Prohibition, the proliferation of jazz, and the development of mass media were the hallmarks of the 1920s. Youth was at a premium because so many young people were killed during the war. As a result, a cult of the teenager had a new freedom that they used to usher in the Afro-influenced Jazz age. Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Rudolf Valentino, and Josephine Baker were popular stars of the time, personifying many of the modern ideals.

Women, celebrating such liberties as the right to vote in 1920, were now more daring than ever before. It was considered fun to smoke, visit speakeasies, wear makeup, swear, and otherwise shock conventional thinkers.

Ever-shorter skirts (which reached their apex in 1927) were the rage, and young women strove to show off their knees with increasing abandon. Many girls (to the profound distress of their Victorian relatives) rolled down their stockings and painted rouge on their knees in an effort to emulate a "naughty schoolgirl" look.

Mass production and the development of affordable synthetic fabrics granted everyone access to beautiful clothing and shoes. The foot became a focal point of fashion. Shoe styles were influenced by crazes like the Charleston, a dance that demanded a securely fastened shoe with a low heel and closed toe. A single-bar pump with a pointed toe, high-waisted heel, and one tiny covered button was the most common style. High-tongued, cutaway-decorated, crossover, and t-straps were other popular elements.

The curiosity for exotic arts and culture was fueled by the discovery of Egyptian King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922. Egyptian and Native American themes appeared in everything from furniture to clothing to advertising. Shoes also reflected this theme.

Bright fabrics and brilliantly dyed leather—including metallics—were used to create some of the most exciting shoes ever seen. Fabulous harem slippers and slides were among the favorites. A number of luxury materials, including rich brocades, satin, silk, and velvets—often embellished with metallic overstitching, embroidery, or beading—were also employed. The heels were often works of art in themselves. Made of such materials as Bakelite, Wedgwood, Jasperware, or leather, they were often decorated with lace, rhinestones, and other pretty, shiny things.

The late 1920s saw the adoption of two-toned spectators for men, perfect with knickers. For women, the Art Deco aesthetic ushered in muted colors and geometric styling. The elegant styles of Coco Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet are also rooted in this era, though their influences would not be truly felt until later.

continue > > >