10 Trends of 1920s Clothing Worth Collecting

October 14th, 2013
1920s art deco dress clothing trends

1920s clothing trends are a little bit naughty, a little bit nice and without a doubt some of the most scandalous-for-their-time designs of 20th century female fashion.

1920s clothing is becoming harder to find for resale, and fast approaching the canon of “antique,” which is defined as anything 100-plus years old.

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<< Shop 1920s vintage clothing on eBay now! 

This post will help you to identify and understand the style value of your ’20s clothing garments as identified by the most prominent trends of the decade. That way, you can purchase or sell ’20s garments (not to be confused with the styles of ’30s clothing) with better knowledge of their current and future market value.  

By 1924, hemlines had risen to the knee, waistlines dropped below the hips and the arms and back were exposed to attract the attention of male admirers on the dance floor.

No longer trapped by oxygen-sucking corsets, the ’20s female could adorn herself in metallic thread, sequined beading and shimmery lame when she hit the town all wild ‘n fancy free. Oh, to return to this decade and learn the Charleston in the dark shadows of a speakeasy!

I look at the ’20s as an era of mysterious, almost devilish romanticism. How do you feel about ’20s fashion and style?

Share your thoughts (or links to your ’20s garments!) in the comments below the post, or by saying hello on TwitterFacebookInstagram or by subscribing to my newsletter!

xx, SD



Feel free to scroll through the post to see the most collectible ’20s clothing trends of the era, or click any of the links below to be taken immediately to the text within the article.

#1: Flapper Dresses

#2: Egyptian Style

#3: Oriental Style

#4: Tea Dresses

#5: Sequins

#6: Velvet

#7: Handkerchief Hems

#8: Dropwaists

#9: Art Deco Design

#10: Tiered Skirt


’20s Clothing Trend #1: Flapper Dresses

1920s vintage flapper dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

Flapper style dresses were cut short and straight to de-emphasize a woman’s curves. Uneven split hems and handkerchief hems (as shown above) along with Egyptian and Art Deco inspired prints, pleated skirt panels and knife pleats, low-cut necks and backs and pockets, buttons and belts are just a few examples of what characterizes a true “flapper style” dress of the era.

The flapper look was called “La Garconne,” translated in French to “boyish, cross-gendered look.” Woman would actually tape their breasts so to appear chestless like a boy!

Despite the ’20s flapper looking like the opposite sex, the words’ origins can be traced to 17th century definition as a slang word for prostitute!

1920s flapper dresses from etsy

SELLING VALUE: $300-$600 for wearable 1920s flapper dresses on Etsy.

Many sellers use “flapper dress” as a keyword, so be wary when shopping of what a true flapper dress is.

OWN IT: 1920s Flapper Dress, $525 by The Paraders Vintage / 1920s Flapper Dress, $425 by Dear Golden

’20s Clothing Trend #2: Egyptian Style

1920s egyptian coat

Coat Available from Hinesite Vintage

King Tut’s tomb was discovered in November 1922, spinning the world into a fashion frenzy of “Tutmania.”

Textile companies sent representatives to the excavation sites in Egypt for firsthand inspiration and the result was a little bit of Egypt a la hieroglyphics, lotus flowers, the scarab beetle, mummies and sphinxes  on everything from jewelry accessories to makeup compacts, cigarette holders and even Egyptian Lotus branded footwear!

1920s egyptian clothing from etsy

SELLING VALUE: Examples of 1960s Egyptian revival clothing retail from approximately $30 (tops) to $150 (dresses/coats).

An authentic 1920s Egyptian revival piece will retail for far greater, however because these are museum quality, designer made pieces that  are so rare in the resell world that I couldn’t find an authentic example listed on Etsy.

OWN IT: 1960s Egyptian Print Crop Top, $30 by Hyacinth Vintage  / 1960s Egyptian Print Coat, $115 by Thrush Vintage

’20s Clothing Trend #3: Oriental Style

1920s vintage oriental shirt

Top Available from Hinesite Vintage

In the early 1920s, France staged expositions of art and products of their colonies (like Morocco), and it was these exhibitions which introduced Parisian fashion designers to the intriguing exoticism of the Orient, which would later be romanticized in film and the flapper era of the ’20s.

Beyond the paper parasols we so often associate with the era,  Asian motif designs (like the floral silk sleeveless top from Hinesite Vintage above) to the more quintessential Asian inspired lounging dresses (below left) and Kimono style jackets (below right) were worn by women in the 1920s.

1920s oriental style dresses from etsy

SELLING VALUE: Searching 1920s oriental clothing on Etsy returns a small selection of pieces $500+, with the exception of this little gem being sold for $55. 

OWN IT: 1920s Oriental Lace Dress, $595 by Fab Gabs  / 1920s Oriental Kimono, $400 by Fab Gabs

’20s Clothing Trend #4: Tea Dresses

1920s vintage tea dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

Tea dresses were first popular in the 1870s and remained so until the 1930s, when the formality of having afternoon tea lessened and an outfit change was no longer necessary to sip Lipton with your girlfriends.

The 1920s tea dress looked nothing like that of the late 1800s, which resembled more medieval renaissance garb. The tea dress of the ’20s was romantic and often designed with floral motifs and from light chiffon materials for ease of movement and relaxation during one’s tea break.

Typically a tea dress has no defined waist, as it was intended to be worn without a corset (a freedom of fashion popular in the 1920s). Read this history of the Tea Gown by the Dreamstress for more facts on how the tea dress was worn from the 1800s – 1930s.

1920s tea dresses from etsy

SELLING VALUE: $200 – $400 when searching 1920s tea dress on Etsy.

Chiffon styles (like those shown above) tend to be more valuable.

OWN IT:  1920s Floral Chiffon Tea Dress, $425 by Vintage Blue Moon / 1920s Rose Chiffon Tea Dress, $425 by Vintage Blue Moon 

’20s Clothing Trend #5: Sequins

1920s sequin dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

Sequins embellished dresses were worn by the young, fancy and free  ’20s child because their shimmer and shine drew a looker’s eyes to the body of its wearer.

Like a ’70s diva rocked a sequin jumpsuit to shine below the disco ball and meet her dance partner, the flapper female’s sequin dress was worn for the attention-seeking purposes of attracting the opposite sex.

During this era of liberated fashion and sexuality, sequins were one of many ways the female fashionista fearlessly strutted her stuff.

1920s sequin dresses from etsy

SELLING VALUE:  Searching Etsy for 1920s sequin dress actually returns many ’80s does ’20s styles, since the 1980s was known for its sequin obsession, too!

Many flapper style dresses were adorned with sequins, so searching flapper dress will give a larger pool of shining examples.

An authentic and top quality flapper dress of high quality sequin beaded craftsmanship can retail for $1,000+ on Etsy.

OWN IT:  1920s Sequin Beaded Dress, $525 by Ian Drummond Vintage / 1920s Sequin Beaded Dress, $495 by Wild at Heart Vintage

’20s Clothing Trend #6: Velvet

1920s velvet opera coat

Coat Available from Hinesite Vintage

Velvet’s popularity represented the ’20s passion for luxury. “Burnout” velvet was an invention of the decade, when a chemical is applied to the velvet and fibers are literally burned off, only leaving the silk fibers in a semi-transparent design behind.

An outerwear style trend of the ’20s, shapeless, almost blanket-like “Opera coats” were made from velvet material. Designer Mariano Fortuny is known for revolutionizing the trend of the velvet ’20s coat.

When the ’60s did ’20s fashion, the burnout velvet mini dress was a popular reproduction piece and a style still easy to find and wear today.

1920s velvet coats and dresses from etsy

 SELLING VALUE: Top quality 1920s velvet dresses range from $300-$800, with a few gems listed at $1,000+.

I was shocked to find this ’20s velvet gem listed for only $78! Someone snatch her up before it’s too late!

Top notch, modern looking 1920s velvet coats hit roughly the $300-$500 range.

OWN IT: 1920s Burnout Velvet Dress, $425 by Vera Vague  / 1920s Pink Velvet Opera Coat, $525 by Boudoir Queen

’20s Clothing Trend #7: Handkerchief Hems

1920s Vintage Dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

Handkerchief hems were a flirty design element to the rising hemline of the ’20s dress, when a dress’ skirt falls at different points along the hemline creating an assymetrical (i.e. not straight) scarf effect.

I think that the hem design was popular because it gracefully showed more skin while also covering some of it within the same hem. Perhaps it was a safe middle ground for the ’20s girl who wanted to be a tease without causing too much trouble!

1920s handkerchief hem dresses from etsy

 SELLING VALUE: Wearable 1920s handkerchief hem dresses range from $200 – $500.

I did find one for $60, but with stains, tears and other imperfections.

OWN IT: 1920s Handkerchief Hem Dress, $228 by The Greedy Seagull / 1920s Handkerchief Hem Sequin Dress, $450 by Go Vintage Go 

’20s Clothing Trend #8: Dropwaists

1920s vintage drop waist dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

Next to the “flapper” dress, the dropwaist dress is perhaps the most definitive “new” look of this fashion-forward era.

A dropwaist is quite literal in its name: The waistline is dropped to at or slightly below the hips and because of this design creates a straight, waistless silhouette.

’20s dresses often emphasized the dropwaist with a bit of decorative adornment where it lay (see photo above) or the placement of buttons, belts or pockets (below right).

1920s dropwaist dresses from etsy

SELLING VALUE:  $200-$350 for most styles returned when searching 1920s dropwaist dress on Etsy

OWN IT:  1920s Dropwaist Dress, $365 by Go Vintage Go / 1920s Dropwaist Dress, $385 by Simplicity Is Bliss

’20s Clothing Trend #9: Art Deco Design

1920s vintage art deco dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

Art Deco emerged in the ’20s as a form of fashion and architectural design escapism into a hypothesized future of geometric lines, swirls and asymmetrical angles. New York City’s Chrysler Building is one of the most notable pieces of Art Deco architecture.

Look for deep lines in the designs of an Art Deco garment (like the rosettes shown above) or beading used to make swirls (bottom left) circles, starbursts or just avant garde, unnameable shapes (bottom right).

1920s art deco dresses from etsy

SELLING VALUE: 1920s Art Deco dresses with the strongest influences of this popular motif range from $500 – $1,200+ (like this gorgeous ’20s sequin gem)

The example above is being sold at a steal by Hollie Point. I hope you consider giving her a happy home!

OWN IT: 1920s Art Deco Design Dress, $248 by Hollie Point / 1920s Art Deco Design Dress, $750 by Bella Soiree 

’20s Clothing Trend #10: Tiered Skirts

1920s tiered hem vintage dress

Dress Available from Hinesite Vintage

Double to triple tiered skirts aren’t as remembered for their fashion revolution as the dropwaist or the shortened hemline of the flapper dress, but they were special in that they captured a the era’s penchant for pleating and feminine sportswear.

The photos below typify the tiered skirt look, which was slightly pleated to strongly “knife” pleated (bottom left) and sat below a dropped waist.

The left dress is made from rayon crepe and was worn by a fashion-forward flapper female in her day, while the dress on the right is a light novelty print not fancy enough for evening activities and so was probably a knock-off style handsewn and worn by those who couldn’t afford the real deal.

1920s tiered hem dresses from etsy

SELLING VALUE: Searching 1920 tiered hem on Etsy doesn’t give the best search results. I found the above dresses simply looking at 1920s dresses as a whole.

As you can see, the prices vary from $90 (right – snatch this one up!) to on average, approximately $300 for a quality tiered hem ’20s dress.

OWN IT: 1920s Tiered Red Crepe Dress, $358 by Hollie Point / 1920s Tiered Novelty Print Dress, $90 by Living Threads Vintage 



TRENDS: 1920s Fashion Trends as Seen on Boardwalk EmpireThe Artist & The Great Gatsby
RALPH LAUREN: How He Channeled ’20s Style for Spring 2012
TURBANS: A Quintessential ’20s Accessory Styled 4 Ways


FASHION: How to Make Your Own 1920s Dress (Book!)
VINTAGE FASHION CLUB: More on ’20s Fashion History from UK Vintage Lovers
FILM: The ’20s Style of The Great Gatsby Movie by Baz Luhrmann
PLUS: Where to Buy 1920s Clothing on Etsy

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Facebook Comments


  1. natalie says:

    So many great trends – but I like the two Egyptian coats the best!

  2. Sammy says:

    hey Natalie! the history behind the Egyptian trend was so interesting. I admit I didn’t know King Tut’s tomb was found in the ’20s. Tutmania! It’s sad I couldn’t find anything authentic ’20s of Egyptian influence worth listing here, but the ’60s did the trend SO well. xo

  3. Sammy says:

    I’m still figuring out what to do with my ’20s flapper dress I own. I can’t fit it, and it’s literally sitting in a bag of other collectible vintage garments right now. What to do … what to do …

  4. Tova says:

    Hi Sammy,

    I’m surprised that you didn’t include any hat trends in this list– it doesn’t feel complete without bell cloches, helmet cloches, and juliet caps! Do I hear an idea for a follow-up post?? ps. I linked on facebook to a blog with the most amazing 1920s hats, but my heart was stolen by the makeup! (I know, sacrilege!)

    xx Tova

  5. Sammy says:

    hey Tova! We haven’t connected in a while! Yes you are so true, especially after I watched the Great Gatsby trailer yesterday and was blown away by the clouche style hats. I don’t own a clouche hat! That will be a ’20s accessories focused post. Can you link me to the blog URL here? xx

  6. Tova says:

    I was on vacation at the end of August and relished in the fact that I had fallen off the face of the planet–utter bliss!
    The blog link is: http://www.vintag.es/2012/08/vintage-hats-headgear-fashion-from.html. You’ll definitely want to get your hands on a cloche after seeing those pictures– it would be a GREAT look for you..

    Let’s meet up again sometime soon! I would say to watch the movie, but they pushed off the release day too far into the future!


  7. Debbie says:

    Oh wow, what great finds! I love all the evening dresses but I have a soft spot for the day dresses too. It is such a fascinating era. Many people say they can’t wear 20’s clothing because it doesn’t look good on anyone but skinny tall people. Not true! I put together a free booklet about finding the right 20’s clothes for your body type. http://www.vintagedancer.com/1920s-fashion-for-your-body-type/



  8. Sammy says:

    hi Debbie! I am so glad you commented and I am so glad you have this great guide! I have heard much about you! I will be in touch shortly ;-) xo

  9. do you know any history about “bedell” 20s dresses?

  10. VintageNut says:

    Sammy your wealth of knowledge is amazing. Great selection, the drop waist doesn’t work well for my body type. I’ve tried to wear but it just doesn’t look flattering. I too love the Egyptian style.

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