1920s Day Dresses: Stunning Roaring 20s Flapper Fashion & Styles

Last Updated: October 24th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

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Any search for 1920s dresses will provide you with a long list of flapper dresses or dresses for formal events, but what did women wear day in and day out?

a woman wearing a red retro midi dress with ruffled sleeves

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Today, we know that women wear a variety of clothing when going grocery shopping, for example. Jeans, blouses, t-shirts, and maybe the occasional sundress or wrap dress.

What did women wear around the house or out and about when they weren’t attending those fabulous parties in the 1920s?

In this article, I want to talk about the everyday wear that women in the 1920s wore. It certainly isn’t as exciting as a flapper dress, but the clothing was still quite stylish.

What Was the Most Popular Day Dress in the 1920s?

When the chores were done and women were heading out for the day to do shopping, meet with friends, or run errands, a basic drop-waist dress was commonly worn.a woman in navy-blue 1920s-inspired drop-waist sleeveless, V-neck dress with black bowknot

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Drop-waist dresses were popular for a number of reasons. They were comfortable and easy to move in, which was important for the active and independent New Woman of the 1920s. They were also stylish and flattering, and they could be dressed up or down for different occasions.

a woman in a vintage dark green midi dress with ruffled sleeves and bowknot

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Other popular types of day dresses in the 1920s included the tea dress, which was a bit fancier than the everyday dress, the house dress, and the shirtwaist dress.

DKNY womens Shirt Dress, Watermelon, 14 US

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Tea dresses were typically shorter and more casual than drop-waist dresses, and they were often made of cotton or linen.

a woman wearing an all-white 1920s outfit - white sleeveless 3-tiered casual dress, cloche, and gloves

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Shirtwaist dresses were a type of tailored dress that was popular with working women.

a woman in 1920s casual dress with cap sleeve and V-shaped neck

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House dresses were loose-fitting dresses that women wore at home, often to do chores and were frequently worn with an apron.

Depending on what a woman was doing that day, she would often start off in her house dress and apron, later changing to the ever-popular drop-waist day dress to go out and see friends or go shopping.

a lady with bobbed hair wearing a 1920s -inspired black dress with white accent lines and a long pearl strand

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How to Get the 1920s Day Look?

Let’s assume that you don’t want to be seen in a house dress and apron.

We should start with a basic drop-waist dress, such as this one.

lady in red retro midi ruffle dress with bowknot

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Or this one

a black 1920s Midi Flapper Dress with V-Neck, Grey Bow and grey accent lines

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Both of these are typical of styles you would have seen for non-flapper daytime outfits. Of course, you would want to wear a cloche hat such as this one.

Women's Cloche Hat 1920s Vintage Hat Summer Bowler Hat Sun Church Hat for Women

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Or perhaps this one.

Women's red Foldable Lace 1920s Vintage Cloche Bucket Hat with Crystal Bowknot

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Jewelry would be limited to perhaps a simple art deco necklace (see art deco plus size dresses )

Secret for Longevity Geometric Art Deco Vintage Antique Flapper Gatsby Retro Style Rhinestone 19" inch Silver Tone Chain Pendant Necklace

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or a small set of pearls but not too much!

 

Double Strand Long pearl Necklace

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Shoes were pretty basic, so go with the classic Mary Janes

a pair of Classic black, round-toe Mary Jane Shoes

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and a handbag

Women's Genuine Leather Italian Tote Bag with Zipper - Large Handbag for Shopping, Work and Travel (Black)

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In the winter or when it was chilly outside, a coat with a bit of fur around the neck or wrists was the bees knees.

Women's Faux Suede Leather Jacket fur-lined Lapel Outwear Trench Coat

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If this style of dress seems fairly plain, it should. Party dresses and flapper dresses were what women wore when they wanted to live it up and let it all hang out!

Everyday wear, however, was fairly basic and not that much different from women in the 2020s. We may wear jeans to the store, but we know how to put on a sparkly dress when we go out.

Who Influenced 1920s Fashion?

There were many people who influenced women’s fashions in the 1920s, most of them European designers.

After WWI, men brought home fashions from Europe, and ladies in America found them charming and much easier to wear than the old-fashioned corsets of the past.

Some of the women who had a major influence on fashion during the 1920s include:

pencil sketch of Coco Chanel, a famous female in the 1920s
1920s Famous French fashion designer Coco Chanel
  • Coco Chanel: a French fashion designer who is credited with revolutionizing women’s fashion in the 1920s. She introduced a new, more casual, and androgynous style that was characterized by its loose, uncorseted silhouettes, simple lines, and use of natural fabrics.
Marlene Dietrich Wax Figure
Wax Figure of Famous German-American Actress Marlene Dietrich
  • Marlene Dietrich: a German-American actress who was known for her androgynous style and her love of pants. She helped popularize the trend of women wearing pants in the 1920s, and she also inspired many other fashion trends, such as the bob haircut and the cat eye sunglasses.
close-up photo of Zsa Zsa Gabor wearing multi-strand pearls, dangling earring, and black cape
Zsa Zsa Gabor Portrait circa 1955 by Studio publicity still
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor and Louise Brooks: two famous celebrities who also influenced 1920s fashion with their daring and stylish looks. They popularized the trend of shorter skirts, high heels, and bobbed hair, and they also inspired many other fashion trends, such as the use of fringe and sequins.
American actress Louise Brooks
American actress Louise Brooks circa 1929 by Bain News Service
  • The Art Deco Movement: a major influence on 1920s fashion. This movement was characterized by geometric shapes, bold colors, and luxurious fabrics, inspiring many fashion trends using fringe, sequins, and animal prints.

1920s fashion was also influenced by the social and economic changes of the time. The end of World War I led to a new sense of freedom and independence for women, and this was reflected in their fashion choices. Women were no longer required to wear corsets, waist-length hair, or floor-length skirts, and they began experimenting with more casual and androgynous styles.

The Roaring Twenties was a time of economic prosperity, and this led to a demand for new and innovative fashion trends that gave birth to the Golden Age of flapper women.

What Type of Accessories Did Women Wear During the Day?

Daytime looks were rather simple compared to the typical dresses 1920s is known for.

Women were into more practical looks and wanted to keep things more casual. Gone were the days when women changed clothes 5 times in a 12-hour period!

Drop-waist dresses were rather simple, and accessories were kept in check.

woman in a black 1920s Dress, Sleeveless with white accent lines

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You would absolutely wear a hat, and the style of this decade was definitely the cloche or bucket hat. It was nice if the hat matched the dress but wasn’t necessary.

a Bow-Trimmed, Wide-Brimmed tan Bucket Hat or cloche

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You’ll notice that nearly all cloche hats have a ribbon or matching fabric as a hatband and a flower of some type.

Maitose™ Women's Decorative Flowers Wool Beret Red

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Flappers would commonly wear tons of costume jewelry, but for every day wear, women wore a very limited amount of jewelry, such as a single strand of pearls

a single strand of Colorful Faux Pearls, Long Necklace

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or perhaps a pair of earrings instead.

a pair of Stone Heart Drop Earrings

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The same was true with handbags. While you would see some really glittery, heavily-beaded handbags during a party, most women stuck to a small, basic leather bag during the day.

Women's Retro Hollow Oil Wax PU Leather Handbag Kiss Lock Crossbody Purse Vintage Messenger Bag Tote

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In the summer, they might opt for a straw bag.

Summer Beach bag, Handmade Large Straw Tote Bag Womens Handbag

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Let’s not forget gloves which were more for sanitary protection than looks. After the Spanish flu virus of 1918, everyone was afraid of germs. Women and men believed that gloves would help to protect them. Women wore them outside the home to nearly every event and removed them only for eating or drinking or using the restroom.

Daytime gloves can be white or black, and you can wear them in several lengths. Keep the elbow-length gloves for nighttime use. During the day, most gloves stopped at the wrist.

a pair of white gloves for women

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If you are going for the daytime look, keep accessories to a minimum, and nothing should be too flashy.

Why Did Women Dress Like They Did in the 1920s?

Some young women find the fashions of the 1920s frumpy, other than flapper dresses, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Dazzling Decades: Unveiling the Glamour of Roaring Twenties Outfits & Dress Styles

Fashion is almost always represented by young women who want a change.

There were many reasons why younger women dressed the way they did in the 1920s. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • The end of World War I – It led to a new sense of freedom and independence for women, who were no longer required to wear corsets. Women began to experiment with more casual and androgynous styles.
  • The Roaring Twenties – This was a time of economic prosperity, leading to a demand for new and innovative fashion trends. Women had jobs and were able to afford new clothes and eager to try out the latest styles.
  • The Art Deco movement – This was a major influence on 1920s fashion. The art deco movement used geometric shapes, bold colors, and luxurious fabrics, and it inspired many fashion trends, such as the use of fringe, sequins, and animal prints.
  • The rise of the flapper – This is undeniably a major factor in the changing fashion of the 1920s. Flapper girls were known for their short skirts, bobbed hair, and love of jazz music. They represented a new generation of women who were independent, free-spirited, and eager to have fun.

As a result of all of the above, women’s fashion in the 1920s became more casual, androgynous, and stylish. There was a greater emphasis on comfort and style, and women were able to express their individuality through their clothing choices.

Before You Go ….

The 1920s was a time of great change and experimentation in fashion, and women expressed their individuality through their clothing choices. The fashion trends of the 1920s continue to influence fashion today, and they remain a popular choice for those who want to recreate the glamour and style of the Roaring Twenties.

Don’t be surprised to see many fashion trends from the Roaring 20s to start hitting stores soon.

1920s Day Dresses: Stunning Roaring 20s Flapper Fashion & Styles
1920s Day Dresses: Stunning Roaring 20s Flapper Fashion & Styles
What to wear to a tea party or daytime party event that isn’t a flapper dress? Discover what women wore during the day in the Roaring 20s.
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