1920s Clothing: Fashions from 1920–1929


When you think of Western fashions in the 1920s, glamorous flapper dresses may come to mind. But there was much more to 1920s clothing than the “Roaring 20s” style of the flappers.

The 1920s brought prosperity and opportunity to many, though not all. More people purchased consumer goods such as automobiles and ready-to-wear clothing. They went on more outings. They wanted everyday wardrobes that were more simple, casual, and practical than the previous decade. Women’s styles changed the most, as they enjoyed newfound freedoms and greater participation in public life.

The simpler styles of the 1920s meant that even those who sewed their own clothes could copy the day’s fashions. Here’s what you may see people wearing in pictures from the 1920s.

Girl wearing 1920s dress outside
Three fashionable women walking down a street
Woman posing with 1920s clothing, which includes an embroidered butterfly
Drawing of 1920s clothing and women's fashion

What Did Women Wear in the 1920s?

The classic 1920s female silhouette reflected the era’s new sense of freedom. It was loose, straight, and slender, with dropped waists and shorter hemlines.

Women’s Dresses: They Weren’t All Flappers

Everyday dress for most women was a casual cotton housedress, sometimes homemade. Housedresses were loose pullover styles in colorful gingham, plaid, vertical stripes, or solids. The use of aprons and labor-saving appliances at home—and the enlargement of women’s life outside the home—meant that by the end of the 1920s, women were wearing more sophisticated day dresses all day long.

Women donned fancier dresses for special occasions. For warm-weather parties, ladies wore elegant afternoon or tea dresses of sheer, layered fabrics in white or pastel colors. The iconic flapper dress—sleeveless, knee-length, and often beaded, embroidered, or sequined—was a more flamboyant choice for a night on the town, especially for those who lived the lifestyle of the Lost Generation.

Women’s Casual 1920s Clothing for Sports and Leisure

An active lifestyle became more popular for women. A sun-tanned appearance for those with pale skin became more popular. Some women wore sleeveless tennis dresses both on and off the court. Toward the end of the decade, sailor-inspired “middy” style and menswear-inspired button-down blouses were popular. Women wore these with pleated skirts or—more daringly—wide-legged chiffon trousers.

Woman with 1920s hairstyle

Women’s Hats and Hairstyles

Women wore hats in public. Straw hats with wide brims, trimmed with ribbon and flowers, were popular for outdoor life. Turbans, berets, and Tam O’Shanter hats were also perched confidently on many women’s heads. The close-fitting, narrow-brimmed cloche hat is the most iconic women’s hat of the decade. Cloche hats were often banded with large ribbons or decorated with bows or embroidery.

Women’s hairstyles had to accommodate these tight-fitting hats. In the early 1920s, many women still wore their hair long, but styled it to look short, with curls on the side and the rest in a bun. The decade’s most famous women’s hairstyle was the daring bob cut, with earlobe-length locks styled straight or curly.

What Did Men Wear in the 1920s?

Men’s fashions didn’t change so dramatically. Overall, their dressed-up, buttoned-down look became more casual.

Drawing of popular men's 1920s clothing

Men’s Suits

Unless working or playing, men wore suits in public. Slim-fitting “jazz suits” complemented the trim physiques of Great War veterans at the outset of the 1920s. As the decade progressed, suits became looser and wider. British menswear, which set Western trends, was well tailored; the typical lounge suit was wide in the shoulder, with a loose-fitting, double-breasted jacket, matching vest, and high-waisted trousers, worn with a white shirt.

In the United States, suits were generally looser and longer, with flashier ties and stripes in both the shirt and suit fabric. Suit colors were fairly conservative; African American men sometimes wore bolder colors.

The 1920s saw several menswear fads. College students popularized the “Ivy League” look, with a slimmer fit, and longer, single-breasted jacket. Jazz Age culture produced the super-baggy “zoot suit.” Traditional suspenders generally gave way to belts, but some young men preferred flashy suspenders. Toward the end of the decade, mismatched vests were trendy.

Boy in 1920s fashion, wearing hat and suit

Men’s Casual 1920s Clothing and Sportswear

Men appeared more frequently in public in sportswear. The popularity of golf fueled a fad for wearing knickerbockers, longer plus-fours, and wide-legged oxford bag pants. Sweaters and sweater vests, especially in Argyle patterns, became a sporty, casual alternative to wearing a suit jacket. Men sometimes donned white or light-colored flannel suits during the summer. 

Men’s Hats and Hairstyles

Men with straight hair often wore it longer on the top and shorter on the sides. Whether slicked straight back or parted on the side, it was often combed into place with a greasy hair product. A variety of hats topped their look. Formal occasions called for bowler hats or similar-looking Homburgs. Banded fedoras were a popular everyday choice; the wide brim could be shaped to the owner’s preference.

What Did Children Wear in the 1920s?

Until toddlerhood, both boys and girls wore white gowns, which shortened to knee-length once they could walk. Young girls’ dress styles included baby doll, drop-waist, and sailor-style dresses. Older girls more closely copied women’s styles, with the straight, drop-waist dress a popular choice. Little boys wore short pants with matching jackets or short overalls and shirts. Older boys’ clothing more closely matched that of men: knickers, long pants, and button-down shirts.

Fashion in Your Family History

men and women in 1920s clothing and fashion

What did your family wear during the 1920s? Look for photos of them in FamilySearch Memories. Or upload your own family photos to share these treasures with others.

April 14, 2022
In 1850s fashion, women wore dresses with large, voluminous skirts, and men wore suits with dark coats and light trousers. Women’s skirts be…
March 16, 2022
In the 1870s, women’s dresses were elaborate and highly decorated, while men’s clothing remained simple and solemn. Women wore gowns with bu…
February 3, 2022
At the tail end of the Victorian era, 1880s fashion featured distinctive silhouettes. These iconic silhouettes were created with boned corse…
January 25, 2022
Culture in the 1890s was swiftly changing in Western countries, as the turn of the century saw a shift away from rigid Victorian ideals. 189…
July 23, 2020
Poodle skirts and ponytails, jeans and slick-backed hair—that’s what many people consider iconic 1950s fashions. These looks were popular fo…
July 17, 2020
The 20th century brought major transformations in Western fashion, but these changes didn’t appear immediately. Trends of the late 19th cent…
May 29, 2020
The Great Depression and World War II bookended the 1930s, but fashion flourished anyway during this decade. Glamorous Hollywood screen star…
May 20, 2020
World War II dominated the first half of the 1940s as well as fashions in the Western world. Materials such as silk, nylon, wool, leather, r…
April 9, 2020
Fashion in 1910 was unique. It retained much of the class and style of the previous era, but with a simplified flare. However, World War I h…

About the Author
Sunny Jane Morton teaches family history to global audiences as a speaker and writer. She is a contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine (U.S.) and content manager for Your DNA Guide. She is co-author of How to Find Your FamilyHistory in U.S. Church Records and author of Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy. Find her at www.sunnymorton.com.