1920s Casual Dress & Fashion Ideas for Ladies: Get Flapper Fabulous!

Last Updated: December 14th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

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Everyone is familiar with the flapper look. However, if you’ve got a wedding to attend, a tea party, or some other event and you want a retro look, you should go looking for something other than the typical sequined flapper dresses.

a woman wearing an elegant 1920s little black dress with piled neckline and ruffled hem

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What did women (and men) do for casual wear or doing daytime chores such as shopping? Were there other types of clothing for less formal events?

Casual Dresses Inspired by 1920s History

Let’s look at the casual dresses for women ( see 1920s mens casual fashion ) and accessories for less formal events so you can pull off that 1920s inspiration.

Retro is cool again, and if you’ve been wondering what women wore in the 1920s during their everyday lives, we’ve got some answers.

The look of the 1920s was a bit androgynous. Flapper dresses went with short hair, slim hips, and small breasts.

Simple and Elegant Dresses

Most dresses were the same basic shirt type of blouse with a fuller skirt that allowed for movement – simple yet elegant like this low-waist sleeveless dress with a flowing chiffon hem.

a woman in a black 1920s dress accented with white straight lines and she's wearing a black cloche hat for a more casual occasionGet the Classic Sleeveless Dress

Or you can add a dash more femininity with this gorgeous all-white number and cloche, and off you go on a 1920s-inspired date or event.

a woman wearing a white 1920s sleeveless dress with tiered hemline, a matching cloche, white gloves, and a beaded bag

Get the Tiered Flapper Dress

If you mention 1920s fashion, the first thing that comes to mind are flapper dresses complete with beads and sequins. These are great as party dresses but would be considered too flashy, revealing, and inappropriate for most day-time events, such as a tea party or a 1920-themed gathering.

Let’s not forget that not everyone was a 20-something-year-old during this time frame. Women in their 30s and 40s wanted to look fashionable but wouldn’t dream of wearing flapper dresses.

Knitwear for That 1920s Casual Look

Knitwear was a very common choice among women for daywear, especially college students. Knitwear would mean skirts and sweaters or cardigans, such as this beautiful cardigan

Cardigan Sweater Long Sleeve

Get the Knitted Cardigan Sweater

You might also wear some brighter colors like this gorgeous sweater

GRACE KARIN Women's V-Neck Button Down Knitwear Long Sleeve Soft Basic Knit Cardigan Sweater(XL,Contrsat-Blue)

Get the V-Neck Cardigan Sweater

Practical Clothes for Working Women and College Girls

Tweeds were also popular and tweed skirts paired with a cardigan and a simple white button-up blouse could take your anywhere during the day.

Kate Kasin Womens Knee Length Midi Elastic Waist Stretchy Bodycon Business Pencil Skirt

Get the Bodycon Pencil Skirt

Wool was also popular, and during the winter months, it would serve double-duty keeping your legs warm. Remember that a truly vintage look would need to be below the knee and not skin-tight.

Tanming Womens Winter High Waist A-Line Pleated Wool Midi Skirt with Waist Loops (Camel, Medium)

Get the Pleated Wool Midi Skirt

While Bonnie and Clyde were a few years after the 1920s, Bonnie’s clothing choices were still very much from that era.

Bonnie the Bandit Women's Costume

Get the Bandit Women’s Costume

You can ditch the gun and money bag, add a cloche hat, and you’ve got a perfect 1920s casual wear outfit!

By the way, although the fashion was for a pencil-thin body, this doesn’t mean that voluptuous women sat on the sidelines. You can even get the Bonnie Parker outfit in plus sizes!

Women's Plus Size Bonnie the Bandit Costume

Get the Plus Size Bonnie Costume

What Should a Woman Wear to a 1920s Party?

This would depend on the type of party and what role you would like to play.

For example, a daytime event would call for a tea dress. These were more formal than your everyday dress but nothing like the beaded and sequined flapper dresses you would see at a night-time party.

Tea parties were extremely common in England, but they were also excuses for women in the USA to socialize under the guise of tea drinking. It was not uncommon in the US for tea parties to include some bootleg liquor.

Women love to impress one another, so these dresses would be more formal than the sweater and skirt mentioned above. A simple dress with the right accessories would be a perfect choice

vintage Cap Sleeve V Neck Dress

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Since dancing would not be required, these dresses could be a bit more snug around the waist or legs if you wish. Again, accessories make the outfit so start with a plain dress

a woman wearing an elegant 1920s little black dress with piled neckline and ruffled hem

Get the Piled Neck Ruffled Dress

Add a cloche hat, several strands of pearls, and a shawl for a perfect look.

Shop 1920s Shawls - Embroidered Sequin Peacock Shawl

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We love this simple “school teacher” type of dress for tea parties or daytime weddings (see more Flapper Wedding Dress Styles ).

VIJIV Womens 1920s Inspired V Neck Flapper Dress

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Add a shawl and hat to complete your look.

Silk or very sheer dresses were also popular, especially among upper-class women. If you want to look classy, you might try this dress

S.L. Fashions Women's Blouson Metallic Crochet Dress with Fringe Hemline, Gold, 10Get the Metallic Crochet Dress

This elegant number would also be perfect

Downton Abbey Tea Party Gown in Ruby by NatayaGet the Tea Party Gown

Or even something like this

Floerns Women's Spaghetti Strap Cowl Neck Long Slip Satin Silk Midi Dress Apricot XSGet the Satin Silk Midi Dress

You will need to wear a coverup or bolero like the one shown below since showing too much skin was really only for evening wear.

Shawls and Wraps for Evening Party/Formal DressesGet the Evening Party Shawl 

What Accessories Were Popular in the 1920s?

During this time period, it was all about the accessories. It was quite common for the average woman to wear a simple dress and change the way it looked by adding or removing accessories.

Popular accessories that can make or break your outfit include:

Hats or Headpieces

No woman left the house without a hat or something on her head. Cloche hats, such as this one were popular and extremely common.

Shop Cloche Hat - 1920s Cloche Floral Round HatGet the 1920s Floral Round Hat

With shorter hair styles being the rage, these types of hats looked very good. Other hair pieces include headbands

Shop 1920s Headpieces - Baroque Elastic HeadbandGet the Baroque Elastic Headband

and 1920s ladies fascinators
Cambric Kentucky Feather Fascinator

Get the 20’s Feather Fascinator

Costume Jewelry

For the average woman, costume jewelry was not only acceptable but essential. To dress well, it was vital to accessorize with the appropriate jewelry, such as

Necklaces, including fake pearls,

Exclusively Luxury Knotted Pearl Necklace

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Chokers

Classic Pure Cream Pearl Choker

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Earrings, and

Classic Round Diamond Tassel Earrings

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Bracelets

Classic Strands Gatsby Pearl Bracelet

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For daytime events, you might wear only one or two of these items at a time (such as a necklace and bracelet but not earrings) to avoid looking overdressed.

Less bling for a Kerry Wisby definitely doesn’t mean boring!

Handbags

Even today, a well-dressed woman carries the perfect handbag, and 100 years ago, women felt the same. For more casual wear, you might choose a bag with a little less bling, such as this one

Shop Handbags - Embroidered Peacock Clutch HandbagGet the Embroidered Clutch Handbag

Or this

Embellished Rhinestone Sequin Floral ClutchGet the Sequin Floral Clutch

Or even this

1920s Rhinestone Studded Chain ClutchGet the Studded Chain Clutch

Shoes

Every woman knows that shoes make the outfit. In the 1920s, however, strappy little sandals were not yet made. The majority of women traded in their Victorian boots for sensible T-straps, sometimes called Mary Janes.

These 1920s style Great Gatsby shoes for women are not only perfect for daytime wear but also for dancing the Charleston.

Classic Round Toe Mary Jane Shoes

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However, if you’re looking for something with a bit more style, these cutouts are comfortable and stylish

Closed Toe Cut Out Ankle Strap Shoes

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Shawls and Shrugs

Today, we call those small jackets that mainly cover the shoulders shrugs, but back in the 1920s, they were typically called shawls or scarves. These could be as simple as this

Soft Chiffon Shawls Wraps for Evening Dress Wedding Cape Cover Up for Women(Chiffon Blush)Get the Soft Chiffon Shawl

Or you can opt for something more elaborate yet still casual such as this one

MissShorthair Women's Sparkle Shawls and Wraps for Party Dresses (Champagne Gold)Get the Women’s Sparkle Shawl

Don’t be afraid to experiment with some of your ideas. You can move beyond the typical flapper dress by adding or removing accessories to a tea dress.

Did Men Wear Suits All the Time?

Believe it or not, men wore suits nearly everywhere, all the time!

Unless you had a job doing manual labor (working in a steel mill or as a carpenter for example), most men of this era wore a complete 3-piece suit, along with long sleeves and a hat.

Occupation Costumes

If you’re going to a costume party, you might want to wear something not as traditional and more fun, such as a newspaper boy attire

Adult 20's Newsie CostumeGet the 20’s Newsie Costume

A vintage baseball player uniform or even a sailor’s costume

Vintage Sailor Men's CostumeGet the Vintage Sailor Costume

Gangster Outfits & Suits

Gangster outfits are fairly common, such as this one

Men's Wide Pin Stripe Gangster CostumeGet the Pin Stripe Gangster Costume

Or practice your English accent and be one of the Peaky Blinders

Adult 20s Gangster SuitGet the 20s Gangster Suit

Something Fun & Different

And if you’re looking for something different, consider playing the part of Jack from Titanic

Men's Titanic Jack CostumeGet the Men’s Titanic Jack Costume

We also like the vintage director’s costume

Director Costume for AdultsGet the Director Costume

Or even a favorite of mine Charlie Chaplin,

Men's Charlie Chaplin CostumeGet the Charlie Chaplin Costume

If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a pool party, you can always wear a 1920s vintage swimsuit

Smiffys 50726L 20s Bathing Suit Costume, Men, Blue & White, L-Size 42Get the 20s Bathing Suit

If you wear any of the above for your costume party, you are sure to be a huge hit!

What about a Great Gatsby Party?

You can choose to be a character from the book or you can simply dress the part of one of Jay Gatsby’s many party goers.

Dress Like Daisy Buchanan

Remember that Daisy is a wealthy socialite, so she dresses the part. Think soft colors and flowing dresses such as this one

Scarlett 1920s Style Wedding Dress in Peach Ivory by NatayaGet the 1920s Style Wedding Dress

We love this dress and the color is perfect for Daisy (See more Great Gatsby Daisy Dresses ) – all it needs is a hat

Great Gatsby Party Dress in Mauve by NatayaGet the Great Gatsby Party Dress

Dress Like Tom Buchanan

Tom comes from, a long line of money and he dresses accordingly. Wear a three-piece suit and add these items to look authentic

1920s Mens Panama Hat Gatsby SetGet the 1920s Mens Gatsby Set

You can also wear the classic plaid suit

Mens 3 Piece Slim fit Checked Suit Blue/Black Single Breasted Vintage Suits,Medium,BlackGet the 3 Piece Slim fit Checked Suit

Dress Like Myrtle Wilson

While Myrtle wasn’t a call girl, she was from a lower social standing, so you can really go all out for this character. She would wear a loud and sparkly dress

Vintage Sleeveless Cocktail Party Dress

Get the Vintage Cocktail Dress

Along with lots of makeup and jewelry

1920s Vintage Costume Accessories SetGet the 1920s Accessories Set

Dress Like George Wilson

George was one of the few people in the book who didn’t wear a suit. He was a mechanic and gas station owner, so this coverall with a bit of grease and a couple of tools in the pocket will help to identify you

Red Kap Men's Tall Size Twill Action Back Coverall, Navy, 48 LongGet the Twill Action Back Coverall

Don’t forget a hat! Even mechanics wore a hat

1920s Mens Gatsby Flapper Flat CapGet the 1920s Mens Flat Cap

Dress Like Nick Carraway

Nick is also wealthy, but he’s much more demure and into classic styling, so he wears something like this outfit

SATINIOR 1920s Men's Accessories Gatsby Gangster Clothing Costume Halloween Cosplay Outfit with Vest Fedora Hat Pocket Watch (X-Large, Black)Get the Men’s Gatsby Accessories

Wear with a pair of pants that has a cuff on the bottom, and you’re set!

Dress Like Jay Gatsby

Gatsby was well-known for being a snappy dresser, and he didn’t mind wearing colors that most men today would never consider wearing. He wore a pink suit when his car killed Myrtle, and that look would be a classic for a Great Gatsby party. +

Pink Peak Lapel Double Breasted 2 Piece Men's Prom SuitsGet the 2 Piece Men’s Prom Suits

1920s Party Girl

Jay Gatsby threw outlandish parties every weekend, so this would be your chance to go as a flapper. 1920s casual flapper dresses are easy to find

Vintage Paisley Flapper Gatsby Dress

Get the Vintage Flapper Dress

There are thousands of dresses inspired by The Great Gatsby and Gatsby attire female costumes in this website. No matter which character you want to play, you’ll find them here!

Final Thoughts on 1920s Casual Wear

Women in the 1920s were brave and beautiful. They wanted to break free from their mother’s and grandmother’s Victorian clothing restrictions and live life to the fullest!

Unfortunately, these fashions all but disappeared into the halls of memory when the Great Depression hit. There was little money for food, let alone dresses, but the flappers and other style icons of the Jazz Age will live forever in our memories, if not in costume parties.

1920s Casual Dress & Fashion Ideas for Ladies: Get Flapper Fabulous!
1920s Casual Dress & Fashion Ideas for Ladies: Get Flapper Fabulous!
Besides the typical flapper look, what clothing styles were popular in the 1920s for day wear or other events? Check out casual styles from 100 years ago.
Gatsby Flapper Girl