06 November 2007

Standards of Beauty:
The 1920s, A Fashion Revolution

By Delia Deleest

In the 1920s everything seemed to be rising, from the stock markets, to hair and skirt lengths and eyebrows in response to the aforementioned hair and skirt lengths.

No more were pale, curvaceous beauties in their tightly tied corsets of the Victorian and Edwardian ages the accepted forms of beauty. The 'moderns' of the Jazz age needed loose-fitting clothing so they were better able to kick their heels up in the scandalous new dance, The Charleston. No longer did they calmly sit on the sidelines as their men showed off their athletic prowess. Now young women were right out there on the tennis courts or golf courses and not in the confining long skirts of the past.

Modern girls wore short comfortable dresses or even *gasp* pants. When wearing those short dresses, women further scandalized the establishment by wearing flesh-colored stockings instead of the accepted black. When they started rolling them down, not only exposing dainty knees to the open air, but taking it another step further and rouging those knees, the older generation's shock knew no ends.

Not everyone was pleased with the decade's free and easy fashions. A law in Washington DC in 1922 stated a bathing suit could not be shorter than six inches above the knees. And there were plenty of defenders of decency to make sure no one was trying to get away with anything. Adventurous young beach-goers found themselves in jail on decency charges, but that didn't stop them from asserting their new fashion independence.

In the early part of the decade, only wild women had their hair cut into a 'bob,' the blunt, chin-length haircut. Daughters found themselves grounded until their hair grew back, while some short-haired wives found their husbands no longer speaking to them. But by the second half of the twenties, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone under the age of forty sporting anything longer than shoulder-length tresses.

When the stock market dropped, so did skirt lengths. Gone were the free and easy twenties. The Depression brought with it a new seriousness that showed itself in fashion. That doesn't mean that the fashion gains of the Roaring Twenties were gone though. Women enjoyed their new-found freedom of dress and held tightly to it. The 1920s gave us the freedom in clothing that we enjoy today. So next time you pop on your bikini to head to the beach, send up a silent thanks to those brave ladies who fought the battle to bare their knees to the world so you didn't have to.