Celebrating the 1920s

To celebrate the release of Baz Luhrmanns hit remake of the classic film, The Great Gatsby, on DVD this week we thought wed take a look at the swinging 20s in more detail. The story of The Great Gatsby takes place in 1920s New York, and Luhrmanns dazzling masterpiece seems to have sparked a fresh interest in the fashion and lifestyle of the era.

Social change

The end of the First World War, coupled with social and political changes as well as huge advancements in technology, lead to a time of great change for women. They were now able to vote and were going out to work and becoming much more financially independent. Inspired by the icons of the time, such as Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel and Josephine Baker, women wore excessive makeup, went to parties, smoked, got drunk, and went on dates un-chaperoned!


After the rigidity of Victorian style, i.e. corsets and petticoats, post-war fashion was becoming much more relaxed. The big fashion movement of the 1920s was led by flappers; young ladies that broke the social mould by smoking, drinking and wearing risqu styles such as excessive makeup and short hemlines. Flappers, aided by the designs of Coco Chanel, paved the way for fashion as we know it today.

Preconceived notions of femininity went out of the window in the 1920s, and in came a much more androgynous way of dressing. The dresses worn by flappers hung from the body in layers, giving the impression of a boyish figure. Buxom cleavages were replaced by flat chests and dcolletages adorned with strings of pearls.


The Art Deco movement spanned across three decades, from 1915 to 1935 and was a heavy influence on everything in the 20s, especially the jewellery. Art Deco arose from a combination of political tensions, the world post-war, and a rebellion against the decadence of the Victorian era, as well as vast improvements in manufacturing. This stylistic movement is classified by simple forms, geometric shapes, and modern materials such as plastics and aluminium.