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Flapper Fashion Timeline

What to wear that isn't SO last year!

Hi there, Bette Hardwick here from sometime in the 1920s-

Have you ever been to a party and looked like a million bucks, and then some dame whispers “That dress is SO last year?”

Well, let me tell you, I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times at all the fancy swank parties I have to cover for the Inquirer.

So with a little help from some of the gals at a local dress shop, I’ve pulled together a timeline of flapper fashions for the Roaring Twenties to help you pick out your glad-rags for the next party.


The full skirt or pannier hip flounces, a leftover look from after the war, remained popular through the next year or two.


The straight line, almost no defined waist, ‘chemise’ dress were popular for several years. They were very long. Even when the day trend was to go shorter, evening gowns kept their length, although they were hard to dance the Charleston in.

Round boat Beatau necks were the most common shape on formal wear. Dresses that had some kind of waist were accented with oversized bows on the center low back or to one side of the hips. Turbans and beaded headdresses were all the rage in 1923.


Designer Chanel insisted on cutting the length of evening gowns and turned them into shorter more danceable ‘dance frocks.’ The torso of the dress was quite long with very low necklines, bare backs and heavy decorations of gold embroidery and dangling crystal gems.

Lace and chiffon were the preferred summer fabrics, while velvet in beige, black or green were the favored colors in winter.

Many dresses started to have some kind of skirt effect with flounced or feather hemlines. Chiffon ‘capes’ flowed down the back of dresses or off the sleeves creating points on either side of the skirt. I


Very low backs were still on trend. Skirts featured layers, tiers, flounces, and the first sighting of fringe. Fringe was used as an accent on silk dresses, not to cover the entire gown.

A few heavily fringed dresses were adopted by dancing show girls. They liked the movement fringe or feathers gave while dancing.


The styles were still in line with the past two years. Backs continued to be bare with front necklines dropping ever so slightly, too.

Heavy beading also continued on an assortment of pastel lace, crepe, chiffon, satin, and taffeta.

Hemlines were straight or uneven with even more big puffy bows at the back, side, or front hip.



Dresses were straight on top with a fuller skirt on the bottom. Necklines now strayed away from just round, or oval, V-neck, or square. Hip flounces, flying back and side panels, and a bustle effect on the back called attention to the open backs yet again.

New bright colors were in favor: black and white, yellow, lavender blue, turquoise, pale green, terracotta, and Chanel’s favorite: lipstick red.


Short was in. Evening and day dresses started to be built from the same patterns with only the material and beading to set them apart.  New colors were seen for winter: burgundy, midnight blue and autumn red.

The handkerchief hem was especially popular with multi-points on the bottom hem. It allowed dresses to appear long while standing still but flashed a lot of leg while dancing or sitting.


Finally, some sleeves were added back onto formal gowns (with much relief to most women.) Long sleeves, 3/4 sleeves or cap sleeves were all added to gowns.

The first “hi-low” hem was seen, meaning the back of the gown trailed on the floor while the front hung around the mid-shin.