Party Dresses in the 1920s

The traditional flapper dress from the 1920s was only one style of dress for parties.
The traditional flapper dress from the 1920s was only one style of dress for parties. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

The period of the 1920s was an era of massive change. With the end of World War I, younger people began to rebel against old time strictures. Women cut their hair in a short bob style and wore makeup in less subtle fashion. The fashionable body shape became boyish with a flat chest and slim hips. But the dresses for parties, while featuring the same daywear stylings of a dropped waist or no waist, were full of sparkle and glitz.


The party dresses of this period featured lace, not as edging on sleeves and the neck area, but as an overlay on top of a colorful slip. Net was also used as the overlay in order to support the heavy beading, sequins and rhinestones that were sewn onto the garment. Other fabrics used included rayon and georgette which would hug the body for that boyish shape. Organza is another fabric that was used which gives a dress a stiffer and puffier shape.


Beading was the main decoration used on party dresses, although fringe was used as well. The Kansas Historical Society has several examples of beaded dresses. But also points out the use of fur and boas as trim on the hems and collars. In some cases, the fabric itself was the focal point, be it with a large flower design painted on the fabric or a brocade in which two or more colors of thread are woven together to create a design within the fabric.


Dresses of this period had varied necklines. A day dress might have a V-neck or scoop neck, but the party dress would often have two layers: the opaque underdress had a scoop neckline, while the overlay dress made of lace or beaded netting would have a boatneck. Flapper dresses for party wear would have a scoop neckline, especially if the dress was a singluar piece of fabric.

Length and Sleeves

During the 1920s, hemlines shortened. According to, in Europe, the hemline rose four to six inches above the floor. But in America, that hemline would go up to eight inches above the floor. Another difference was in regards to sleeves. European designs began to do away with sleeves, while in America they were still regarded as necessary for daytime party-wear, for events such as tea parties.

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