Things changed in the Roaring 20s


Shortly after WWI, American folks burst forth with more energy than they seem to be able to contain.

A fast pace began that seemed uncontrollable, as a change in lifestyle and almost all facets of daily existence was under way.

Clothing styles change. During a short period – 1920s to 1930s – clothing changed radically year by year. The hem line went up and down like a yo-yo and the waist line followed the trend. Hair styles from almost a short G.I. WWII appearance changed to down to the shoulders.

This was the beginning of women’s liberation to equality. Fashions in clothing became man-like, hair styles short – known as the “bob” – plus “spit-curls”, cigarettes and beer were consumed openly.

Flat bust lines, even to the point of binding tightly around the upper torso, hemlines were above the knee, dresses were cut down the backs and skull-type hats, allowing only a trace of hair to be exposed, were popular.

The ladies utilizing these revolutionary fashions were known as “flappers”. An example of this was in a 1925 edition of The New Republic Magazine, and was named “Flapper Jane”.

A few conservative and religious groups – the Vatican for one – disdained and forbid such behavior in ladies’ appearance and behavior. However, the fad remained until the 1930s.

Jewelry was designed to complement the various changing fads in clothing and appearance.

Earrings were designed on pendants, necklaces of beads hung very low, and bracelets, seemingly endless in number, were worn.

The main purpose was to dazzle the eye with glitter, color and immense quality. Any natural or manmade faceted clear stone or glass was desired, as long as it glittered and reflected light.

Rhinestones and cut glass became fashionable. Combinations of colors – jet and crystal, brass or gold and crystal, silver and crystal in necklaces and earrings – were used.

Beaded and faceted necklaces often measured three feet in length; earrings were four inches or more.

Remember the ladies swimsuits designed with a short skirt effect? Jewelry was made to wear with this outfit too. Treated wooden balls were painted for necklaces, bracelets and even earrings.

Costume jewelry was the vogue in a big way, as retail catalogs of all major mail order companies had up to 40 pages of such jewelry.

Pearls, real and otherwise, were the most popular. Cultured pearls were beginning to be produced and caused a decline in natural pearl prices. But prices were not low enough for the middle class families to afford.

For this strata of folks, Montgomery Ward sold the “reproduction” or “indestructible” pearl. These were guaranteed not to break, peel, crack or oxidize and change color. The price was $9.98 for a two-foot necklace.

During the Roaring 20s, the emphasis was on youth and their looks. Age was often covered up with adornment and makeup, plus the fashion in clothing.

Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein became leaders in the “youthful” look. Lipstick, colorful rouge and powder covered up years of wear and tear on the flesh.

To illustrate the amount of powder, creams and rouge purchased in one year, in 1929 an average woman utilized over a pound of makeup.

To cater to this demand, over 1,500 brands of face cream and 2,500 different perfumes were manufactured. The five-and-dime stores sold perfumes in small 10-cent bottles called “scents”, mostly artificial scented water or wood alcohol.


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