In the 1920s women got the right to vote, prohibition made drinking the nation’s favorite pasttime, and with the radio hitting home across America everyone was dancing. Fortunes were being made and spent recklessly and the cinema was giving rise to a whole new kind of celebrity and glamour. The automobile finally became affordable and accessible to most people, and it was everyone’s duty to drive a natty new car or look as though they were. All of these elements had an effect on the fashions of the 1920s. In the early twenties hemlines were just above the ankle and waistlines were relaxed, but as the decade progressed hemlines rose until they reached just below the knee and the waistline dropped to mid hip. The silhouette was boyish and straight. Women wore corsets to flatten their chests and narrow their hips since their new sense of liberation rendered breasts and hips unfashionable. Many even forewent the corset entirely. They cut their hair into bobs both for shock value and for its fresh boyish appeal. Men’s fashions in the early twenties were not all that different from the previous decades as they have never been known to change as rapidly as women’s clothing. Their collars were stiff and worn high, their jackets were high waisted and sometimes belted. Slacks were narrow. As the decade progressed, the suit became more relaxed and the waistline more natural.
Social change was brewing in the teens as our nation became increasingly industrialized. In the past clothes had been mostly hand sewn, but during the turn of the century the sewing machine was introduced, which made the mass production of clothing possible and the latest fashions affordable to the middle and lower classes. The styles worn during the teens reflected the beginning of the American woman’s changing role in society. It was becoming increasingly acceptable for women to work outside the home. If a woman did not have to work for a living, she was expected to lead an active and useful life (an attitude due in large part to World War I and the need for more charities and hospital aid). To accommodate this active role, women wore clothes that were more practical. The hemlines were raised from the floor a couple of inches, skirts were full for ease of walking, petticoats lighter than in the past. They wore blouses with skirts instead of dresses. The hobble skirt which was popular in the teens often had a button down vent in the back which could be left open when walking. Women still wore corsets, but they became less restrictive than in the past. Not every woman cared whether or not she had the right to vote, and indeed there were women who thought the idea of women voting was unseemly, but nevertheless the Suffragette Movement was in full swing.