Writing

Fashions in the 1920s & 1930s: 1, from Farewell My Life by Cynthia Sally Haggard

One of the pleasures of writing FAREWELL MY LIFE is that I got to imbibe all the wonderful fashions of the early 1920s.

Compare the tennis outfits from the 19th Century:

Two women wearing high-necked dresses and hats over corsets to play tennis. By the look of their costumes, this was either happening in the 1880s or 1890s. Notice underarm position of racket.

to the “indecent outfit” from the 1920s:

This woman from the 1920s is still wearing a hat, but look at the way she lunges towards the tennis ball and the overarm position of her racket. There is NO WAY you can do that in a corset! By the way a journalist – I presume a MALE journalist – described this outfit as “indecent.”

After World War I (1914-1918) fashion became driven by young people. Partly it was because young women had a different conception of what they needed in clothes. For example, they wanted to play a much harder game of tennis than their mothers and grandmothers with over-arm hits to the tennis ball, much like modern tennis today.

Here is a photo of a poor young woman with a 16-inch waist from the Victorian era. These corsets were so restricting that women could only play a couple of rounds of tennis before fainting, leading their men to declare that women were TOO WEAK for physical activity!

Can you do that in corsets? Of course not, which is why young women ditched corsets and stays in favor of much lighter underwear, which allowed them much more freedom of movement.

These women from the 1920s are wearing girdles (to attach their stockings) over cami-knickers, a one-piecer much LESS revealing than today’s Teddy. Notice how much lighter their underwear is compared to the 19th century and consequently how much more natural their figures look.