The kind you’d see at a horse show. What kind of clothes did they wear during the 1920s? If anything, the 1920s was a time of experimentation: dress up, wear whatever you want, wear that hat and that jacket and whatever else you can imagine. We really have no idea what the 1920s clothes were. We were still dealing with a kind of gilded period of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution, with factories and factories running like crazy at a time when the Industrial Revolution meant so much. So, in that context, maybe we can think of different types of men’s clothing and the kinds of hats and the kind of dress shoes people were wearing.
What was the 1920s like for women? Women were still a very important part of the labor force. They were still able to choose to go out into the country and work. But they, you know, we think of the 1880s. The 1880s was really an era of the first women’s suffrage movement. So women were able to choose to get out of that working woman’s body of society and go out into the field and find a job that they were qualified for.
Women were still able to choose to go out of the house and marry someone, go out into the country and work. But they were also also working hard to get themselves into better social conditions, so you are seeing these new and unexpected forms of dress in the 1920s, especially in the fashion industry. So women were very much involved in making the world more beautiful. And we think we’re still dealing with that kind of economy of beauty — what we are looking at in the 1920s is the kind of kind of things women were going out into and what they were buying and wearing.
How many people are talking about these issues? Women and men are always talking about the 1920s, that was the era, but how many are actually looking at the real conditions in the 1920s? It’s a big mystery because we don’t have access to the data. Even women who are interested in the kind of history that I’ve written about, who really want to know more about the history and sociology of women are finding it increasingly difficult to learn more about how women were treated in the 1920s from the kind of data that we have today, because of the different types of institutions and the kinds of kinds of laws that still existed in the 1920s. So that’s the problem, and the problem is, frankly, the women’s movement just hasn’t given us
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