What the Height of Fashion Looked Like 100 Years Ago
For fancy flappers, short skirts, bobbed hair, and fur stoles were the bee's knees.
When she started playing the cello on radio stations in 1927, Elizabeth Smith was paid union wages—$3 for the first hour, and $1.50 for each additional hour. Elizabeth, seen in her 1929 high school graduation picture, also enjoyed strumming the ukulele on her front porch. Check out glamorous vintage photos of life in the 1950s.
This portrait of an African American couple from the 1930s has been colorized. Although the colors might not be accurate to the period, the fitted suit, formal dress, and hats represented high fashion at the time.
Big city style
“My mother, Mary Freischle, had exquisite taste and always dressed in the latest fashion,” recalls Bea Taus of Fremont, California. “She was an immigrant and had come to America with all her belongings in a small wicker suitcase. After growing up on a poor farm in Poland, she was awed by the finery she saw when she settled in the big city of Chicago.” These are the most inspiring women alive today.
Embroidered dress and jacket
This woman wearing a matching dress and jacket set with detailed embroidery and a hat with a short brim is a display of formal fashion.
When May Leidy visited her son and daughter-in-law in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1925, she was right in style, with bobbed hair, and a cloche hat. We had no idea these things happened in 1920.
All about the hair
Hair was just as important as your outfit, and that still remains true today. These three women feature popular hairstyles in the 20s.
After graduating from high school in 1922, Edith Tollfsrud found a job at the Parker Pen Company in Janesville, Wisconsin. “My first earnings were spent on flapper garb, like these popular galoshes,” recalls Edith. Check out rare, vintage photos of what winter used to look like.
Bold and beautiful
Kelly, on left, next to her sister Mildred, was the rebellious flapper, according to their younger sister, Carolyn Mays of Homosassa Springs, Florida. “I wished I could be one of those flappers, too, but I was a little too young and shy to try,” says Carolyn. “There was nothing timid about Kelly. She started rolling down her long cotton stockings and displaying her bare knees. Grandfather gave Kelly’s dark hair the latest cut, called a ‘monkey bob.'” Discover the secrets your hairstylist won’t tell you.
“I cherish memories of my flapper sister, Alice, who added so much to my childhood,” says Jennie Ouellette of Sanford, Maine. “Alice epitomized the Roaring 20s with her short dresses, rolled stockings, and felt hats adorned with cutout posies. Alice was named ‘Miss Portsmouth’ in our New Hampshire hometown. And she won first prize for doing the Charleston.”
Strike a pose
Mae Dodd Milford considered herself the ultimate flapper when she had this photo snapped at the studio where she worked, says her daughter, Elizabeth Winter. The photo was displayed in the studio’s window. These vintage recipes from the 1920s are worth trying today.
“I really wasn’t a flapper, but you wouldn’t know it by this picture. I used to drive our Model T to Normal, Illinois, to attend teacher’s college. One day, some classmates and I had our pictures taken on a lark. The off-the-shoulder dress, boa, and spit curl really topped off the look. I had the time of my life, but when my parents saw the picture, I thought my mom would faint!” says Emma Wright of Pana, Illinois.
A doctor’s wife in Decatur, Illinois, Elsa Tearnan looked elegant in chiffon as she posed for this 1925 photo. From the family album of Sara Pora of Windsor, Maine, this cherished picture of her Aunt Elsa includes typical home furnishings of the day. These vintage home trends will take you way back.
Hats and headbands
“My parents were married in Safford, Arizona, in 1923, just as the Roaring 20s were starting to growl,” says Nate Skousan Jr. “Mother was already known for her stylish flair, so she loved the hats, feathers, jewelry, and ribbon headbands that came into fashion. In keeping with the times, Mother also loved to dress up her two little girls in the fashions of the day.” Learn about pioneering women who changed the world.
Bobs and short dresses were in style during the 1920s, and Helen Tillapaugh of Fort Wayne, Indiana, wore them with grace. Avoid these style mistakes that are making you look older.
“This picture is a favorite because it shows how much my sister Ruth and I cared for each other—and still do!” says Ralph Bray of Grand Forks, North Dakota. “Her fox stole and my knickers were the fashion of the day.” These vintage photos show what swimsuits used to look like.
Natalie Baker of Canandaigua, New York, says her grandparents (center) chaperoned Phi Gamma Delta’s “Junior Week House Party” in 1922. Her father is standing second from the left, and her mother is at the far left in the middle row.
Ruby Calvert Johnson was an artist and photographer in the early 1920s. She lived in the San Francisco Bay area and worked in a photo shop there. Her niece, Patricia Calvert Collins, of Bend, Oregon, says Ruby was still beautiful when she married much later at age 58. These slang words from the 1920s are worth bringing back.
Sara Pora of Windsor, Maine, doesn’t know the name of this intriguing lady, but she remembers the 1920s when such elegant clothing was in fashion. Sara especially recalls button shoes and fur neckpieces. Check out 1920s advice on how to regulate your weight.
Lisa Legg of Yardville, New Jersey, sent a lovely photograph of her grandmother taken in 1929, three years after she came to America from Germany. Ellen Christian worked as a nanny and learned English from the children.
Lula Mae Adams loved to get dressed up and go to town, says her daughter, Audrey Lambert of Brentwood, Tennessee. On this particular trip during the 1920s, Lula Mae climbed aboard an airplane at an airfield near San Antonio, Texas. These vintage photos show how glamorous flying used to be.