In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Historic Clothing Collection

1920-1930

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Clothing of the early 1920s is characteristically loose with waists at hip level, and longish or just above ankle-length skirts. Shortened by 1924, skirts were shortest about 1926-27, and lengthened again by 1929. The new leg-exposing skirt length was a true revolution. Historically women's legs were always covered, and out of the common gaze. As skirt lengths rose, neutral, light gray and flesh colored stockings became very important, with silk the most desirable, and cheaper rayon and mercerized cotton alternatives.

The ideal shapeless tube-like figure, was sometime called boyish or androgynous. Underwear was simplified to avoid bulkiness under the new slim garments. Corseting and clever dressmaking helped shape or conceal natural contours. For example, Helen Little Hamm's tan chiffon dress, with an uneven knee-length hemline features a low-slung swag of brown velvet draped from one hip to the other, and held with a gathered length of trailing fabric to help distract from a "faulty" figure.

Not to distract or disguise, but to give extra room to move, concealed gussets at both sides retain the straight silhouette of Portland’s Marguerite Waterman Cobb's exquisite beige satin, chiffon, and silk-net short slim dress. For the same reason - room to move - but in this case to work, the straight skirt on a plain khaki cotton household maid’s dress features side seam gusset pleats.