It’s a love story as old as time. Music and fashion have always had a connection, one that influences the other, thus changing history. And no instance shows that connection more perfectly than that of the 1920s when music and fashion revolutionized the industry altogether.
This era gave us some of the best songs and fashionable ensembles we could have. Much of it influences our choices even today.
Yet, you have to wonder how it could be so. How can music, more specifically jazz, change our fashion choices? Taking the 1920s as the prime example, we’ll go back in time and examine this phenomenon and find out how music influenced fashion trends, and in particular, in one of the most competitive fields, wedding fashion!
An Introduction to the 1920s
Fresh off the conservative music and fashion of the 19th century, the years in the 1900s–1920s were a time of experimentation. Music was still not as progressive as it became in the later years. Fashion was still conservative for men and women. Form-fitting clothes for women were looked down upon, women preferred hemlines to be ankle-length, and in general, the world was not as open as it is today.
Forwarding a bit to the 1950s, when Elvis Presley gyrated his hips on live television while singing, that was still considered to be very inappropriate. More horrifying was the fact that so many people had seen it! So, you can only imagine how the early 20th century was. But, it was during this time that things began to shift a little. In the 1950s, gyrating hips and loud music were considered rebellious.
In the 1920s, it was jazz music and higher hemlines that defied social norms.
A Short History Lesson
Let’s have a look at the music first. Jazz originated from the African-American communities situated in New Orleans, Louisiana.
With stylings rooted in ragtime and blues, jazz was an amalgamation of swaying, fun music, and mesmerizing tunes. But that’s not all.
Jazz was a significant style of musical expression; it still is. It’s a mix of popular and traditional music. And in many ways, it combines European-American music and African American music. It’s jovial and catchy; it presents complex chords and encourages improvisation. In the 1920s, jazz represented its roots beautifully and shined a light on music traditions followed by African Americans.
Jazz quickly took over the world and inspired novice and experienced musicians to build on jazz and use more instruments to experiment with its depth. Jazz add the roaring element to the roaring twenties and brought people out of the fog of simple music. It also helped that things started changing in the 1920s.
At that time, industrialization in the United States was going through a massive change.
The radio and the automobile were introduced. Technology was also making waves in the field of entertainment. WWI was finally over, and the people who got the chance to live a better life did so in full steam. In many ways, the 1920s allowed people to defy cultural and traditional norms. So, people welcomed that opportunity with open arms.
Feminism, modernism, and hedonism were rife in the Jazz Age. As a result, the mentality around every field of work began changing to accommodate these changes too. And soon enough, this cheerful, happy, rebellious mood made its way into the fashion industry.
The Age of Jazz in Fashion
The 1920s saw some massive changes taking place in the fashion industry. Some significant changes that became permanent in this era include:
- Shorter hemlines to make moving around and driving cars easy
- A tube-like, slender silhouette that dismissed the traditional feminine physique
- Basic tailoring led to women abandoning the typical corset
- Dropped waistlines from below the chest to the natural waist to create a long frame and slim figure
In essence, the 1920s helped women come into their own in terms of fashion.
Typically, before the time, women’s fashion was still governed by the male gaze. Women still wore tight corsets, conservative dressing, boots, and skirts only slightly raised above the ankle, jackets, and large-wide brimmed hats which featured ribbon and feather accessories. However, if you’d ask any women if this type of clothing made things comfortable, you’d get a firm “no.”
Unlike fashion in the 1920s, fashion in the 1900s was constrictive. But that wasn’t meant to last long. Women were already moving and protesting for their rights. And fashion began to represent that.
How Jazz and Fashion Connect
Changes in women’s fashion in the 1920s were perfectly buoyed by the entry of jazz in the musical realm. Women’s fashion needed a rebellious source of inspiration. Our fashion choices needed a boost that would give us the chance to make more significant changes.
And adding to the advent of new technology, fashion designers and inspirational women of yore picked this time as the perfect opportunity. This was when flapper girls began to pop up on the scene. And the fashion icons started promoting the style with fervor.
The Age of the Flapper Girl
Flapper girls were the true rebellious women of their time.
In contrast to the traditional styles and norms that defined society, the flapper girl style was in a whole other league. Flapper girls would defy social norms and take part in activities and “unladylike” behaviors, which weren’t as unscrupulous as you think. These habits would involve drinking, dancing, smoking, and essentially just having fun. These women were branded as reckless rebels. Yet, that only made women defy these traditional norms more. These habits were completely acceptable among men, yet women were labeled as bad for it. And no woman was going to take such slander without retaliation.
Pretty soon, the flapper girl style began to take hold. Women would wear their hair in a short bobbed style that brought out their facial features. They would wear fashionable beads, slinky and loose dresses. And these dresses would be a lot shorter than dresses that women commonly wore. In the 1920s, traditional dresses went down to the ankle. These dresses were hemmed up to the knee!
Another fashion feature that was common among flapper girls was the cloche hat. It became synonymous with the classic rebel girl style. And would add a sense of dimension and style to the slinky dresses. Women decided that the 1920s was the decade they would come into their own, and they did that while using jazz as their background music.
Dancing to jazz music was fairly challenging to do if you couldn’t move properly. So, these women began to change their ways, their style, and their ideas on fashion. They started incorporating elements that made them feel comfortable enough to dance the night away.
As a result, their choices based on their lifestyle options started trickling into mainstream fashion. More women began wearing brighter colors, loose dresses, and shorter hemlines. They remained fashionable, but utilizing these flapper girl elements made them feel happier with their true fiery spirits.
The Impact of Jazz on Men’s Fashion
It wasn’t only women’s fashion that received a modest boost from the influence of music and jazz. Men’s clothing went through a remarkable transformation which many were thankful for.
Typically clothing for men includes suits that were fitted and formal. You also couldn’t find a lot of colors in men’s suits since most preferred blue, grey, navy, and black as their theme. The 1920s put a stop to that. Men’s clothes became baggier, less formal, and, dare I say it, fun. Brighter colors started making the round, and casual clothing became more popular. The cuts also began changing shape, materials began to look a bit more modern, and the style led to the popularity of the zoot suit in the 1940s. While many still wore a crisp black suit for formal settings, many began to sway toward more casual, colorful shirts with relaxed collars for their everyday life.
Hats were already popular among men and women. However, the 1920s made felt hats, and tweed driving caps, and fedoras more favorable. But, it was shoes that genuinely changed in that era. Because it was the jazz age, men began to favor the wingtip style above others and began looking for more colors in shoes.
Not to say that we started seeing pink shoes with wingtips. Shoes were still monotone, with black and white and brown shoes still being the most popular shoes. But, men began to wear a shoe style that had a perforated flap added over the lace—this artistic design associated them with the jazz age.
The Impact of the Jazz Age on Wedding Fashion
These considerable changes in fashion remarkably influenced wedding fashion in the 1920s as well.
By then, it had become a staple in fashion to only focus on looser clothing, less elaborate designs, and more comfortable fits so people could enjoy their time without fussing over their clothing. And that transferred into the 1920s wedding fashion.
Historically, the bride’s wedding dress was regarded as a symbol of her family’s economic and social status. But, several factors put this tradition to rest. Post-WWI, the economy was still recovering from the losses. Industrialization meant that the masses in the western world suddenly had access to cheaper yet stronger fabric. Overall, the roaring 1920s gave people a sense of vigor and instilled a carefree spirit in everyone.
They had survived a war and were making sure they celebrated the life they had.
As such, wedding fashion and choices changed dramatically.
A Typical Bride of the Era
Restrictive fashion was abandoned entirely. Gone were the corseted, tight-laced dresses, replaced by comfortable, loose, and straightly tailored wedding dresses. Silhouettes in wedding dresses changed. Designers embraced the drop waist style, added gorgeous embellishments that enhanced the bride’s overall physique.
Hemlines were brought up from the ankle to mid-knee or knee-length. Dresses changed color, going from basic white to eggshell, ivory, ecru, even flaxen and butter. The dress’s design also changed. Some women who weren’t shy about showing a little leg wore short pleated skirts that would move to the rhythm of the dance music. You could find such dresses in pastel colors, with layers of fabric to give the dress body.
Alongside, we began to see some fantastic details added to the dresses that reflected the jazz-style fun of the era. Shimmering scalloped detailing, luxurious fringing, lace trimmings, and gold and silver embellishments would adorn the bodice or the dress completely. The backs would be decorated with silk or lace-covered buttons. Women with a partiality for Art Deco style would utilize the beautiful geometric patterns by adding pearl beads to give their dresses some pizzazz.
And to top it off, their wedding accessories would feature a gorgeous touch of glitter that would take their wedding attire to a different level.
Wedding Accessories of the 1920s
Suffice to say, the main goal of fashion in the 1920s was to have fun and be carefree. Weddings, being one of the happiest days of any person’s life, gave couples an excellent opportunity to have fun and be carefree.
So much so that to complement their glittery dresses and excessive look, brides began to add unique accessories to their wedding ensemble.
Some preferred to have full-length veils that added a little drama to their look. Others went for the bold style by adding an elaborate headpiece to their attire. But for those who wanted to keep things simple would either go with a headband or elegant hair accessories to add to their graceful look. If not, the quintessential cloche-style hat always came in handy in a pinch.
Jewelry would include pearls and diamonds as the most common choices. Some would wear short or long strands of pearls, but diamond or jewelry with gemstones became more popular as time went on. Nevertheless, it was always up to the bride to wear whatever she wanted, whether it was something simple or an ornamental headpiece.
Women also started wearing more comfortable shoes. While heels were never popular, to begin with, many women began pushing away painful footwear, instead opting for Mary Jane shoes, ballet flats, pumps, or fancy T-straps for their wedding shoes.
As such, the jazz age made women feel more comfortable and happy with the attire they had. The freedom that came through music also influenced the women’s decision to take hold of the reins in other aspects of their lives. Also, it should be noted that the women’s suffrage movement in the United States took a solid lead, despite pushback and criticism.
Nevertheless, with so many changes happening at one time, the jazz age indeed became a revolutionary decade, not just for women’s fashion and the music industry in general but also for the country.
It’s a mixed bag.
On the one hand, you had one of the freest forms of musical expression, jazz, to give people the boost they needed. And post-WWI, women started to rise against misogynistic and traditional trends. Industrialization took hold of every field of work. And people started living freely, as they’d always wanted.
Because of all these changes, it’s not hard to figure out how things changed. But we can see the immense influence all these factors had on one another. Jazz gave people a reason to be more open with their fashion choices, in particular, women. Through that, the fairer sex was able to find a foothold to rebel without feeling pressured.
And thus, things slowly but surely started changing. And that’s how it’s been, even till now. Music and fashion are, indeed, interconnected. And as times change, we’ll continue witnessing the impact of the arts on every little thing in our lives. And no doubt, we’ll remember how even back in the 1920s, it was the different forms of art that inspired generations to change their ways for the better.