Weird History Here's What The Ideal Beauty Standards For Men And Women In The 1920s Looked Like  

Noelle Talmon
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American fashion in the 1920s helped set men and women free. After decades of conforming to Victorian-era styles, women moved towards a more modern look. While in decades past they squeezed themselves into form-fitting corsets and other undergarments, fads and trends from the 1920s went the opposite direction. Female shoppers no longer accentuated their curves – they hid them. The hourglass figure was out; boyish slimness was in. And 1920s hair and makeup changed dramatically, too; short bobs and bold cosmetics became the must-have look of this new era.

Men's fashion was less fluid, but they too embraced 1920s trends and fads. They wore long overcoats and fur (just like women), and relied on custom slim-fitted suits. As for personal flair, that came in the form of hats and accessories. The ideal male physique of the time was slender – all the better for showing up on camera.

The ideal beauty standards for men and women continued to evolve and change throughout the 20th century. Nevertheless, the Jazz Age provides a particularly fascinating glimpse into a distinctive moment in American style.

Flapper Dresses Enabled The Middle Class To Dress Like To The Wealthy


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Photo: Bain News Service/Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress

The flapper was born in 1926, and with her came a new style: the flapper dress. This ultra-modern silhouette was loose, and ideally showed no curves at all. Flapper dresses had shorter hemlines, so women’s knees were visible when they took part in dances such as the Charleston.

Up until this time, it was difficult for the average woman to mimic high fashion. But flapper dresses were quite simple to construct at home, so women from the middle class were able to wear the same style as those who were wealthy.

Footwear Was Inspired By The Opening Of King Tut's Tomb


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Photo: Pierre Yantorny/Wikimedia Commons/CC0

Thanks to the rise of popularity of dances such as the Charleston, women required sturdy shoes. That often meant closed-toed pumps with low heels, and practical touches like t-straps.

Footwear got a lot more fun after the opening of King Tut's tomb in 1922. "Egyptian" fashion became all the rage, and women began wearing "harem slides" in beaded and embroidered leather, silk, satin, and velvet.

Clara Bow Popularized The Cupid's Bow Lip


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Photo: Uncredited/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Prior to the 1920s, makeup was often associated with sex workers and lower-class women. But once motion pictures entered pop culture, makeup became an acceptable – and desirable – option for the modern woman. Department stores and pharmacies began selling skin creams, lipstick, and mascara so everyday women could achieve a glamorous silver screen look.

Dramatic lips became a craze thanks to actress Clara Bow, who was famous for her perfectly shaped pout. Women everywhere accentuated their cupid's bows to follow suit.

Fur Coats Were Popular With Men And Women


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Photo: Bain News Service/Wikimedia Commons/Library of Congress

The early 1900s marked the beginning of the popularity of fur coats. By the time the Jazz Age rolled around, wealthy individuals could swathe themselves in mink, fox, sable, and ermine. The less advantageous tended to wear raccoon, beaver, and buffalo furs. The least expensive furs to buy were rabbit, squirrel and even skunk.

In England, about two-thirds of women owned some type of fur coat. Both men and women commonly wore raccoon coats, particularly at sporting events. But the fur craze proved short lived – the onset of the Great Depression in the United States put a damper on the fad.