Fashion in the Jazz Era

History of Popular Culture—Week 1, Assignment 3

How does fashion relate to the music and politics of the time and is it a good barometer of the culture?

1920s America saw much change: from the end of World War I to the automobile to electricity in homes to the drastic rise of the economy and the middle class. The “Roaring Twenties,” as this period is called, was all about exemplified extravagance and modern thought, and shunned traditional values. It was a time of great prosperity for the nation, albeit built on false pretenses and speculation. People looked to the future with great optimism. Social reforms brought about the advent of women’s right to vote.

Fashions of the 1920s, most notably women’s fashions, were meant to draw attention. Young women of the time, known as flappers, wore short skirts and had their hair bobbed—cut short. They were the rebels of their time. Speaking of the youth of the era, Warner Fabian said in Flaming Youth, “They’re all desperadoes, these kids, all of them with any life in their veins; the girls as well as the boys; maybe more than the boys.”

It was not uncommon for flappers to be arrested for indecent exposure. The fashion of the time reflected the promiscuous lifestyle many of these party girls led and disregard for traditional modesty.

The twenties were a time when progressive thought and unexpected affluence due to an artificially soaring stock market offered free time for partying and catered to independent thinking. The fashions of the time mirrored the free spirit of the people.


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