A couture evening dress by Parisian designer Georgette, illustrated in Delineator, February 1920, p. 111.
It would be convenient if fashions changed only when a new decade began — boring, but convenient when assigning dates to fashion history. But that’s not how it worked.
When invited to a “twenties’ ” costume party, not many women would show up dressed like this:
Left, Butterick waist 2056 with skirt 2046; right, dress 2100. Delineator, January 1920, p. 76.
Butterick 2419 and 2366, June 1920. Front views, Delineator, p. 113.
Butterick dresses 2419 and 2366, June 1920. Alternate views. From the rear, 2366 really exaggerates hip width.
Of course, twentieth century fashion was always in transition; these dresses from 1920 are still showing the influence of the big-hipped styles of the 1914-1918 war era.
Two outfits from April 1917. Left, a “tonneau” or barrel skirt (Butterick skirt 9064); right, a skirt with protruding pockets rather like 1920 dress No. 2336, above.
The odd skirt on this 1920 dress echoes a style detail carried over from 1917. Butterick 2272, April 1920.
Butterick 8929, from February 1917. The skirt hangs from widely spaced cartridge pleats, also called “French gathering.”
A dress on the cover of Delineator magazine, April, 1920. Cartridge pleats again — but these are near the natural waist. They seem to be secured with buttons.
This rear view, from an advertisement for satin, is jaw-dropping:
Illustration from an ad for satin fabrics; Delineator, April 1920. It suggests the (attempted) return of the bustle.
Well… that is not the direction that 1920’s fashion eventually took!
To be honest, I’ve been deliberately showing dresses that don’t fit our preconception of “the Twenties.” In fact, we can see the seeds of later nineteen twenties’ style in both of these dresses:
Gradual change in fashion: the waist is getting lower in 1920; the bodice extends to the hip; and the familiar late Twenties’ dropped waist is seen in the low attachment of both skirts.
This is transitional fashion: there is a dropped waist (where the skirts are attached) and a more or less natural waist, where the dress is belted in.
Often, fashions leaning toward the past and fashions prefiguring the future were shown side by side.
Two patterns illustrated on page 152, Delineator, April 1920. Left, Butterick 2278 has a long bodice and looks more “twenties”; right, 2239 has the wide-hipped, peg top look of the previous decade.
[Thanks to Sophia for explaining that “pegged-top” “refers to the child’s spinning toy ‘pegtop’ which is narrower at the bottom than the top like the skirts.”]
Butterick patterns 2060 and 2097, Delineator, January 1920.
If a woman got rid of the belt and shortened No. 2060, she could have worn it for several years in the Twenties:
These dresses from 1925 are not too different from 1920’s No. 2060. One has a similar bodice; one has a similar skirt.
The truth is that twentieth century fashion usually changed incrementally [which is why the rapid change from 1929 to 1930 is so extraordinary.]
Three Butterick patterns from February 1920. One of them looks more “Twenties” than the others.
All the following dresses are from early 1920:
Two patterns from Spring of 1920.
Butterick patterns from June, 1920. Waist 2383, skirt 2336, and dress 2371.
The long, lean look was also worn:
Butterick 2351 from May 1920. Delineator, p. 152.
But it’s probably the sporty, youthful quality of this summer dress that gives me that “Twenties'” feeling.
Butterick dress 2410 from Delineator, June 1920.
I have to remind myself that all these 1920 dresses would have been seen at the same time — and probably for several years.