1920s Fashion Trends from Today’s TV & Film

by Sammy in 2 Comments — Updated March 29, 2024

20s clothing trends films

Credit: The Artist (La Petite Reine) / Boardwalk Empire (HBO) / The Great Gatsby (Bizmark Productions)

1920s fashion trends were influenced by two revolutions of the decade: The birth of the independent woman free to do and dress as she pleased, and America’s growing role as a global economic leader post WWI.

The 1920s was called “The Roaring ’20s” because it was such a joyful, exciting time of industrial, political and cultural growth. The liberating fashion trends for women were born from the optimism of an era which for the first time ever, saw women wearing drop waist dresses and showing leg above the knee, cutting their hair short and dressing like a boy!

Every season, the runway’s fashion trends can be traced to the influences of a particular decade. Last summer was all about ’70s clothing and this winter we were wearing styles reminiscent of ’60s fashion. 

But when it comes to current trends, it’s thanks to influences in television and film a la HBO series Boardwalk Empire, Golden Globe winning silent film The Artist and this December’s release of The Great Gatsby remake that we’re seeing a revival of ’20s clothing trends for spring 2012.

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And the best part? They’re just as decoratively jovial and luxuriously liberating as their Jazz Age originals!

Keep reading after the jump to learn how Boardwalk Empire, The Artist and The Great Gatsby (both 1974 and 2012 versions) wore the styles on set, and how you can draw inspiration to wear ’20s-style vintage clothing from these examples of modern entertainment!

Special thanks to Modern Day Flapper for contributing her ’20s fashion photography for use in this article. Please visit her website for more ’20s style inspiration!

Which trend worn on Boardwalk Empire, The Artist or one of The Great Gatsby remakes is your favorite? What might I have missed that you want to learn more about?

Let me know by leaving a comment below the post, or saying hi on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or by sending me an email, [email protected]!

xx, SD


20s clothing trends drop waist dresses

Credit: Boardwalk Empire (HBO) / Modern Day Flapper 

AS SEEN IN: HBO series Boardwalk Empire

THE TREND: Drop waist dresses, which are designed with a horizontal line cut across the body below the hips, instead of at your natural waist. Because the drop waist falls below the hips, it creates the allusion of a lengthened torso and makes your body appear longer and leaner.

THE HISTORY: The drop waist dress represents the freedom of the ’20s itself. According to Fashion-era.com, between 1920 and 1928 corset sales declined by two-thirds. As women shunned restrictive undergarments, the styles of their dresses loosened and allowed them to move with an ease that had never existed in fashion until then.

HOW TO WEAR TODAY: Thanks to influences from the spring 2012 runways, drop waist dresses have returned to modern fashion in a marvelous way. Drop waist dresses in cotton blends decorated with bright, bold ethnic patterns are perfect with sandals for a laid back summer  look, or channel Jazz Age elegance in silk or chiffon in a sexy sheer.

For chic contrast, wear a romantic overlay (shown on the model above, right) over your drop waist dress and add some bold bangles and lace up ankle boots for a more modern Stevie Nicks does boho babe vibe.


20s clothing trends fur

Credit: Boardwalk Empire (HBO) / Modern Day Flapper

AS SEEN IN: HBO series Boardwalk Empire

THE TREND: Fur coats and fur trim on outerwear. Fox and mink furs were the most popular in the ’20s but the cream de la creme of all fur was the “silver fox” style, a luxurious blend of silver, grey and white with an exotic shine.

THE HISTORY: Fur became a must-have accessory in the ’20s because it represented the abundance and wealth of the times.

Women wore coats of full fur or 1920s wrap coats with fur trim in mink or fox. For dinner and high-profile events, women wore fur stoles for a bit of stylish warmth to cover their bare arms and shoulders, skin that was being newly exposed to the world in the ’20s.

MODERN INFLUENCE: Fur made a comeback last winter 2012. The trend was so rampant that you could buy real and faux versions of all fur types everywhere from fast fashion chains to luxury high end department stores. Coats with fur collars, Ushanka (Russian) hats and cropped fur jackets were some of the trendiest ways to keep warm in fur last winter. Speaking of fur, if you need a guide on how to clean fur, I’ve got one for you! .

When shopping for fur, I suggest investing in vintage options because you’re buying a secondhand version and not harming animals to buy something new.  If totally against wearing fur altogether, you can still maintain ethical responsibility and recycle vintage fur without actually wearing it.


20s clothing trend jeweled headpieces

Credit: The Great Gatsby (Paramount) / Modern Day Flapper

AS SEEN IN: 1974 version of The Great Gatsby staring Mia Farrow & Robert Redford

THE TREND: Decorative headpieces embellished with sequins, crystals, gems and anything that glimmers and shines. Worn over the head (left) or as Egyptian style pieces across the forehead (right).

THE HISTORY:  The popularity of headpieces in the ’20s has to do more with the popular hairstyles of the era than anything else. Beginning in 1923, women wore their hair in short bobs called “shingle bobs” that were cut into a V-shape at the nape of the neck with either waves or spit curls at the sides.

With shorter hair in place as a trend, the opulent, free-spirited woman saw all the more reason to show off her trendy hairstyle by wearing hairpieces for dancing the Charleston and wooing her lover with some shimmer!

MODERN INFLUENCE: The easiest way to wear jewels in your hair is to do so in place of a necklace. Wearing both is too much shine around your face, so pick one or the other but avoid both together.

To wear a headpiece by day, opt for a simple, silky chemise style top to establish a romantic vibe. Pretty pearls are more demure than stunning sequins and are a gorgeous complement for girls with cropped bobs and a makeup palette of simple nudes.

To wear by night for a formal event or somewhere you want to be “noticed” (like by the cutie on the dance floor!), the brighter the better. Wear a decorative, complementary colored dress with your hairpiece so that you’ve established an overall “look.”


20s clothing trends knee highs

 Credit: The Great Gatsby 2012 (Bazmark Films) / Modern Day Flapper

AS SEEN IN: 2012 version of The Great Gatsby movie staring Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio

THE TREND: Colored and patterned knee-high or thigh-high stockings, secured with garter belts.

THE HISTORY: Wearing stockings to the knee or thigh became popular in the ’20s as the hemline rose higher and higher in the era, stopping just above the knee by 1926. Prior to the ’20s, a lady was expected to wear black wool stockings to cover whatever amount of leg she was exposing (which wasn’t more than the ankle and some calf).

With more leg showing than ever before, women wore colored and patterned silk or artificial silk (rayon) stockings to add stylish flavor and some warmth to their limbs below. To still show off leg and to have further ease of movement, stockings were often rolled down from the thighs and secured at the knees with garter belts.

With the invention of latex in 1920, knee-highs and thigh-highs that held themselves in place with a bit of latex rubber elasticity up top were sold and eliminated the need for garter belts altogether.

MODERN INFLUENCE: Wear knee-highs that add a punch of pizzazz to your look in a manner that can’t be accomplished with any other accessory or clothing pattern. You can either show off the fact that you’re wearing knee-highs by pairing them with a mini schoolgirl style skirt, or wear them no differently than you would a pair of tights with a midi length sweater dress.

Knee-highs add a touch of sexy flair to a more demure look. Channel your inner sexy librarian when wearing them — and just keep walking when the construction men whistle your way!


20s clothing trends pearls

Credit: The Great Gatsby (Paramount) / Modern Day Flapper 

AS SEEN IN: 1974 version of The Great Gatsby staring Mia Farrow & Robert Redford

THE TREND: Faux pearl necklaces, worn in multiple strands at once.

THE HISTORY: Coco Chanel introduced faux pearls in the ’20s as the perfect pieces to use for the “costume jewelry” look of the era. ’20s trends were influenced by one literally dressing “in costume” to fit with the decadent Art Deco fashions of the day.

Costume jewelry like faux pearl necklaces were mass produced and readily available to the fashionable ladies of middle and upper classes. They could buy multiple styles of faux pearls to complete their “costume look.”

MODERN INFLUENCE: Faux pearls are so classic that they’ve never truly fallen out of style. To wear pearls like a ’20s girl, invest in a faux pair that are as long as your waist when wrapped around your neck. That way you can double or triple loop them to appear as if you’re wearing multiple strands at once.

To avoid looking too conservative in your pearls, wear them with the sexiest thing you own — think a ’20s style chemise slip dress or an Art Deco style dress as described further below — so that the classic touch is offset by the statement of your overall look.

You don’t have to invest in a boring pair of white pearls, either. Modern faux pearls are sold in a variety of colors, and I especially love adorning my neck for spring with a triple strand of oversize pearls in a trifecta of pretty pastels.


20s clothing trends clouche hats

Credit: The Artist (La Petite Reine) / Modern Day Flapper

AS SEEN IN: Silent film The Artist (2012) staring Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo

THE TREND: Clouche style “bell shape” hats, made of felt material to fit snug to the shape of the head and designed with a small brim that covered the forehead and eyes.

THE HISTORY: Clouche hats were particularly cutting edge in the ’20s because when wearing one, you were declaring to the world that you had a rockin’ bob since you wouldn’t be able to fit the hat over your head with longer hair.

Clouche hats fit so snug because of their flexible felt material and bell shape — “clouche” literally translates to “bell” in French. The style was first invented by Parisian milliner  Caroline Reboux in 1908. The style caught on with the mainstream as more ladies chopped off their hair to embrace the androgynous airs of the era.

MODERN INFLUENCE: Clouche hats are too warm for summer and not warm enough for winter — so they’re best worn in fall! Pair one with a light peacoat or snuggy oversize sweater and round it out with knee-high boots for a practically posh look.


20s clothing trends sequins

Credit: The Artist (La Petite Reine) / Modern Day Flapper

AS SEEN IN: Silent film The Artist (2012) staring Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo

THE TREND: Art Deco style design dresses made with gorgeous materials and adorned with eye-catching embellishment.

ART DECO HISTORY HISTORY: Blossoming into mainstream popularity by 1925, the Art Deco movement was architecture’s and fashion’s attempt to imitate art in the construction of the modern world. The designs emphasized geometric lines with a futuristic feel.

NYC’s Chrysler Building (built 1928-1930) is an example of Art Deco design in architecture.

ART DECO DRESSES: Art Deco style dresses are made with all the trimmings of a fabulous piece, but no matter the materials used, authentic Art Deco dresses contain the architecturally-fueled designs of the movement, consisting of rectangle, square or diamond designs.

Dresses are so exquisite thanks to their intricate beading, sequins, crystals and faux gems. Art Deco dresses will often have silk or beaded fringe that stops at the knee.

MODERN INFLUENCE: Thanks to influences on the runways (Alexander Wang, Lacoste and Caroline Herrera just to name a few), the futuristic feel of Art Deco will trickle down to fast fashion shops H&M, Urban and Forever 21 — and this is a good thing, because not every girl has a reason to wear a sequin-encrusted drop waist evening gown this season, but she can certainly spice up her style palette with a taste of these conversation-worthy prints.

Art Deco designs are stunning for spring/summer on easy-to-wear pieces with seamless cuts — think waist free-maxi dresses or a loose tunic top. The design’s colors will typically contain 3 or more complementary hues, but the neon trend for spring may be embraced via Art Deco designs, essentially combining ’90s colors with ’20s designs. Talk about a marriage of unique fashion perspectives!


Trends: 1920s Clothing Trends
Ralph Lauren: Channeling Great Gatsby for Spring 2012
STYLE: How to Wear a ’20s Turban 4 Unique Ways
MODERN TRENDS: How the ‘20s is Making a Comeback for Spring 2012
EDUCATION: All You Wanted to Know About 1920s Fashion
PHOTOS: Original 1920s Style, Beauty & Product Photography
JAZZ AGE: Photos from the 1920s Governor’s Island Jazz Party by NYC on My Mind

2 thoughts on “1920s Fashion Trends from Today’s TV & Film”

  1. Excellent post on that most interesting and oft copied of fashion eras – the 1920s. The 1920s influence is never far away. The 1960s was the first rehash of that period with the garconne looks of Twiggy.Other great tv drama sources for 1920s clothing include Upstairs Downstairs, Jeeves and Wooster, House of Elliot and Brideshead Revisited.

  2. Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on
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