To start my 1920’s week, I would like to introduce you to Debbie Sessions of Vintage Dancer. Debbie spent a weekend living as if she were in the 1920’s and documented it for the blog. I thought it was a fascinating glimpse into the life of someone who lived during this glamorous decade. Please enjoy!
I love all eras of fashion and history. Each has their own unique set of values, styles and interests that makes revisiting them a fun hobby for my little little family. Recently I took my current interest in the 1920s and spent an entire weekend reliving life as a housewife in the 1920’s. Here is a photo journey through my weekend and some lessons I learned to inspire us all while living our modern lives. All of these pics were taken in my house (built in 1920) or in Lake Tahoe, CA at the 2013 Great Gatsby Festival.
Start Your Day By Focusing On You
A 1920’s housewife began her day where most women do- at the mirror. Taking out rag curlers for fresh bouncy bobbed hair or pinning back long hair into a faux bob style (which is what I do). In the early 1920’s the most respectable women kept their hair long. The bobbed look was for the young and unmarried set. They flocked to men’s barber shops where no woman had ever set foot in before. To come home with bobbed hair was a shock to your friends and neighbors! Over time almost every woman bobbed her hair and the women’s beauty parlor industry was born.
Tip: Taking time to start your day off looking pretty is not vain; it’s a moment to take care of yourself and do what you want to, before the demands of your family take over.
Dress for Fun and Comfort
Women in the 1920’s changed clothes several times a day. Above I am wearing a 1922 house dress that I made from scratch. House dresses were the most colorful and were often decorated with fun gingham checks, stripes, and polka dot patterns! However women didn’t wear these bright frocks outside of the home, opting for a more conservative dress or walking suit. For evening the colors came back, arms went bare, accessories were lavish, and hems were short for dancing. My dress on the mannequin is a thrift store remake into a 1927 style evening dress. Both are exceedingly comfortable. That’s what makes 1920’s clothes so great to wear; fun colors, unrestricted, and contrary to popular belief, very flattering on all body types (when you avoid dressing like a flapper).
Tip: I found out how much I loved wearing a dress around the house. Usually I put my frumpy comfy clothes on in the morning but a dress was just as comfortable and easy to work in- plus gingham checks makes me smile all day long. Clothes should make you happy. Wear whatever is fun and gives you pleasure, even if no one will see you in it all day.
Life as a housewife can be lonely during the day. 1920’s women had a lot of household responsibilities that took massive amounts of time. Electric appliances like the vacuum, sewing machine, clothes washer, and toaster were just starting to enter homes and make life a little easier. Most chores were still done by hand. So did women only work and have no fun? Not quite. Having tea with friends or dinner followed by a game of Mah Jong was a regular ritual for ladies. Being social helped ease the loneliness and monotony of a housewife life a little more.
Tip: We are social creatures by nature so invite a friend over (messy house and all) and just sit with some tea and have a conversation or even play a bored game.
Do Something Extra
With prohibition in full swing many housewives turned an extra room in the house into the neighborhood speakeasy. They would make bathtub gin and other home brewed libations during the day and then sell them to their friends and neighbors after hours. A small red light shining in the window meant the speakeasy was open for business. The extra income was needed for the rising costs of living (and spending) in the 20’s.
In my 1920’s house we think the basement cold storage room was a speakeasy. Shhh don’t tell anyone but it’s where we keep our party drinks too.
Tip: While I don’t recommend doing anything illegal as a side business I do think having something extra helps keep you happier in life. Teach a class, make and sell crafts, write a blog, or work a temporary job (like an annual event.) Having an extra job can not only give you some spending money but may also turn into a business that you will really love.
The 1920’s were the first decade to fully embrace a weekend of leisure. Families flocked to beaches, took road trips, hiked, played sports, camped, and skied. In Lake Tahoe, city slickers from San Francisco spent a week playing in the cool Tahoe waters. Life outdoors was where life was at.
The idea of a vacation was also a new thing to many families in the roaring twenties although it was mostly the rich who could afford to travel.
Tip: When the weather is nice, take the family out on a vintage picnic. It’s okay to cheat and bring pre-made sandwiches packed in your vintage picnic basket. Just get outside and let nature be your playground. And if you can’t afford a weeks vacation you can always have a “stay-cation” 20’s style with day trips to the beach, the lake, even the movies. Be a tourist in your own town and I bet you’ll discover many new things to do.
Old Fashion Fun Times
Being a mom in 1920 is the same as being a mom today; love your kids, play with them, teach them, help them grow up to be good citizens and good parents. Most importantly just have fun with them. I like to make vintage costumes for my daughter for all the events we attend. I made her a matching house dress for our day at the lake.
She could care less what she wears as long as she gets to play. Having kids who love nothing more then playing with a cardboard box is a reminder to ditch the iPad and play some easy vintage games.
Tip: 1920s Games for Kids are Classics!
1. Pin the Tail on the Donkey
2. Peanut Hunt (like an indoor Easter egg hunt)
3. Hide the Thimble called Hot and Cold today.
And that wraps up my very 20’s weekend. If you are fascinated by life and fashion in the 1920s please join my free 1920’s style guide blog series.
Debbie Sessions is a vintage clothing and lifestyle blogger, entrepreneur, and owner of Vintage Dancer, an excellent shopping resource for those seeking vintage inspired men’s and women’s clothing and accessories from the Edwardian period through the 1960s.