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Influences on Fashion During the Period 1920-1947

Influences on Fashion During the Period 1920-1947
Ayvi Hossain Bonna
Dept. of Fashion Design
KCC Women’s College (Affiliated by Khulna University)
Khulna, Bangladesh
Email: ayvi_hossain@yahoo.com



Some Influences on Fashion:

The Movies:

Movie influences on fashion remarkably. Film stars became fashion-setters. Rudolph Valentine was the idol of millions of American women, and men copied his pomaded, patent-leather look hair. In her first major film role the actress Joan Crawford personified the fast-living, shingled flapper of the 1920s and women across the country aped her makeup, her hairstyle, and her clothes. Women were lavishly gowned and houses magnificently furnished. Off screen the movie star was a fashion influence. Greta Garb’s broad –shouldered, natural beauty served to set one ideal of feminine beauty of the era. Other women bleached their hair blonde in imitation of Jean Harlow. Thousands of mothers curled their daughter’s hair into ringlets like those of Shirley Temple, the famous child star. Teenaged girls wore page boy hair like June Allyson or draped a wave over one eye in the “peek-a-boo” style of Veronica Lake . Movie studio publicity offices printed “pin-up “pictures of actress Betty Garble in a backless bathing suit and high heels.

Influences on Fashion in The Movies 1920-1947
Fig: The Movies

Royalty and Cafe Society:

European royalty and ex –royalty as well as cafe society influences on fashion. During the 1930s wealthy Americans and Europeans were photographed at fashionable resorts in the United States and abroad. Much of the sportswear that became popular for tennis, riding, and skiing was first worn by the rich. Few others had the leisure and money to engage in these activities in the 1930s. Some of the debutantes of the late 1930s caught the imagination of the public, and gossip columns were full of news about coming out parties and cotillions and charity balls. Brenda Frazier, one of these “debs,” helped to publicize a new style, the staples evening.

Influences on Fashion in Royalty and Cafe Society 1920-1947
Fig: Royalty and Cafe Society


Participants in both spectator sports and active sports gained in numbers. Attendance at sporting events in the 1920s broke all previous records. Baseball, college football, boxing, tennis and golf were widely followed. Women as leading sports figures were new phenomena. As active sports for everyone became more widespread, sports clothing became more important. Special costume was required for sports such as skiing and tennis. A new type of clothing, worn for leisure time but not dedicated to one particular sport, entered the vocabulary of fashion and also became a merchandising term .Henceforth in this text, the term sportswear will refer to clothing for men and women that is worn for leisure time or informal situations, while clothing for particular sports will be discussed under the heading of clothing for active sports.

Influences on Fashion in Sportswear 1920-1947
Fig: Sportswear

The Automobile:

Once the automobile had become practical transportation rather than a sport, special costume for motoring disappeared. As women began to drive routinely, the need for shorter and less cumbersome skirts was evident. Although day-time skirts and drop fairly low to just above the ankle in the early 1930s and again in the 1950s skirts have not reached all the way to the floor for everyday wear since 1910 and it is possible that the automobile has been in part responsible for this. Cars encouraged the use of wristwatches, which were easier to look at while driving than pocket watches, and probably made smaller hats preferable .Cans and walking sticks went out style. Both of these aspects of cars use contributed to the growing use of causal sport cloth.

Influences on Fashion in Automobile  1920-1947
Fig: The Automobile influence

Technological Developments Influences on Fashion:

Western societies tended to utilize fours fibers: cotton, linen, silk, and wool. As early as the 1880s Count Hilaire de Chardonnet of France had manufactured a new fiber from cellulose called artificial silk the fiber did not gain rapid acceptance, as it was too lustrous and did not wash well. Gradually it was improved and by the 1920s, when the United States Department of Commerce established the rayon for this material, it was used fairly widely. A second and quite different manufactured fiber came into commercial use after World War Ι . It too was called rayon until the 1950s when it was given a separate name, acetate to distinguish it from rayon. Throughout the 1920s and increasingly in the 1930s rayon fabrics (including acetate) were used, mostly in women’s clothing.

Technological Developments Affecting Fashion
Technological Developments Affecting Fashion

Unless individuals were to wear only loose , unfitted clothing that could be put on over the head , some means of closure had to be used . Lacing and buttons were the chief means of fastening garments shut until the 19th century when a wide variety of metal hooks and eyes were developed.

The zipper was invented in 1891 by whitecomb L . Judson from Chicago who caller this first version a clasp locker . An imperfect device (it kept falling apart ) , the design was improved by Gideon Sundback who went on to manufacture Hookless Fasteners which were sold for use in corsets , gloves , sleeping bags , money belts and tobacco pouches and in the 1920s, to B.F Goodrich for closures on rubber boots . It was Goodrich who first used the term zipper, calling the boots Zipper Boots . The word zipper was registered as a trademark by Goodrich in 1925 , but zippers were so widely used in the 1930s and that zipper became a generic term applied to any toothed , slide fastener(Brandt 1989).

The French Couture:

From 1920 until Paris was cut off from contact with England and America by the German occupation during World War ΙΙ , the French couture maintained its position as the arbiter of style in clothing for women . Although the couture in general was influential, in each period certain designers stood out from the rest. Just as Poiret had occupied a special place among the designers of the late Edwardian Period and before World war Ι ,so did the designs of Chanel typify the style of the 1920s , Vionnet the early 1930s and Schiaparelli the later 1930s .

Influences on Fashion in French Couture 1920-1947
Fig: The French Couture

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel began to work as a designer before World War Ι. During the war she had a small shop at Deauville, a seaside resort, where she had great success in making causal knit jackets and pullover sweaters. She designed comfortable, practical clothes, buying sailor’s jackets and men’s pullover sweaters which she combined with pleated skirts. She is credited with making the suntanned look and costume jewelry popular , but her real genius lay in designing simple , classic wool jersey styles .

Madeleine Vionnet began to work as an apprentice in a dressmaker’s shop at the age of 13. Her distinctive talent was in the cutting of dresses. She originated the bias cut , a technique for cutting clothing to utilize the diagonal direction of the cloth which has greater stretch and drapes in such a way that the body lines and curves are accentuated . During the 1930s when this cut was especially fashionable, she was one of the most sought- after of the French designers. She has been compared to an architect or sculptor. Clearly she completely understood the medium of fabric and through cutting and draping created styles of such simplicity and elegance that they are still admired.

Elsa Schiaparelli an Italian designer worked in Paris in the 1930s where she began by creating sweaters in bizarre designs. By the end of the 1930s she was an exceedingly popular designer whose emphasis on color and unusual decorative effects was widely praised. She is credited with being the first couturiere to use zippers –she put them on pockets in 1930 and in dresses in 1934 and 1936. Her other innovations included the first evening dress with a matching jacket and skirts to match sweaters. In the mid 1930s Schiaparelli labeled a vivid pink color that she used “shocking pink”.

Charel, Vionnet and Schiaparelli were only three of the influential Paris-based designers of the 1920s and 1930s. Other important couturiers of the 1920- 1947.

American designers influences on fashion:

Although the French Couture continued to work on a limited basis during the War, international press coverage could not be given to the designs created there. As a result, a number of talented American designers were featured in the magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar to an extent that might not have been possible had they been competing with the French Couture. Once established, these designers continued to have a substantial following – although the operation of the fashion industry in American was quite different from the operation of the French Couture.

The French haute couture is represented by a trade association called the Chamber Syndic ale de la Couture Parisienne. This group defines the haute couture as firms which create models that may be sold to private customers or to other segments of the fashion industry who also acquire the right to reproduce to designs. In the period between the wars, the designs of the French haute couturiers were sold to private customers and to retail stores where they were resold or copied and sold to customers of the store. Through this system the designs originated by the couturiers influenced international fashions. In the United States, by contrast, fashion designers generally worked for ready-to-wear manufactures.

Influences on Fashion by american designers in 1920-1947
Fig: American designers influence on fashion.

Although many of the fine department stores in large cities maintained custom dressmaking or tailoring departments, and smaller towns and cities had a number of local dressmakers, most American women purchased their clothing ready-made in local stores. American designers for the most part worked in this system and still do. Even the highest priced fashions are produced in this way. One exception to this rule was Mainbocher, an American –born designer who went to Paris in the 1920s to work as a fashion editor. He opened his own couture house in Paris in 1929. He designed Wallis Simpson’s wedding dress.

Claire McCardell was born in Frederick Maryland, in 1905 .She studied at the Parsons School of Design and in Paris. Her first individual collection was done for Townley Frocks in 1931 .There she designed chiefly sportswear and causal clothes. She designed under her own name after 1940, and had her greatest success in the 1940 and 1950s.

Some of the important styles and design features that she is credited as originating or making popular include : matching separates , a new idea at the time ; dirndl skirts ; the monastic , a bias cut , full tent dress that when belted followed the body contours gracefully ; hardware closings ; spaghetti or shoestring ties ; the diaper bathing suit ; ballet slippers ; and the poncho.

After the end of World War ΙΙ , The French couture resumed its operation , and its primacy as the center of international fashion design . American designers had , however, shown that they could create innovative and original styles , and had earned an important place in the world of fashion design .In recognition of the importance of American design in the postwar period fashion magazines while prominently featuring Paris design continued to give extensive coverage to American designers as well.


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  • http://www.pinterest.com/mross921/chapter-16-twenties-thirties-and-world-war-2/




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