New Year’s Eve, 1920

What are you wearing on New Year’s Eve?  I’m still dealing with this bum leg, so it will likely be sweatpants for me, unfortunately, but I have to say that some version of “domestic attire” has been the norm for the last decade or so. I had much more festive New Year’s Eves when I was younger, but family celebrations at home seem to be the rule for now. I remember spending New Year’s in Rome when I was 20, dancing in some sort of tunnel wearing a dress I had just bought in Florence! There were lots of fancy country club/hotel parties later, but frankly those can be a boring. I don’t really need a fancy party, but I would like to be a bit better dressed. I did manage to hobble around Hamilton Hall at the annual Christmas Dance a few weeks ago in a drop-waisted sequin dress, so I already had that silhouette on my mind, but I decided to browse through some digital fashion collections to see what women might have been wearing a century ago as they ushered in the New Year—-the year they would become fully enfranchised citizens here in the US.

NYE 1919 (2)

NYE 1920 Barbier (2)



screenshot_20191229-160225_samsung-internetFashion plate from La Moda Elegante Ilustrada, December 6, 1919, Fashion Institute of Technology; Georges Barbier’s “les belles Sauvagesses de 1920” from Le Bonheur du Jour, ou, Les Graces à la Mode, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Vogue covers and sketches from December 1919.

To my untrained eye, it looks like the “1920s silhouette” emerges immediately with 1920! Or maybe that’s just what I was looking for—and these lovely Lanvin dresses from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art seem almost timeless. For more on the House of Lanvin’s long run, check out this cool online presentation. I think most people have heard of Lanvin, but what about Clara Becht and Jacqueline Kasselman, the designers of some very stylish evening ensembles in the collection of the Cincinnati Museum of Art? I certainly hadn’t. With a very dynamic fashion periodical press in these days, I imagine that the practice of knocking off was already prevalent, so midwestern ladies could have “French” frocks for their big nights out. Whatever the source or inspiration for their evening dresses, women in 1920 did not confine themselves to the palette I am featuring here (for some reason): various shades of green and blue seem to have been popular, and there were also pops of universally-festive red. Happy New Year! I’ll see you on the other side.

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Lanvin Collage

Lanvin Gazette




Evening Gown Collage V and A

Last EveningHouse of Lanvin evening dresses, 1920, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Lanvin advertisement in the Gazette du Bon Ton, fall, 1920; Dresses by Clara Becht and (2) Jacqueline Kasselman at the Cincinnati Museum of Art; Fashion plates of gowns by Jeanne Paquin and Madeleine Wallis with an American silk-satin dress from an unknown designer, Victoria and Albert Museum. Yet another “Robe du soir”, from the Gazette du Bon Ton, 1920.

6 responses to “New Year’s Eve, 1920

  • Donnalee of Kingston NY

    Those are charming outfits. Mine will be some version of sweat pants and comfy bedclothes, I am sure, since staying home is on the plan. Best wishes for the bum leg–

  • Nancy

    I love the champagne-colored satin bow dress!!!

  • az1407t

    I always thought that women’s fashions in the 1920s were among the ugliest in fashion history. You’d never know that women had much of a shape, especially the lack of defined waists. On the other hand, when I was a kid in the 1950s, I thought that was one of the most glamorous periods in women’s fashions. My Mom and my aunt’s wore fancy dresses, high heels, white gloves, and wore various hats. It’s not P.C. nowadays, but most also wore fur stoles or coats. But what do I know, this opinion coming from a guy? LOL Happy New Year, Donna! Looking forward to your great variety of blogs in the coming year.

  • Laura

    Sweat pants here too… at least until New Year’s Eve lands on a Friday or Saturday again! Those were lovely to look at. I am guessing one had to be a real stick not to look frumpy in those shapeless 1920s styles. But they also look so flowing and comfortable, and really quite lovely in their lines. But I bet some women still wore corsets under them!

  • Lisa

    All very chic, love that period. As for celebrating I rather be reading, especially since I just received a copy of Tittle’s Colonial Holidays! Wow,
    Thank you for mentioning this book. My copy is a first edition and in great condition. The gold in the illustrations just glows. Superb. Looking forward to reading New Year’s Day tomorrow. Thank you Donna.

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