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All That Glitters - Part 3

The Party Decade: 1920s

The 1920s was a decade of excess. Everyone seemed eager to forget the difficulties of World War I, and fashion reflected this attitude. A boyish figure was the goal for the first time in women's wear. Loose fitting, low-waisted dresses with high hemlines were all the rage.


Dark brown crepe gown, 1920s.Dark Brown Crepe, 1920s

Women's fashion changed dramatically after World War I. Hemlines rose and waistlines fell. Dress lines became boyishly straight, and shorter hairstyles reflected the trend toward the masculine.

Ethel Crawford owned this dress. Her husband managed movie theaters throughout the central and western United States.

This slip-on style dress is dark brown crepe, heavily beaded overall in clear colorless beads. The dress also has a beaded sash.

View close-up of beading at neckline.



Cut velvet dress, 1920s.

Cut Velvet, 1920s

Not every twenties dress dazzled with beads and rhinestones. This gown is made of cut velvet for a rich texture.

Also a slip-on style, it is made of sheer blue-on-brown flocked fabric and lined with heavy blue cloth. The flocked design depicts stylized branches.

The garment's waistline is gathered at the sides, and is decorated with drapery at one hip.

View close-up of cut velvet fabric.





Sequined net dress, 1922.

Sequined Net, 1922

The woman wearing this evening gown would have glittered as she moved. Beads, sequins, and rhinestones were common on dresses from the 1920s.

This sheath was part of Helen Estey's wedding trousseau. She married William MacFerran, Jr., in 1922.

Heavily beaded and sequined lavender-colored net makes up the dress, which is designed to be worn over a chartreuse slip. Purple sequins are sewn in vertical rows on the frock, while colorless beads and spangles in scrolls, chevrons, and medallions decorate the bust and hem.

View close-up of beaded net overlay.



Sequined green rayon.

Sequined Green Rayon, 1920s

Edith Davis Bowen of Topeka was lucky enough to own this gown, another slip-on example from the 1920s.

Made of pale green rayon, this dress is decorated with white and coral beading, and copper-colored and pink sequins. The skirt is gathered at center front.

View close-up of beading at waist.






Green organza dress, late 1920s.

Green Organza, late 1920s

This was the most expensive dress Dorothy Fuller ever purchased. She bought it in Baltimore in 1927 or 1928 for a reception hosted by her brother for Dorothy and their sister. He was the state ornithologist of Pennsylvania at the time.

The most striking feature of this green voile dress is its skirt, formed of long irregular pieces of fabric creating scarf-like drapery. The bodice features scattered rhinestones; these stones also outline the exaggerated scrolls at the waistline.

View close-up of waistline scrolls.



Orange georgette dress, 1929.

Orange Georgette, 1929

Stella Miller wore this frock for her graduation in 1929.

Made of orange georgette, the dress is lined with a pink rayon slip. Vertical shirred bands decorate the bodice. The dropped waistline is trimmed with metallic braid studded with rhinestones. The dress' flounced handkerchief hem skirt would have fluttered as Stella walked across the stage.

View a close-up of rhinestone braid at waistline.

This gown also is featured on the Cool Things page.





Orange floral brocade gown, 1920s.

Orange Floral Brocade, 1920s

This striking party dress is made of orange and yellow floral brocade.

The frock is basically a straight sheath, appliquéd with wide bias ruffles that create an uneven hemline extending almost to the ankles in back.

Arrow-shaped tabs have been appliquéd to the bottom of the v-neckline.

View close-up of neckline.



Purple shot rayon dress

Shot Rayon, 1930s

All good things must come to an end, and it was no exception with the 1920s. The following decade was marked by the Great Depression.

Clothing styles are often affected by national and world events. Women struggling through the 1930s had little spare cash to spend on clothing. This gown is evidence that, despite their economic difficulties, they still wanted to stay up-to-date.

Because it is fitted at the waist and bodice, this gown has a more feminine shape than evening dresses of the previous decade. Its decoration comes more from the fabric than beads or sequins. The dress is made of shot taffeta, woven with purple threads in one direction and blue in the other to impart an iridescent appearance. The bodice front is quilted and has pointed wing-like extensions at the shoulders, giving a space-age look. The neckline plunges at the back.

View a close-up of bodice.


All That Glitters: Dressing Up & Stepping Out is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.

  1. Hoops & Bustles: 1860s-1880s
  2. Turn of the Century: 1890-1910
  3. The Party Decade: 1920s
  4. The Honor of Your Company: Inaugural Ball Gowns
  5. Dressed in White: Wedding Gowns

Contact us at kshs.kansasmuseum@ks.gov