Here is a look at how showing off the neck in the 1920s was both a fashion statement and a social statement.
A Bit of BackgroundBefore the 1920s, modesty reigned supreme. The Edwardian Era may have brought forth a more laidback attitude when it came to the way women dressed, but the rigid social morés of the Victorian Era still loomed at the turn of the century. The 1920s were a stark departure from traditional ideals - and no place is it more obvious than the popular fashion trends of the time.
When people think about a “rebellious” garment from the 1920s, they think of a dress with a short hemline. A woman showing off her ankles and calves was indeed quite salacious. But often, these dresses also featured a square or scooped neckline that revealed a completely bare décolletage. If showing a little leg caused a scandal, just think of how a sleeveless, low-necked dress looked when compared to buttoned-up garments from the Victorian Era
Popular Dress DesignsDresses that were popular in the 1920s had a few distinct design details. Short hemlines were common on these drop-waist, shift-style dresses. Often, they also featured a square neckline, which was influenced by the geometric nature of the Art Deco design movement.
As necklines lowered, it makes sense that necklaces would also become more in style. Costume jewelry was more available than ever before, so Flappers loved to accessorize their looks. A long strand of pearls beautifully complemented the long lines of flapper dresses, while jeweled necklaces accented the décolletage of eveningwear looks during the 1920s.
What These Styles Said About The Women Wearing Them
Clothing from the Victorian Era is in a way very contradictory. Billowing skirts, long sleeves, and high necklines were meant to keep women covered when out in public. With that said, clothing from this era also favored an inherently feminine point of view. The popular “S-shaped” silhouette of the time emphasized the bust, while tightly tied corsets greatly exaggerated the curves of a woman’s body.
In contrast, clothing from the 1920s rejected this femininity. The popular square necked, shift style dresses flappers wore were essentially shapeless and gave women a more androgynous silhouette. Instead of garments that traced their curves or highlighted their feminine figures, they opted instead for quite shapeless silhouettes. Even though the necklines were low, they also effectively drew attention away from a woman’s bustline.
The inspiration behind this shift in fashion ideals was sparked by the ways that society was changing. Women were slowing gaining more influence in society and championing for the right to vote. It makes sense, then, that women opted for menswear-inspired looks that stripped away an inherent sense of Victorian “femininity.” They might have been known for having a lot of fun, but at their core flappers wanted to be treated as equals and adopted clothing that made that point incredibly clear.