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November 19, 2016

1920s Fashion: 18 Iconic Women Who Changed Our Style Forever

From the super-glam flapper girls to the first waves of cool androgyny, 1920s fashion was all about liberation, trying new things and having a whole lot of fun in the process.

After World War One, women’s style loosened up as the corsets came off, skirts got shorter and thanks to a certain Coco Chanel, trousers for women were in for the first time.

While comfort was king, the efforts were still pretty fabulous – think art deco motifs, rich velvet or satin dress fabrics and pearl embellishments – as showgirls like Josephine Baker, Clara Bow and Greta Garbo became the key trendsetters of the decade.

1. Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel

We are eternally grateful to Mademoiselle Coco (pictured above) for so many of definite 1920s fashion styles, and some of the greatest sartorial inventions; the little black dress, costume jewellery, espadrilles… But her greatest overarching influence? The liberation of women’s clothing and the concept of casual chic in the 1920s. Chanel led the trend for a flatter, corset-free bust, a streamlined silhouette with no hyper-waistline and she popularized trousers for women. Next time you let it all hang out after a huge dinner, you’ll think of this woman, won’t you?

2. Clara Bow

Here’s the original IT actress Clara, modeling an ideal 1920s fashion look. The ultimate flapper, she looks ready to break into a Charleston any moment, doesn’t she? The slimming chevrons and dropped waist became style trademarks for all flapper girls by day, and were amped up in sequined versions for the Gatsby glam parties at night.

3. Colleen Moore

Silent film actress Colleen basically invented the bob. Women around the world copied the black block cut that she and a few other early adopting actresses made popular, making her one of the greatest beauty influencers of all time.She loved it so much, in fact, that she kept that haircut until the day she died in 1988. Talk about a signature style…

4. Louise Brooks

Party girl Louise tried and tested all the trends the decade had to offer, we’ve got her down as an Alexa of the decade. She popularised the bob, got women to see how fab trousers can be and was one of the first actresses to speak openly about her experiments with her sexuality.

5. Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker is the woman who inspired Beyonce’s booty-shake. How cool is that? The original showgirl was famous for her ‘banana dance’, plus she was a spy and she owned a pet cheetah, which she used to walk in Paris. Amazing. A queen of accessorising, the Jazz Age beauty sometimes wore little else on stage and by day she worked an Art Deco print like no other.

6. Greta Garbo

On the set of The Temptress, actress Greta was one of the decade’s most alluring film stars. While many actresses sexed it up to appeal to male audiences, her sense of style meant that women, too, were fascinated with her beauty. Her favorite designer was Valentina Schlee and she went on to epitomize old Hollywood glamour.

7. Gloria Swanson

Just look at Gloria, dripping with glamour in her spliced gold dress and bejeweled headband. Never knowingly understated, her extravagant dress sense meant that she was one of the decade’s stand-out style stars, a Lady Gaga for the Jazz Age, if you will.

8-9. Dorothy Sebastian and Joan Crawford

As women’s style relaxed there was more emphasis than ever before on sportswear and swimwear. We were still a long way off from the bikini here (it wasn’t invented until 1946) but for the first time women could move freely and actually be active in their activewear.

10. Pola Negri

The first European actress to be invited to Hollywood, silent film star Pola was responsible for introducing all sorts of our favorite fashion and beauty trends to popular culture. She loved a turban, put fur boots on the fashion map and even introduced the world to the concept of red painted toenails.

11. Mae Murray

The original superstar pout, Mae Murray was known as the girl with the bee-stung lips. After beginning her career on Broadway, the constant showgirl became a Hollywood millionaire.

12. Doris Hill

A cloche hat was essential to top off any slick 1920s fashion silhouettes, as demonstrated by silver screen starlet Doris Hill.

13. Dorothy Mackaill

As trousers for women became the norm, the androgynous look was the coolest trend to be seen in. Brit actress Dorothy worked a full tuxedo on the set of The Crystal Cup, making a style statement that women everywhere wanted to buy into.

14. Mary Pickford

The square cut was the neckline of the decade, flattening the bust line after years of ample cleavage in corsets. Co-founder of film studio United Arts, Mary Pickford was a 1920s heroine for women at work, and a power-dressing one at that.

15. Anita Page

Queen of pearls Anita, pictured above right with actresses Joan Crawford and Dorothy Sebastian for the film Our Dancing Daughters, reportedly received 35,000 fan letters in a week during her heyday. Remember folks, these were the times when fan-girls didn’t have Twitter or emojis to express their love for a star, so these were physical hand-written notes of adoration. Amazing, right?

16. Jean Arthur

Jean was the 1920s’ too cool style icon and queen of screwball comedy. She was publicity shy ‘I’d rather have slit my throat’ than do an interview and worked an androgynous slick look – think crisp white shirts and relaxed tailored trousers.

17. Fay Wray

Before she became an international superstar in 1933’s King Kong, Fay was a young flapper girl with a penchant for Art Deco jewellery like no other. Just look at that gorgeous choker and all those stencil-like bracelets.

18. Zelda Fitzgerald

Mr Gatsby himself, author F. Scott Fitzgerald declared his novelist wife Zelda to be ‘the first American Flapper.’ Her creativity, independence and attitude were exactly what being a flapper girl was all about – you didn’t think it was only about those glitzy dresses now, did you?

(via Marie Claire)


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