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What has the invention of the motor car got to do with women’s fashion?

What has the invention of the motor car got to do with women’s fashion?
4th March 2023 Sarah Gray
In Seasonal trends
1920s car in black. lady dressed in 1920s black flapper dress with red hat, sitting on roof of car

Who knew there was a day dedicated to dresses? Not me, that’s for sure!

But today, Monday 6th March, is the day! A day started in 2016 by fashion & dress designer Ashley Lauren.

I rarely wear a dress these days. If I do, it’s a straight, loose fitting knee length one to suit my figure and it will have been a quirky fabric that has drawn me in!

How about you? Do you love to wear a dress? What’s your favourite style?

The concept of a dress can be traced back to ancient Egypt and worn by both men and women. But I thought I’d write about more recent times with the 1920s and take a look at how this era was iconic in changing the face of fashion. Stick with me for the motor car relevance!

1920s: Think The Great Gatsby

I always find it fascinating how politics and economic factors influence fashion and we see this in abundance during the 1920s.

The early years of this decade marked the end of The Great War and with that came a shift in focus from survival to lifestyle and enjoyment.

The economic climate was buoyant; there was money being ploughed into new technologies such as the telephone, air travel and cars. From these inventions of course, came increased ease of trade and communication bringing areas of the globe closer than ever before.

Women were becoming more present in society and were able to take up jobs in offices and other businesses that historically had been filled by men. Up to now, women had largely been tucked away in factories, especially helping with the war effort. Workwear was purely practical with fashion most definitely furthest from their minds. But, after years in men’s overalls or the role of housewife being their only clothing consideration, having to show up in office and retail jobs meant women were needing a workwear fashion of their own.

Coupled with the discovery of new synthetic materials such as polyester and rayon, designers were no longer restricted to cotton and linen. New fastenings such as hook & eyes provided more scope on designs and designers were experiencing a freedom like they’d never seen before. An opportunity to meet high demand for women’s fashion was afoot.

How did all of this translate to dress styles?

With the insurgence of the motor car, women were beginning to drive but found that getting in and out of a motor car in a corset and a long floor length Victorian style dress was simply not practical. So the waist lines were changing and hem lengths started to creep up. There you go, there’s the car link!

This in turn meant that now women’s shoes were on display and designers used that opportunity to design and make more sleek women’s footwear.

Women felt liberated. Clothing no longer had to cover their arms meaning sleeveless dress were becoming a thing.

Corsets were out and designers began showing women how to accessorise an outfit. The cinched in waist was mostly done away with and styles became straighter, quite boyish in their shape although far from masculine in their look.

The addition of pearls and scarfs, bangles on the wrists, the shortening of hemlines, the introduction of new fabrics gave women freedom and by the end of the 20s, looks that have become iconic.

We continue to see elements of this era’s fashion even now and that is just fabulous.