10 ways to 1920s style: part 3, the dropped waist

The silhouette of the 1920s: long in the body, with the waist dropped to around the hips. Skirts rose to the knee by the mid-20s, then started to drop again, with a vogue for mullet hems at one point, but the waist dropped early on and mostly stayed dropped for the decade.

The overall look created by this dress shape is long and lean. When Alexander McQueen designed his infamous ‘bumster’ trousers, he said he was playing with elongating the torso. The dropped waist has a similar body-lengthening effect. It does also give your whole torso the width of the widest part, the hips.

The dropped waist underwent a revival in the 1960s, usually with a shorter skirt – the 60s were the decade of the mini-skirt, after all. Dropped-waist garments that I’ve seen of late have tended to look more 20s for evenings and 60s for daywear. In the 2010s, the skirts are usually much too short for authenticity, and designers/manufacturers can’t resist trying to put in some shaping in the natural waist area or hinting at a bust, playing with the style of the 1920s but not recreating the exact look.

Wearing an authentic 1920s style outfit can feel strange at first because as an era, it’s known for glamour and excess, yet the daywear can feel frumpy, hiding all the bits people like to show off nowadays. It just goes to show how tastes change!

Personally I don’t mind a bit of frumpitude, I prefer people to engage with me as a person, not a body, but YMMV. That said, if you’ve got a plus-sized apple body type like mine, do give 1920s styles a try. The way they ignore the natural waist entirely and draw attention towards the hips (usually comparatively narrow on apples) can be more flattering and comfortable than some other, small-waisted, vintage styles that work against your natural shape.

Click on the '1920s' tag in the cloud on the right-hand column to find more ways to get the Jazz Age look.

Both pictures on this page were taken at the Fashion Museum in Bath. Neither designer is known, but the pearl-adorned one was worn as a wedding dress in 1926.


  1. I remember wearing authentic 20s to dance in- that was interesting! No wonder the era had distinctive dances... in some things your legs can only go forward and back unless you want to be repairing seams!


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