Twenties Fashion Marked the Dawn of the ‘Modern Woman’
Twenties Fashion Marked the Dawn of the ‘Modern Woman’

Starburst shoe, made by Th. J. de Bont, Dutch, 1922-1925--By the early 1920s, the term 'flapper' had come to describe young women who flouted social conventions, particularly in how they dressed. The gold starburst that explodes across the uppers of these shoes, a style favoured by the more elegant flapper, is a translation of the dynamic Art Deco design of the 1920s into fashion. (2011 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada)
Starburst shoe, made by Th. J. de Bont, Dutch, 1922-1925--By the early 1920s, the term 'flapper' had come to describe young women who flouted social conventions, particularly in how they dressed. The gold starburst that explodes across the uppers of these shoes, a style favoured by the more elegant flapper, is a translation of the dynamic Art Deco design of the 1920s into fashion. (2011 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada)
The 1920s was an important time for fashion. Sandwiched between the First World War and the Great Depression, the glittering decade of the Roaring 20s marked the dawn of the modern era. Post-war exuberance infused society and fashion with an energetic modernity—shades of which can still be seen today in shorter hemlines, higher heels, the use of makeup, and the enduring cloche hat.

Men likewise abandoned overly formal clothes and began wearing more casual sporty styles for the first time. Men’s suits of today are largely based on those worn in the late 1920s.

Swimming shoe, made by Philips, English, late 1920s--The 1920s saw increasing numbers of women participating and excelling at sports. The sporting accomplishments of women, such as Suzanne Lenglen's stunning tennis game and Gertrude Ederle's record-breaking swim across the English Channel, inspired many women to take up a sport. This pair of red rubber 'silver wing' bathing shoes would have been worn by a swimmer in pursuit of both fashion and fun around the end of the decade. (2011 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada)
Swimming shoe, made by Philips, English, late 1920s--The 1920s saw increasing numbers of women participating and excelling at sports. The sporting accomplishments of women, such as Suzanne Lenglen's stunning tennis game and Gertrude Ederle's record-breaking swim across the English Channel, inspired many women to take up a sport. This pair of red rubber 'silver wing' bathing shoes would have been worn by a swimmer in pursuit of both fashion and fun around the end of the decade. (2011 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada)
Influenced by cinema, jazz clubs, and world travel, ‘20s fashion made a clear break with the past, and women’s shoes were no exception. A fantastic range of new footwear was produced, and many of those designs are on display in an exhibition currently showing at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.

“The Roaring Twenties: Heels, Hemlines, and High Spirits” showcases shoe styles that were popular throughout the decade, reflecting the new freedoms that were opening up for women.

Styles included the T-strap shoe, designed to keep women’s shoes on their feet while doing the Charleston, and the menswear-influenced shoes worn by women who were stepping out of the domestic sphere and entering the workforce in record numbers.

Hundreds of shoes (from a collection numbering over 10,000) are on exhibit at the Bata Shoe Museum on an ongoing basis, ranging from Chinese bound-foot shoes and ancient Egyptian sandals to chestnut-crushing clogs and glamorous platforms. The Roaring Twenties exhibit runs until June 2012. For more information visit www.batashoemuseum.ca.

Button boot, made by Lady Luxury, American, 1914-17--At the dawn of the twentieth century, some critics denigrated suffragettes (women's rights activists) for their slovenly dress and unattractive footwear. Others took the opposite tack, arguing that some suffragettes' acquiescence to fashion, such as the wearing of 'French heels,' was a sure sign of their lack of reason. Many suffragettes attempted to strike a balance between the two extremes by wearing moderately high-heeled footwear such as these button boots. (2011 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada)
Button boot, made by Lady Luxury, American, 1914-17--At the dawn of the twentieth century, some critics denigrated suffragettes (women's rights activists) for their slovenly dress and unattractive footwear. Others took the opposite tack, arguing that some suffragettes' acquiescence to fashion, such as the wearing of 'French heels,' was a sure sign of their lack of reason. Many suffragettes attempted to strike a balance between the two extremes by wearing moderately high-heeled footwear such as these button boots. (2011 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada)
Art Deco shoe, English, c. 1925--The stark contrast between light and dark was exploited by many Art Deco designers, artists, and architects in the 1920s. This pair of shoes exemplifies this aesthetic. (2011 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada)
Art Deco shoe, English, c. 1925--The stark contrast between light and dark was exploited by many Art Deco designers, artists, and architects in the 1920s. This pair of shoes exemplifies this aesthetic. (2011 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada)

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