These Rare 1920s Photos Of Women Reveal Another World

ADVERTISEMENT

Hot Dog City

Even nearly a century ago, chowing down on hot dogs was a major American pastime!

Brooding Fashionistas

These brooding ladies would have been considered quite the fashionistas back in their day. From the bold patterns on their dresses (one floral, the other in an Art Deco style commonly found in 1920s building tiles) to their multiple strands of pearls, down to the stockings and low heels, these women are the embodiment of pure roaring 20s style. Our favorite part of the ensembles, however, has to be the extremely chic wide brim hats they’re rocking!

The Muse

While on the surface this appears to be a simple photo of two beautiful women enjoying a sunny beach day on a balcony overlooking the sea, there’s a tragic backstory behind the image. The woman in the foreground is Madeleine Messager, whose husband, a famous photographer named Jacques Henri Lartigue, took the picture. The duo’s marriage was on rocky ground when this photo was taken, and just a few months later, the couple went their separate ways.

“Do Ducks Swim?”

What’s going on here? The women in this photo are referred to as “Misses Eugenia Dubar and Miss Mary Moose.” Due to the standards of the time, there’s a great chance that these ladies actually gave the photographer fake names. The women appear to be holding the leashes of ducks that are floating in a horse trough on the sidewalk in Washington, D.C. Before cars were common, cities often had public horse troughs for the horses to drink from.

Harlem Glamour

Since Harlem was such a major epicenter of the booming jazz scene at the time, there’s no surprise that these women would adopt the fashion style that was associated with the popular music in its peak. These local residents are all decked out in flapper style, sporting bold short haircuts, fur stoles, and low kitten heels. As was standard for the time, they were hats which came close to the scalp and covered the ears.

Tomboys Strolling

The most distinctive thing about 1920s ladies fashion is how it began incorporating more “tomboyish” elements for the first time – though it would take around another 30 years, after the second world war 2, for it to become socially acceptable for women to wear pants in public. Note how the women on the right’s sweater, replete with wide lapels reminiscent of suit jacket, is cut in a clear menswear style – this was considered a pretty bold look at the time!

Twinning

We absolutely adore the chic style of the two women strolling arm in arm in this pic. The craziest thing about this photograph is that the fashion featured here is totally classic – honestly, if you told us this photo was taken a few days ago, we’d believe you! Drop waist column dresses are all the rage right now, and this silhouette has recently become trendy again. The only thing that puts us off is the obviously dated hats.

A Lady And…Two Other Ladies?

This photo, which was taken in a park in Berlin, shows how far the menswear fashion trend for ladies in the 1920s really went! These suit wearers on either side of the lady in white are ladies themselves! They’re wearing the standard male attire of the era – three-piece suits – but they’re over the knee, equestrian boots are the element that makes it clear that these are women. We’re sure they scandalized all the passers-by at the time!

Casual Friday

Despite the formality implied by strands of pearls, hats, and elbow-length gloves, these women are dressed in what was considered standard daytime attire for the era – and they’re dressed this way at a pet shop, no less! These two ladies were snapped by a candid cameraman looking to capture the ladies of the 1920s street style – and that he did. It’s hard to imagine nowadays being so dressed up just for a casual trip to a store!

Dat Ankle Though

Back in the Victorian era, it was considered scandalous for a woman’s hemline to be high enough to give even a sliver of a visible ankle. This terrific trio was hell-bent on showing that the Victorian days were long behind them, by showing off not just their ankles but even – gasp – their calves, all the way to the knee! We can still tell their look was shocking for the time, as we can see on the faces of the crowd!

Look Ma, No Sleeves

While this duo may look considerably more conservative than the rest of the fashionistas on this list, they’re still pushing the limit with their seemingly covered-up outfits. While the hemlines are still a “proper” length, a sharp eye notices that one of them is rocking a shocking sleeveless frock – while the other has sleeves that appear to be totally see-through! They’re also sporting pixie cuts, a sign of rebellion, which is difficult to see under their hats.

Center Of Attention

Despite this woman’s relatively conservative choice of an overcoat, we can still feel her fierce flapper spirit shining through, and it’s clear that she’s a child of the revolution. She’s rocking the mandatory short haircut for liberated women, along with low kitten heels and dark pantyhose. But we know that she’s a figure in the jazz scene from the crazy stole that she’s wearing! The wild texture of the wrap is perfect for dancing and gyrating the night away!

Wild Child

This woman is an absolute stunner, and definitely would have been considered a “wild thing” for the time! We can see that she doesn’t give two flying figs about the rules from her dangerously short dress – which has the double offense of being both knee length and sleeveless, with an almost completely open back! Plus, the way she’s climbing that telephone pole to put up a flyer advertising a jazz event makes it clear she plays by her own rules.

Under The Radar

This tranquil trio may appear to be less rebellious than the other women of the era featured on this list, but we can still tell that they were modern women of the time. How? While they may seem conservative to our eyes, the coats on these women featured significantly shorter hemlines than what was considered normal back then. What else gives away these women’s wild side? Check out what’s under those hats – yup, short hair, which meant bucking tradition.

Subtle Rebellion

At first glance, this pic appears to be showing two ladies dressed fairly standardly for the time. But check out those majorly menswear-inspired calf length socks on the ladies – this is a clear nod to the tomboyish and rebellious spirit of the time, which permeated the fashion world in a crucial way. Plus, if you look carefully, you can see that the woman on the right is rocking a blouse which looks almost exactly like a tie!

Understated Chic

This woman is the definition of “less is more”, and she knows that in order to truly stand out from the crowd, it’s all about the little details. Check out the fuzz ball hanging from the back of her hat – it’s very reminiscent of Fendi’s current bag charms. Talk about ahead of her time! We also love the elegant 3D tasseled brooch, featured at her waist in place of a tie belt. She’s definitely a true fashionista.

Geometric Girl

During the 1920’s, geometric patterns were all the rage. Take a look at famous Art Deco buildings from the era – think the Empire State Building in New York City, the Eastern Columbia Building in Los Angeles, and the Chrysler Building in New York City. All of them prominently feature geometric designs, both in the building tiles and the physical style of the building. This woman’s outfit is a perfect embodiment of the aesthetic of the era, judging by the sleeves she’s rocking.

Style Never Dies

This lady is rocking one of our favorite looks on the list. This pleated skirt is truly timeless, as it’s a classic style still appreciated and worn by millions of women all over the globe. The huge embellished feather hanging from her hat is a playful way to call attention to herself – which was considered scandalous in an era where women were supposed to be out of the spotlight. She makes it clear that true style doesn’t have an expiration date.

Giggling Goddesses

Nowadays, minimalism is king, and were discouraged from mixing prints. The woman on the left in this incredible photograph throws that advice straight to the garbage can (where it belongs), wearing a floral embellished sweater and a skirt featuring a markedly different floral pattern. However, we can’t forget her friend on the right. Check out that amazing aviator hat which was maybe inspired by the achievements of a famous high flyer of the era Charles Lindbergh! We love their smiles.

Precious Pooch

They say that “dog is a man’s best friend” and this lady proves that the saying is timeless for a reason and that it also applies to women! This gorgeous woman is walking her precious pooch through the streets of 1920s Washington, D.C. Nowadays, a young woman in the city would most likely wear a messy bun and yoga pants for this mission, but this was clearly a different era – note the stockings, calf-length skirt, and formal jacket.

Strutting Her Stuff

It’s no surprise that this statuesque, striking beauty caught the eye of a street photographer nearly a century ago. From head to toe, she oozes pure glamour. Check out the perfectly wrapped mink stole around her shoulder – which is nearly upstaged by her ornate, seemingly custom-made tie waist belt and contrasting lapels! Elbow length gloves and a bonnet featuring a major embellished bow complete the movie star look. She proves that glamour truly is timeless.

All About The Details

A true fashion star knows that it’s not the girl with the biggest hat or the loudest print who wins – it’s the one who keeps that playful and whimsical spirit presents even in the small details of her ensemble. We’re almost certain that this outfit was custom made for this woman, which explains why it’s perfectly tailored to her waist and body shape. We love the ruffle hem and sleeves, as well as the unique inset panel on the skirt.

Cutting Edge

There have always been the women among us who aren’t afraid to embrace a new trend – and it’s clear that this woman wasn’t afraid to be on the cutting edge, stylistically speaking. This woman’s outfit was very likely custom made for her by a designer, who would have taken her measurements before creating the piece – talk about service! The craftsmanship shines through in the details at the sleeves, and of course, the very unique lapels and tie waist belt!

Black Beauty

Sometimes rocking an ensemble that’s all one color can look too matchy-matchy. Other times, it’s perfectly chic – think Victoria Beckham wearing all red everything, down to her shoes and handbags. This woman, who lived a century ago, was clearly ahead of the game. Her all-black outfit drips with film noir glamour. We especially love the subtle mink stole (which was probably extremely expensive) and her elegant tiered skirt, which she layered perfectly with the overcoat.

From Paris, With Love

As you may have guessed, this photo was taken on the streets of Paris. Paris has always been the epicenter of the fashion world, and this woman truly embodies the spirit of avant-garde styling. Check out the thick fur cuffs on her coat, as well as the patterned embroidered on it – which seems to have been inspired by Persian paisley or India. We also love the asymmetrical skirt – a look which is popular again, a century later!

Parasol Princess

In the days before there was public awareness about skin cancer, this lady seems to be far ahead of her time. Not only is she rocking a bold parasol to protect her from the sun’s harsh rays, she appears to have a taste for classic wide-brimmed straw sun hats. She’s wearing a sleeveless white linen dress perfect for hot weather. Its neckline dips dangerously low, but don’t worry – it looks like she’s got a lacy camisole under for modesty.

Showstopper

In a time where women were expected to be modest and stay out of the spotlight, this woman was a major exception to the rule. She’s also not afraid to boldly strike a pose like a Parisian catwalk superstar – and she looks every bit the runway model! Her distinctive hat is a total show stopper, along with her bell-sleeved cardigan that features ornate stitching and what appears to be a dramatic 3D flower embellishment at the waist.

Dark Divas

This dynamic duo is taking funeral chic to a whole new level, and slaying the street fashion scene nearly a century after this photograph was taken! The woman on the left is rocking a maximal wide-brimmed hat, giving her a mysterious look, along with a huge pearl necklace (to show off her wealth), and she’s holding what appears to be a custom made clutch. The woman on the right looks fashionable in her ornate hat and exquisitely detailed coat.

Glamour Girls

This terrific trio is a perfect embodiment of the wild and free spirit of the roaring 20s. The girls are literally golden, representing the age of post-World War I, pre Stock market crash (and subsequent Great Depression) America. From their outfits we would assume that they’re professional dancers in a cabaret who probably shook their tail feathers to the jazz which was so popular in that era. Check out those huge smiles on their faces!

What’s Over There?

Here we have yet another picture that perfectly captures the adventurous spirit of the times. This terrific trio of close girl friends are dressed significantly more conservatively than some of the other ladies featured on this list (especially the flappers) but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t breaking down barriers as well. In a time where women were expected to be seen and not heard, these women were throwing social norms to the garbage and doing their own thing.

Hard Knock Life

Are these girls down on their luck and hitting the bottle to ease the pain? As you can tell from the more transparent bottles in the hands of the two women on the right, this photo is totally staged and there’s no alcohol in any of the bottles. But the fact that these women would even agree to pose for such a potentially provocative photo shows the major social shift which was going on in American society during the 20s.

Living On The Edge

At first glance, you might not have realized it, but the two fashionable women in this photo are paying homage to a different iconic photograph – Lunch atop a Skyscraper – which depicts construction workers in New York taking a break while perched on a beam about 69 stories above the sidewalk. While these two glamorous ladies clearly weren’t construction workers, we can still see that they have a taste for walking on the wild side and aren’t afraid to take a risk.

Fashionable Audience

This photo depicts a group which are significantly underrepresented in vintage photography – African Americans. One of the most interesting things about this photo is that the crowd is mixed race – black and white people are sitting together and not in separate areas. The fashionable women in this pic are rocking perfect flapper style – fur stoles for ultimate glamour, hats, and, of course, skirts that were considered scandalously short for the era but would be considered modest today.

Cabaret Coquette

Move over, Marilyn Monroe – the woman in this photo is widely considered to be the original movie star bombshell. Her name is Clara Bow, and in this picture she’s in character as Prudence Severn in “My Lady of Whims.” Her costume caused a stir, as it was a skin tight dress that was considered scandalous even for the boundary pushing flapper era. Newspaper the Cedar Rapids Tribune wrote that the outfit made: “the eyes of every flapper bulge.”

Working It

Talk about playing it up for the camera! It was typical for ladies of the era to either avoid staring directly into a camera or offering a bashful smile, in order to preserve one’s modesty – but these two women have totally bucked tradition by working it up for the photographer like runway models. And they’ve got the outfits to match – check out the giant 3D flower embellishment on the shoulder of the lady on the left!

ADVERTISEMENT