Think Twenties fashion and plenty comes to mind: short, fringed dresses in loose fitting, sensuous fabrics, silhouetting willowy, boyish bodies. Cloche hats covered bobbed hair and framed flirtatious eyes and narrow, knowing brows. It was a time for Bright Young Things, a new partying set free to be young and frivolous and to Charleston ‘til their legs buckled.

The flavours of the age were expressed in fashion, and the Twenties had plenty to offer to the young, impetuous and anxious to experience a new world now emerging from The Great War. Rosie Cowling writes about the 20s sports look.

A newly prospering economy was symbolized in the clothing of the era. For those that could afford it, fabrics were sumptuous, fur and feathers were popular, and appliqués reflected clothes made for show. Detail was everything, and while comfort was favoured, a dress wasn’t practical, it was a work of art. The same Art Deco geometric, angular motifs appearing in contemporary paintings were embellished on dresses.

Fashions also had to keep up with the wicked sounds of Jazz, so sartorial styles became scandalous in comparison to Edwardian clothing, with dark inspiration from the Orient and Africa. It was all about the exotic. Even the V neck, which has fallen out of favour in recent years, was deemed pretty riské in the Twenties.

A favourite designer of the young set, Elsa Schiaparelli, combined classic Greek and Roman design with the modern imperative for freedom of movement. Her clothes presented an awareness of the body under the clothing, and tunics were flowing and sensual, clinging only momentarily with the movement of the fabric.

Taking inspiration from new gender concepts following from women’s suffrage, the French designer Paul Poiret liberated women from the constraints of corsets and put them in trousers. Totally unthinkable a mere 10 years before! It’s Poiret we have to thank for the harem trousers that have made a popular comeback now.

1920s-fashionA Twenties look that’s often overlooked in favour of the iconic flapper is the ‘Sporty Girl’. A taste for sport as leisure represented a new age of modernity and luxury. Women turned away from traditional roles imposed by society and took up hobbies like tennis, golfing and skiing.

And every new pursuit required a new outfit. While remaining stylish and elegant, these outfits had to be comfortable for movement. They weren’t just to be admired, they were to be played in too.

Coco Chanel dominated the market for chic and streamlined comfort clothing, both sportswear and travelwear, quenching a new thirst for exotic travel. Chanel introduced bell-bottomed trousers for women, in the style worn by sailors, for yachting and sailing.

The social conventions that had dominated women’s fashion previously were being relaxed for sport. Physical activity was now glamorous and women came out from under parasols and into the sun to tan their skin like the movie stars.image002

Here are some fashion features of the ‘Twenties Sporty Girl – a look much easier to recreate than the flapper:

  • Lightweight fabrics – jersey, cotton, rayon
  • Weightier fabrics – wool, tweed
  • Streamlined silhouettes
  • Two piece sweater and skirts by Jean Patou
  • Dropped waists
  • Shift dresses
  • Knife pleats, gathers and slits to allow motion
  • Wide legged trousers
  • Masculine, angular jackets


image no 1: From the Condé Nast Archive

One Response

  1. Rebecka

    20s sport fashion – i am quite sure the world has never seen better fashion! this fantastic french blog is full of the sportier side of 20s and 30s fashion – photo after photo of beach outfits from the period.