Thursday, June 14, 2018

Women's Fashion Circa 1920


One of my favorite displays in the Circa 1920: Roaring into the Modern Age exhibition at the Benton County Historical Museum is that showing two female mannequins on either side of a period piano. The museum has only a few museum-quality mannequins so our ability to document the changes in fashion are limited.  Also, to preserve garments, they should not be exposed to too much light; consequently the museum prefers to leave them on display for no more than six months. But thanks to the museum's extensive photograph collection, we can see changes in women's fashion during this trans-formative period.



By 1915, the exaggerated S-shaped silhouette of the Gibson girl was out of fashion and the very narrow hobble skirts did not fit into the lives of women who were taking a more active role with the advent of World War I in Europe. Fashion outfits from 1915 to 1920 have a tailored look-- often consisting of an ankle-length A-line skirt and a belted jacket, often with military-style decorations.  The skirts were long and worn with boots. As the picture of nine women posed on a train circa 1916 shows, a large hat completed the outfit. 



By the mid-1920s, the fashionable silhouette was very slim.  Dresses had dropped waists and skirts were worn with loose, blouson tops reaching to the hips or long, loose sweater vests. Hem lines had risen  to id-calf or (by 1925) to the knee. Women wore dark hose and T-strap shoes. Hairdos were shorter and fitting with the cloche style hats then popular. 
 
The four women in this 1925 photograph were also on an outing to a lighthouse but dresses quite differently from the women in the first picture.

The number of women working outside the home increased in this period, especially during the war years.  Their attire reflects the changing styles from those worn by women working in what is probably a post office circa 1915 to what young telephone operators wore in 1923.

#Corvallis, #Oregon, telephone operators Mary Combs,
Abbie James, Mabel Magers, and Elisie Nygren.

Active women changed from wearing long skirts to play tennis (1916) to wearing jodphers and knickers for riding, hiking and other outdoor activities.


By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

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