Women & Beauty in the 1920s

Society was changing dramatically for women in the 1920s. Some of these changes manifested themselves through provocative fashions and changes in the standard of beauty. These aspects were occurring as women were exercising their right to vote and working outside the home, shifting past gender roles. Despite these significant advances, the era was one of conflicting ideals as women were enticed by the possibilities of more freedoms, yet never fully let go of the age-old notion that the true value of a woman’s existence fell within the confines of the home. Despite the contradictions, women in the Roaring Twenties brought about many changes and helped pave the path for future generations.

The Shape of a Woman & Standard of Beauty

No image symbolizes the Roaring Twenties more than that of the flapper. She was young lady who pushed boundaries and enjoyed newfound freedoms through such things as smoking, drinking, “bobbing” her hair, makeup, and dancing the Charleston, Fox Trot, or Black Bottom dance in short dresses that allowed for freer movement.

Fashionable clothing of the day meant more flowing styles and shorter hem lines. A dropped waist was most desirable and was the style frequently found in fashion magazines, celebrity photos, and images of modern women in everyday life. To give the appearance of a straight boyish figure, undergarments such as corsets and bras were used to compress the body, as opposed to the accentuated curves and unnaturally small waist lines of past eras.

Prior to the Twenties, a heavily made-up woman would be thought of as loose and unfit to be in respectable society. But, as the new face of beauty emerged, lipstick, blush, and mascara were used more than ever before. New inventions emerged, such as Helena Rubinstein’s 1926 lipstick, called “Cupid’s Bow,” which was specially shaped for a foolproof application of a small, pouty look. Mascaras came in liquid or cake form, to be applied with a brush. Finally, rouge or blush was applied more forcefully and obviously.

As in other aspects of life, women’s fashions and adornment during the Roaring Twenties, especially those of the younger set, made the unthinkable into a standard. Slimmed-down clothing and generous applications of makeup served as another example of the flapper’s rebellion against the deeply-entrenched fashions and attitudes of the past. The new look came as women were making important strides in such social areas as voting and work, topics to be covered in an upcoming blog post.

Today’s post was brought to you by the Homestead’s Collections Coordinator, Michelle Villarreal. Thank you, Michelle, for your contribution!

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