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Machine net, crepe de chine, beads, sequins

Glasgow, Scotland

Follow the thread


Freed from the privations of wartime, fashions of the 1920s were opulent and luxurious, inspired by transatlantic cultural exchange and in particular, the cultures of East Asia and Egypt.

Designers such as Callot Souers and Jeanne Paquin created decadent garments from materials including silk and velvet, which were richly detailed with beading, fringing, Chinese-style embroidery, Egyptian-inspired patterns, ostrich feathers and fur trims.

The Roaring Twenties is associated with economic prosperity, luxury and leisure. Garments from this decade reflected the popularity of Jazz music. Shorter hemlines and bare arms freed the body for exuberant new dance crazes such as the Charleston. Beadwork and fringing were especially popular for evening wear, as they responded to the dancer’s every movement.

Social Culture

Women’s role in society changed dramatically in the period following the First World War. Women’s suffrage and their growing presence in the workforce led to increased social, sexual and political freedom. Fashionable, emancipated young women became known as Flapper girls and shocked older generations with their bobbed hairstyles, dramatic make up and raised hemlines.

Although many radical new fashions came to the fore during the 1920s, the image of the Flapper has come to symbolise the Roaring Twenties. The glamorous, emancipated young woman captured the imagination of authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, who depicted Daisy Fay as the archetypal Flapper.

But many conservatives denounced young women’s growing independence. They objected as much to their relative freedom, as to their changing body shape. In 1925, a young Parisian law student wrote, ‘These beings – without breasts, without hips, without ‘underwear’, who smoke, work, argue, and fight exactly like boys, and who, during the night at the Bois de Boulogne, with their heads swimming under several cocktails, seek out savoury and acrobatic pleasures.’

The streamlined garment styles of the 1920s required a youthful, androgynous body shape, known as the Garçonne look. Increased emphasis was placed on diet and physical activity. Magazines abounded with ‘slimming’ and beauty advice. Although the traditional boned corset declined throughout the decade, most women still wore some kind of corset, corselette or girdle to achieve the fashionable silhouette.

Craft Skills

The beaded dresses of the 1920s were the epitome of sartorial decadence, featuring luxurious materials such as glass beads, seed pearls, chiffon and silk net. As a result of their construction methods, surviving examples are often in very poor condition. This dress spent more than 150 hours in our textile conservation studio before it could go on display.


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