Reader Maria wrote to me asking about 1920s winter fashion that is warmer than the typical short “flapper” dresses. With the exception of thick wool and wool overcoats, 1920s clothing in the fall and winter wasn’t very different than in the spring and summer. Colors changed to cooler tones such as black, navy blue, burnt orange, olive green, and burgundy red and sleeves were longer with higher necklines. Fabrics were often thicker cottons, wools, and velvet too but dress lengths did not change from season to season. To stay warm inside women would wear thick cotton stockings and union suits underneath a dress. Warm coats, fur stoles, leather gloves and a fuzzy winter hat kept a woman warm when she was outside.
I gathered some pictures from my 1920s catalogs to show you some of the clothing women wore in the fall and winter followed by some tips on dressing in 1920s winter clothing today.
1920- The early 20’s still favored longer dresses year round. These ankle length house dresses with long sleeves, high necks, and muted winter colors are perfect for staying warm inside. Note the high button up boots on two of the ladies also was a nice way to keep feet warmer. Wool spats also acted as shoe and ankle cover-ups.
1921- More dresses from the same winter catalog. These are made from silk crepe de chine and all wool serge. Common winter colors in the early 20s- brown, burgundy, navy blue, and black.
1922- Blouse and skirt combinations were a common alternative to house dresses. Midi blouses (sailor style) were made with heavier cotton for winter but in general was a sporty look that was avoided in winter. Instead, blouses and tops changed colors from light pastels to heavier earth tones with heavier embroidery patterns to match. They were still quite sheer and not necessarily short sleeved. A warm camisole or two underneath and a cardigan sweater on top took the chill off.
1925- The last year dresses were still long or “tea length” was 1924 and the winter of 1925. These charming day dresses for fall are still mostly short sleeved with with a changing color palette and darker trims. White collars were still popular year round but now they were trimmed or lined in darker colors like navy blue or black. Dark sailor ties and belts too transitioned clothes from summer to fall.
1925- Going to a party in the fall or winter didn’t mean fashion was dull. Bright cheerful colors like red and blue were found right alongside gold, silver and copper gowns. I just love the metal tones in evening wear during the 1920s. Notice too the long sleeves and matching jackets, capes, and scarves were a way to dress up a dress for winter. And the hats… just gotta love cloche hats made of velvet, wool and felt in just as many colors as the dresses.
1928-1929- Jumping ahead to the end of the 1920s we see dress lengths did finally go up to the knee, even in winter. Pleats and tiered skirts were popular details during the later years which in winter also worked in favor of adding more fabric to dresses. Thick flat crepe, wool, and flannel were all materials easy to pleat into the latest styles. Notice too instead of sheer insets, solid brown fabric insets alluded to bare skin yet revealed none. A sneaky way of being sexy and bundled up at the same time!
1928- Plus size ladies were usually extra happy when summer ended and winter dresses came out. The darker colors, long sleeves, and heavier fabrics were all the more flattering to the 1920s stout figure. They wore these colors and styles in summer too but in winter they blended in more. Velvet was a fabulous winter fabric for plus and miss sizes, especially for afternoon and evening gowns. It is a very nice fabric to use if you are planning to sew a winter dress.
Dresses were not the only option for women although they were the majority. I love long wool skirts of the early 20s paired with a blouse, belt and silk scarf.
Pants are another option although rare in the winter except for ski/snow clothes. Read more about the history of women’s pants.
A warm and cozy sweater was a winter necessity. They could be worn over dresses or separates such as a skirt and blouse. Early 20s sweaters could be pullover but most were long button up cardigans with a button or tie belt. Collars were wide that could be button up close to the neck or left open. Big pockets provided a place to keep hands warm or hold a pair of knit mittens.
Later 20s sweaters exploded with new bold patterns such as Argyle, checks, florals and wide stripes. Both button-up and pull over sweaters were popular from winter to spring. They looked sporty and casual. Pair them with a warm beret hat, wool cloche, or knit cap for layers of coziness. Read more about the history of Ladies Colorful 1920s Sweaters and Cardigans.
A winter coat or lighter spring coat was another cold-weather essential. Early 20s coats had big round neck collars, belts, and big pockets. Later 20s coats featured the cocoon shape with a wrap front design fastened low on the hip with a big button. Warmer winter coats often had big roll collars of fur. I love the bright colors – orange, peach, pink, green as well as the usual dark navy, brown and green. Read about 1920s winter coats.
1920s Winter Hats and Accessories
Contemporary fashions don’t know the value of a warm winter hat that is also stylish like those of the 1920s. Hats made of velvet, wool, cashmere, or knits made up the bulk of 20s winter hats. Wide brim hats in the early years were alternated with toques, berets and caps. Fabrics draped and gathered around the head casually leaving a brim to just a small turn up by the mid-20s. The all wool cloche with deep sides proved to be a very winter friendly late in the late years. Learn more about 20s hats.
Scarves, shawls and wraps added a layer of warmth without the weight or a heavy coat.
Gloves– warm mitten and fur lined leather gloves kept hands warm.
1920s Winter Boots
Boots were worn when it was very wet and snowy weather. Lace-up granny boots were the timeless winter boot style. Rubber boots and overshoes called galoshes with big buckles worn undone gave a flap flap flap sound that might have contributed to the “flapper” name. They were quickly removed inside and replaced with nicer heels or oxfords. Read about vintage winter boots.
Tips for dressing winter 1920s fashion
- Look for long velvet, wool or heavy cotton straight fitting dresses with long sleeves and a high neck.
- Long straight winter coats made of wool with a fur collar are not as easy to find as you would think. A cocoon shape is the best but even harder to find.
- When you can’t find a matching jacket a contrasting silk, lace or fringe shawl (the bigger the better) is perfect as well as fur (or faux fur) wraps, stoles, and collars.
- Long skirts paired with a long sweater and warm blouse underneath is another good outfit. Don’t forget cotton tights (ice skating tights are very warm.)
- Wide leg pants and a sweater or short jacket isn’t 100% accurate but certainly more practical. I look to 20s menswear for gender-bending ideas.
- A warm wool cloche is a great choice for hats. I like knit berets, velvet bucket hats and turbans too. For very cold but casual dressing a knit cap and scarf is timeless.
- Don’t forget boots. Lace-up boots or rubber rain boots are a must.
Here are some outfits I have worn or would wear for a 20s winter look