As we head into fall and winter our short sleeved 1920s dresses may not be warm enough for a winter party. That and not all women like to expose bare arms any time of year! The solution in the 1920s is similar to today- wear a shawl, wrap or large scarf to cover up. The 1920s, especially for evening wear, were all about wearing elaborate beaded, fringed, hand painted scarves and evening shawls inspired by the styles of the Orient and Egyptian costume. Other styles like neck scarves, fur wraps, and caplets are also evening and day time alternatives.
Let me show you 6 ways to wear them with your 1920s costume:
1920s Evening Jacket
In the past finding a 1920s style shawl was a bit of a challenge. Today, especially this fall 2014 season, there are more options than ever. The current Boho Chic trend has introduced the “Kimono” coat to mass market which is a silk like jacket with long fringe hanging from the sleeves and hem. They are very “twenties” and go very well with 1920s evening gowns even though they are worn with casual clothing in contemporary styling (inspired by the 1970s.) Most 1920s Kimono’s are black, silver, gold or hand painted Asian motifs. Long ankle length and shorter hip lengths are equally vintage. I am eager to add a few of these to my collection, even if I don’t have a need for them right now. They are a trendy item that may not be around next season and who knows when they will come back. Grab one while you can.
Tip: Wear a print evening jacket over a solid color dress and vice versa. Colors do not need to be match but should coordinate with a few accessories.
1920s Evening Shawl
Kimono evening coats were worn as light jackets but were mostly an evening boudoir coat. What the majority of women wore for evening events was an oversized fringe shawl or cape coat. Made of silk or light velvet they again featured hand painted designs, intricate embroidery and long stands of fringe. Many also had large rolls of fur on one side for a faux collar effect.
What makes these evening shawls different from most contemporary styles is the sheer volume of them. They were massive! Short ones could extend just to the hips but usually they extended down to the ankles and with very long fringe, out to the sides as well. They were works of art, affordable only to the upper classes.
I highly recommend wearing an evening shawl, wrap or coat over any formal evening dress. They are so unique and so stunning! Finding a shawl large enough is usually the challenge (and with fringe.) Many large silk or chiffon shawls made in Asian countries work best. You can always add fringe but since most fringe trim is much shorter you may need to hand tie your own fringe (time consuming but worth it!)
Neck Scarf (Evening)
Since scarves are also a major fashion trend now they are another easy way to accessorize your costume. Long scarves with beaded, silk fringe, or sequins are perfect for a sparkling accessory over a simple dress. For dresses that are already sparkling a simple velvet scarf or sheer chiffon scarf with fringe will complement best. Colors that contrast with each other instead of match will be the most “Art Deco” such as gold over black, white over blue, silver over purple. Add coordinating shoes, purse and headband to complete your look from head to toe.
TIP: Don’t tie your scarf around your neck completely. Instead just leave it hanging open or spread across your shoulders for a more authentic 1920s look.
–> I found this great silver sequin scarf at my local friend’s new business, BohoMonde, but you can buy it from her direct through her too. She has some other lace and sequin scarves that will work well for the 1920s too.
Neck Scarf (Day)
For 1920s daywear looks in the fall or winter a knit scarf is both practical and fashionable. A triangle shaped knit scarf gentle wrapped around the neck made of a soft yarn like Alpaca, cotton and certain wool blends added an elegant touch to an afternoon ensemble.
For full on winter wear a handknit chunky scarf layered over a chunky knit pullover is cold friendly. Scarves were either wrapped with one side slung over a shoulder or hung down straight and secured with a thin belt. (I love this look!)
Cool weather was not the only time to wear a scarf. By the mid to late 20’s pretty silk scarves came in elegant floral, paisley, abstract, folk arts, Asian and Art Deco prints. They featured hand painted designs in the usual 1920s color palette. Short neck scarves tied to one side were inspired by the Gypsy look. Very long rectangle scarves could be tied in a big bow or wrapped across one shoulder. They usually had one color coordinate with an accessory like a cloche hat.
You too can recreate any of these 1920s looks with almost any scarf you already own or want to buy. Scarves are timeless!
An unusual way to use a fringe, beaded, or Belly Dance style scarf is not to wear it around your neck but to wear it around your waist or hip. Doing so instantly gives a straight cut slip dress the iconic 20s drop waist. I use this techniques a lot when I create costumes.
Scarves can act like belts when tied at the waist (natural or drop waist.) They can act like flowing capes when draped across the shoulders and left drifting behind (looks magical while walking.) They can also be draped down only one shoulder to accent a plain gown. Get creative and play with the placement of scarves for a unique look no one else will be wearing.
Many winter time party goers and brides are looking for ways to look the season without wearing a full wrap that covers up a beautiful dress. A short fur or feather shawl is a great solution. While not normally worn by themselves in the 1920’s a nice white faux fur wrap looks very vintage inspired on a bride. Darker furs look equally good against almost any color gown. A fur trim shawl is another good option for a bit more coverage. I have a lovely one my mother found me that is black wool with short fringe and a black fur trim collar. I use it A LOT in winter.
In the summer I often wear a lace white shawl with fringe over my garden dresses. I just love to wear shawls anytime of year!
Shop vintage 1920s style shawls, wraps and faux furs here: