In 1920, when the earliest Kays clothing range in the collection was launched,Britainwas emerging from the after effects of the First World War. Society was changing: women had taken on men’s work during the war and had enjoyed this brief period of liberation and empowerment.
Although many women returned to their previous roles in service or the home, they continued to wear the more masculine-styled and comfortable clothes they had adopted during the war.
The skirts on sale in Kays catalogues were shorter and the dresses looser than they had been in 1914. The corsets they wore beneath were not boned. The exaggerated ‘S’ shape of the Edwardian era was replaced by a more boyish, slender-hipped figure. Women could order larger sizes than 14 at a cost of 2/- extra per inch.
Menswear on the other hand continued to reflect a more formal social structure. Edwardian-style suits for the professional, available ‘Ready for Service’, the length of the suit jacket gradually decreasing during the decade.
Workmen – navvies, miners and cowmen are among the many trades listed – were sold boiler suits, dungarees and jackets made of heavy cotton drill that would ‘stand washing many times.’ Their boots were steel capped and hobnailed. The watch words here were ‘durability’ and ‘reliability’.
Children, once past the toddler stage, wore miniature versions of their parents’ outfits. Young girls were ‘maids’ until they were about 18, whilst boys became ‘youths’ then ‘men’.
Click here for a poem about the fashions of the 1920s, created by Brendan Hawthorne and members of Worcestershire Association of Carers.
Film of a 1920s fashion show produced by Second Hand Rose for our Heritage Open Day event at the Commandery, Worcester, on 10 September 2011