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1920s Dresses Patterns Made Fashion Accessible To Women With Modest Means

By Harold Price


There were big changes going on in America in the 1920s. People were making money. There was a revolution in art and literature. Women were experiencing changes as well. In 1920 they got the right to vote. There were openings in the workplace for them. They were smoking and wearing trousers in public. Hems were rising and necklines were lowering. Department stores made buying the latest fashions easier for those with means. 1920s dresses patterns made it possible for those of modest means to be as fashionable as their wealthier sisters.

Most women were accomplished seamstresses and took pride in their skill. They often did not have the money necessary to buy off the rack clothing so they either paid a dime for a pattern or created their own using magazine photos to achieve the look they wanted. The savings went to accessories like shoes, belts, cloche hats, and silk stockings.

A staple in the wardrobe of a twenties housewife would have been the home dress. This was a simple garment made for everyday wear. Most of them were made out of cotton with a little lace or rickrack. White collars were common embellishments. Women wore aprons over their home dresses to protect their garments from cooking splatters and spills. Aprons were typically homemade.

For working women, a more formal wardrobe was required. Housewives also needed nicer frocks to go visiting or run errands. A pattern they would have used was a tailored dress in silk or wool. Women in cities were inclined to dress in neutral tones like grey, black, navy, or tan. Country women more often chose light grey, red, blue, or white.

Afternoon tea was not just a British tradition. In America it was a chance for women of some means to meet with friends and show off their sophisticated styles. A tea dress was typically calf length with delicate, decorative elements embroidered on. The materials were lighter and had more color than a home dress. They wore sheer stockings that complemented the color of their dresses.

Women wealthy enough to go to college had to be outfitted for any occasion. Knit was the material of choice because it was so easy to wash. Coeds wore their skirts shorter and paired everything with a raccoon coat. This was a time when men and women changed for the evening meal. Most college women came to school with several dresses made of silk and other delicate materials which were appropriate for dining.

Glamorous evening wear was reserved for the wealthier classes, but women of more modest means might sew an elegant dropped waist garment for a special occasion. The most common materials used were taffeta, velvet, silk, and chiffon. Beaded dresses were all the rage and worth the time it took to make them because they signified affluence.

Styles come and go. The post World War I fashions are seen on catwalks every decade or so. If you are a seamstress and want to try your hand at a vintage 1920s dress, you will find reproduction patterns online. Originals are mostly collector's items selling for a lot more than the dime women originally paid.




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