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« 1920s Etiquette - How Much To Expect of an Escort | Main | 1920s Etiquette - Who Carries Her Cloak? »

1920s Etiquette - Bad Form in Dress

This is the second installment in the "Art Deco Etiquette" series, which takes as its core, the weekly column "Conduct and Common Sense" by Anne Singleton, which was printed in Vogue and the Washington Post. This article is of particular interest, not only because it catches Miss Singleton at her most waspish (and amusing), but also because it gives some idea of 1920s notions of appropriate dress and coiffure. This one comes from September of 1926.

As I sat in a subway train the other day I noticed three women sitting opposite me; a middle-aged one, a girl of 20 or so, and a flapper of, I should think, 16, possibly 17. The older woman wore deep rusty black. She had no hat on, and her colored hair hung in disordered curls about her cheeks. It was just at the awful length that makes a woman look like a witch. The length that is neither short nor long, but just wrong, and very common. Need I say that she was chewing gum?

The girl of 20 was quite pretty, neatly dressed and self-respecting in appearance and manner. Her shoes were trim, her stockings fitted without wrinkles, her costume was simple, and she had a plain, well-shaped hat set well down on her head.

The flapper had on a blue one-piece dress trimmed with pink, not bad in itself, but too short and too tightly fitting, she had under it nothing, I should say, but a pair of tights. Those were easily to be seen, for she had her legs crossed, and, as her stockings were rolled well below her fat knees, the amount of pink leg she showed was appalling. Her hair, also, was of the wrong length, in an untidy, hanging bunch over her right ear, and she had no hat. There never was a girl worse dressed for an outing.

To my surprise, I found the three were together. What worried me was this. I knew, and any respectable observer would have known, that the middle girl was well dressed and nice looking, but why didn't her companions know it and take example? One glance in any glass ought to have made the older woman cover her hideous hair, and the flapper pull up her stockings. Common sense should have directed them both not to make guys of themselves; but then, common sense doesn't keep the fat-haunched, stubily built girls out of knickers in the city streets, so why should it keep fat-legged flappers from showing their knees? Perhaps if they knew fashion fainted at the sight of them all, they might be better advised.