Dresses and skirts with Oriental hems were not the dominant style of 1920, but I’d love to hear from any vintage collectors who have encountered one. I suspect that, like other trends that didn’t dominate their era, dresses with Oriental hems are probably rare, especially since they had plenty of fabric for re-making into a more conventional dress later.
The “Oriental” skirts of 1920 remind me of the bubble skirts popular — especially as formals — in the late fifties and early 1960s.
For the benefit of anyone who has found a vintage 1920s’ dress with this strange hem, here are more examples from Delineator, 1920.
The “Oriental hem” hem is not the same as harem pants, although this outfit also appeared in 1920:
On the same page:
The pattern descriptions make it clear that the fuller hem on the fashion fabric is gathered to a narrower interior skirt — not trousers.
Like most unusual fashions, this one began in couture houses:
There was — in more mainstream dresses — a trend to narrow hems, often as an under layer with a fuller, shorter skirt on top.
The “Oriental hem” was not the look for everyone, but, if you’re looking for something a little different — but authentic…. have fun.
Witness to Fashion on Memory Lane: Bubble dresses circa 1960 often had wadded-up nylon tulle sandwiched in between their skirt layers. They did not emerge from dry-cleaning with all their charm intact. Since the small, hand-held steamer was not a common household appliance in 1959, taking a lovely bubble dress out of a packed closet could be a sad experience: a “light as whipped cream” taffeta dancing dress might emerge as a flattened prune.
7 responses to ““Oriental” Hems, 1920”
This kind of skirt made a reappearance not just in the 50s-60s, but reared its head again in the 80s, under the name ‘pouf’. I must say I like these from a century ago better than I liked it in the 80s!
I’ve never seen these in old photos, but I’ll keep an eye out!
Does “Oriental” Hems also call as bubble hem ??
This Cheruit Sketch from Bendel collection Brooklyn Museum Example:
They described the hem as “Bubble hem”
Great find! I did not research other magazines from 1920, so I was only writing about the term “Oriental hem” as consistently used in Delineator magazine in 1920. “Bubble hem” was the term used in the 1950s (and now,) so it’s possible that the person writing the description for the museum catalog used that term because it was more familiar to him/her and other readers. (And it did make it easier to find that sketch!) I wish there was writing on that 1919 sketch! “Orientalism” in fashion can mean anything from Chinese and Japanese influences to Western artists’ illustrations for “Arabian Nights.” The Ballets Russes performances of Scheherazade — with costumes designed by Leon Bakst — were a great fashion influence in the 1910s and 1920s. The influence of archeology in Egypt also influenced fashion in the 1920s and is also a kind of “orientalism.”
Never seen it, either in pictures, in movies, or in real life dresses. Much like a hobble skirt or a tonneau skirt, would absolutely love to find one.
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