination was a garment alternately known as cami -knickers, step or teddies, a combination of the camisole and panties. A straight cut chemise or petticoat was renamed the slip a, and was comparable to the garments called by that name today. Corsets were worn by larger women .These were boned or made with elastic panel, or both. Garters suspended from the corset held up the stocking; women who did not wear corsets wore garter belts or garters to hold up their stockings.

Daytime garments:

Silhouette: A figure with a flat bosom and no hips was the ideal. The fashion silhouette was straight, without indentation at the waistline. When a dress had a belt, the belt was placed at the hipline. Most dresses were one piece.

Skirt length: At the beginning of the period, skirt were long and reached almost to the ankle, tending downward in 1922-23, but gradually moving upwards in 1924 and after. By 1925 they were about eight inches from the floor, by 1926-27,14 to 16 inches and some even as short as 18 inches from the ground. Once the skirt reached this elevation, they remained relatively stable in 1928-29, then began to lengthen again. The first move toward longer lengths was observable in a tendency to cut skirt hems unevenly with panel, flare, scalloped or pointed segment of the skirt. By the end of the decade, skirt length had dropped.

Skirt length of art deco period
Skirt length of art deco period

Daytime dresses:

One-piece style predominated. Some coat dresses had cross over, left to right, closings.

Necklines: Necklines usually ended at the base of the throat or lower ,with round ,v shaped ,bateau, or cowl styles. Round, high, and v neckline s often were finished with collars or bias ruffles.

Sleeves: When dress had sleeves, they were often long .many dresses were sleeveless.

Bodices: Generally bodices were plain and cut straight to the hip. Some had embroidered decorations or pleating.

Skirt : More complex in cut than bodices ,skirt designs utilized bias cutting to produce interesting effects. skirts had pleats and gathers placed off center , scalloped hems, godet inset ,and paneled effects that achieved handkerchief skirt style.


Blouses and sweater: Most blouses were elongated ,low hipped ,,,,and straight ,worn over , not tucked into the skirt . Middy blouses were a popular style. sweater followed similar line to blouses.

Tailored suits: Tailored suits had matching jacket and skirt, with jacket ending at the hip or below. The channel suit, a cardigan style jacket and skirt made from wool jersey, Was very popular. When suits were belted, the belt was placed well below normal placement. Some opened at the center front, closed on the left. Long lapels that rolled to a low closing were fashionable.

Evening dresses:

Made in the same length as daytime dress, evening dresses grew shorter as day time dresses grew shorter. Generally sleeves, with deep v or u shaped necklines some bodice was supported over the shoulder by small straps.

Evening dresses of art deco period
Evening dresses of art deco period

Skirts: Often more complex in cut than for daytime dresses ,skirts for evening used such effects as floating panel, draped areas, or layered skirts, in 1919 Jeanne introduced a bouffant skirt, reminiscent of the period. An evening dress of this type with a dropped waistline and full skirt was a popular alternative to the tubular silhouette. It was called the robe derive. as the decade progressed, tendency to cut skirts unevenly also appeared in evening style.

Decoration included beading, which sometimes was in entire dress. Fashionable dresses included chiffon, soft satin, and velvet. Geometric designs were frequently used as fabric pattern.

Decoration of skirt
Decoration of skirt

Outdoor garment: The most characteristic coats closed over the left hip, when with one, large decorative button or several all one. Some coats, known as clutch coats, had to the held as they had no fastening. Wore raccoon coats football game.

Outdoor garment of art deco period
Outdoor garment of art deco period

Sleepwear: Night clothing consisted of either nightgowns or pajamas, both of which headlong, straight lines.

Hair and head dress:

Hair : Women’s hair style o the 1920swere one of the more revolutionary development in fashion. Except for the empire period, in which short hair was fashionable, no other earlier costume periods can be cited in which women cut hair short. Viewed at first as a radical style, by 1923 it had become accepted fashion and college girls across the country were singing ,”shingle bob , shin cut it all away..” to have ones hair bobbed was to have it cut. The shingle was an exceptionally short cut in which the back hair was cut and tapered like that of a man . Although the most fashionable cut was short with the hair tapering off to the nape of the neck, many variations were seen . some cut their hair short ,with bang at the front and the hair turned under at the ends on the sides and in the back .others followed the extreme Eton crop, a style in which hair was exceptionally closely-cropped and dressed like that of the men.

Hair of art deco period
Hair of art deco period

Some women wore their bobbed hair style straight, others with a Marcel wave, a style made-up of a series of deep waves all over the head. The old fashioned, opened hairpin was replaced by the bobby pin, with its tight spring clip. By the end of the decade, however, women started to their hair grow again and small.

Hats: Since they were woe with short hair, hats could be fitted close to the head. Just as the bob was the prevailing hair style, a small, close fitting hat called the cloche became the predominate hat form. in general cloches had small or larger brime that turned down around the face. Some larger summer hats with wide, down-turned brims almost hid the face entirely .berets were popular for sports. Headbands, popularly known as headec bands , some jeweled and other s with tall feather attached were popular for evening ,as were turbans.

Hats of art deco period
Hats of art deco period


Stocking : The short skirts caused women to focus greater attention on hosiery. In the early years of the decade, dark stocking continued in use but as skirts grew shorter , tan or flash colored stocking replaced them. More luxurious stocking were silk , but rayon was coming into widespread use for less expensive stocking.

Stocking of art deco period
Stocking of art deco period

Shoes: Hells were two and a half inches in height , toes pointed or rounded. Commonly seen style included.

  • Pumps, with a strap across the instep or t-shape straps which crossed the instep and down the center of the foot.
  • Oxfords, especially for sports
  • Dressy evening slippers of fabric or gold silver leather
Shoes of art deco period
Shoes of art deco period

Boots :Russian style wide topped boots were worn. Young women affected the style of wearing their overshoes for bad weather or galoshes open and flapping.


Character of the various accessories were:

Umbrellas: Practical, rather than fashionable, umbrellas had long or short handles, in conservative colors.
Fans : made of ostrich feathers for evening during the 1920s,fans were not much used after this.

Handbags: Varieties’ ranged in size from larger leather bags to dainty beaded evening bags enough to hold a handkerchief and a lipstick. from a vast variety a few especially fashionable items stand out.

  • In the 1920s evening bags of brocade embroider silk, glass or metal beads or write mesh in gold and silver . Daytime leather bags were often flat; envelop type held by small straps.
  • In the 1920s bags on frame with straps and pouch shaped.
  • In the 1940s shoulder strap bags.
Handbag of art deco period
Handbag of art deco period

Gloves: These were worn for daytime, out of doors throughout the periods. In the 1930 s long evening gloves were worn. During the war, cotton gloves replaced leather due to shortages. Gloves often matched either dresses or hats and/or handbags in color or fabric.

Scarves: Those made of fabrics that contrasted with dresses were an important accessory in the mid 1940s.throughout the period fur scarves, stoles, and skins were worn around the neck often the head and paws of the animal were retained for decoration.


  • In the 1920s jewelry was plentiful , especially long ,dangling earring which looked well against short haircut and long neck. Many brooches , bracelets, and shorter necklaces were made with art deco designs. Long strands of pearls or beads were popular accessories.
  • In the 1930s jewelry was more subdued in keeping with the depressed economy and include short pearl neckline or on collars. Although earrings were generally worn in the evening many fashion magazines showed women molding day time dresses without earrings.
  • In the 1940s up swept hairstyle contributed to greater interest in earring many of which were large in scale. Rhinestones were popular for evening. Other jewelry included brooches for collars and lapels short necklaces and bracelets.
    Jewelry of art deco period
    Jewelry of art deco period

Cosmetic and grooming:

During the 1920s cosmetic became an accepted part of women’s fashion. Prior to this time most women who used cosmetic did so in secret. In the 1920s cosmetics became essential to achieving a fashionable look.



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