Written by: Kene Nzelu
My name is Kene. I’m a blog writer for FashionX, and I’m also part of the Branding team. I love history. In fact, I’m a history major! Thus, I plan to write a lot of articles relating to fashion history among other things.
Spring quarter is here! I’m so excited to wear cute ouƞits for warmer weather and not be restricted by rain and the cold. In celebration of spring quarter, I thought it would be fiƫng to write a blog post looking at the history of women’s spring American fashion styles in the 20th century. This blog post will cover the first half of the 20th century, and my next blog post will cover the second half of the century.
This was a decade that came with more independence for women, including in their fashion. Dresses during this decade gave women an “s” silhouette and were adorned with beautiful, materials such as lace, velvet, embroidery made with metallic thread. During this time, women had were doing more athletic activities than ever before. They needed outfits to support them in these activities, but they still had to look fashionable. Thus, sportswear for sports such as bicycling, tennis, polo, golf, and croquet became popular. However, it wasn’t only sportswear that showed women’s increased independence. For example, the shirtwaist was used by a lot of working women and symbolized progressive values.
These are examples of “s” shape silhouette dresses.
During this decade, skirts became more tapered at the bottom. “Lingerie dresses” emerged during this time. These were lightweight linen and cotton gowns decorated with lace and cutwork. They had a narrow shape, decorative edging down the front, and elongated and slimmed the body. For everyday wear, tailored shirtwaists and slim skirts remained popular for women. Blouses with detachable details also emerged. These gave women more options, allowing them to create new looks by switching out the cuffs, collars, neckties, and jabots of their blouses.
An example of a lingerie dress.
Of course, the iconic flapper dress could be seen everywhere during this time. These dresses were revolutionary at the time for their dropped waistline and shorter hemline. Though sportswear wasn’t new, women in America started wearing it as everyday wear (men had already been doing this). Tennis was popular among women, so much of women’s fashion was inspired by tennis outfits.
“Sketch of Flapper Fashion,” Medium, https://medium.com/@allysia98/the-history-of-flapper-fashiond69e5e9b56d8. Flapper dresses.
Two examples of women’s tennis outfits
This decade saw blouses with “softened” feminine collars and patterns including stripes, polka dots, and florals. Overblouses that were cinched at the waist were common, and tucked blouses were also popular. Dresses were solid colored, but there were also some that were patterned. Black, navy blue, and grey were popular dress colors, but neutrals (such as brown and beige) were also common. Dresses made from sheer fabrics were popular on warmer days. On chillier days, women wore coats in navy and beige and matched them with their dresses. On warmer spring days, women wore short jackets and boleros.
1930s spring blouses
World War II was occurring during this period, so Americans were rationing clothing materials. Sportswear continued in popularity. Many women wore the designs of fashion designer Claire McCardell which were sporty, casual, and practical. Her clothes were made from materials such as denim, seersucker, and jersey. However, in February 1947, a new style called The New Look emerged that emphasized traditional femininity. Fashion designer Christian Dior launched this style and fashion editor Carmel Snow was the one who nicknamed it “The New Look”. The New Look was comprised of dresses with rounded soldiers, a cinched-in waist, and a long, full skirt.
There you have it: popular spring women’s American fashion during the first half of the 20th century. Do you like any of these fashions? If so, which one is your favorite? Stay tuned for my next post covering popular women’s spring American fashion during the second half of the 20th century!
1. https://www.thefrickpittsburgh.org/Story-Trends-Through-the-Decades-Spring-Fashion-1880- 1910