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The Price of Style: How Much Did Clothes Cost in the 1920s?

You might be fascinated by the Roaring 1920s, a time of significant social change, economic growth, and an explosion in arts and culture. The decade’s fashion was no exception, with men and women embracing new styles that symbolized the era’s sense of liberation and progress.

But have you ever wondered how much it cost to dress so stylishly back then? As you dive into this captivating period of history, it’s essential to understand the factors that influenced clothing prices at the time.

This article explores the costs of women’s fashion and men’s wardrobes during the 1920s. We’ll also consider how social class played a role in determining what people could afford to wear.

To put things into perspective, we’ll compare these historical prices to today’s standards – prepare for some surprises! Finally, we’ve covered you for those seeking affordable alternatives inspired by vintage fashion.

So get ready to step back and immerse yourself in 1920s clothing costs – a fascinating journey awaits!

Women’s Fashion: A Price Breakdown

Let’s dive into a breakdown of women’s fashion prices from the roaring ’20s, shall we? This decade was about liberation and breaking away from traditional norms, which translated into bold, new styles in women’s clothing. Women had more freedom to express themselves through their attire, with shorter hemlines, looser silhouettes, and vibrant colors appearing in everyday wear.

But how much did these fashionable garments cost back then? In the 1920s, a simple day dress could set you back anywhere between $5 to $15 (equivalent to roughly $75-$225 today), depending on the quality of materials and craftsmanship. If you wanted something fancier for an evening soiree or party, expect to pay around $25 for an elaborately beaded flapper dress (around $375 today).

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that $1 in the 1920s is roughly equivalent to about $15 today, so that would mean that accessories were just as necessary during this time; a stylish hat could cost between $2-$8 ($30-$120 today), while shoes ranged from $3-$10 ($45-$150) per pair. Don’t forget undergarments! A brassiere or corset typically costs $1–$4 (about $15–$60) each. However, these figures are rough estimates.

Even though these prices may seem steep by modern standards, remember that the thrill of dressing up and expressing one’s newfound freedom made it all worthwhile.

Men’s Wardrobe: Costs Explored

Diving into men’s fashion in the roaring ’20s, you’ll uncover a treasure trove of sartorial elegance and eye-opening price tags. During this era, men’s clothing was marked by its impeccable tailoring and stylish designs.

The cost of a man’s wardrobe varied greatly depending on factors such as quality, fabric choice, and whether he opted for custom-made or ready-to-wear garments. A typical middle-class working man could expect to spend around $30 to $50 for a suit (equivalent to about $450 to $750 today), while upper-class gentlemen might quickly shell out over $100 per suit ($1500+ in today’s currency).

For dress shirts, prices ranged from as low as 95 cents up to several dollars apiece. In addition to suits and dress shirts, other essential components of a man’s wardrobe include trousers (priced between $6 and $15), hats (costing anywhere from $3 to upwards of $10), neckties ($1-$2), shoes ($6-$12), and various accessories like cufflinks or pocket watches.

Remember that these estimated costs don’t account for inflation; those numbers can be pretty staggering when adjusted for today’s value! Despite these seemingly steep prices at the time, many men were willing to invest heavily in their appearance. After all, it was an age where dressing well-signified status and sophistication.

Ultimately, your journey through the captivating realm of 1920s men’s fashion will reveal the stunning styles and the fascinating interplay between social class distinctions borne out by how much one was prepared to pay for their attire.

Fashion’s Evolution from the 1920s to Today

The 1920s, commonly called the Roaring Twenties, was a pivotal time in fashion. It was an era marked by significant economic growth and cultural shift, especially in the style sector. Fashion during this period became a form of personal expression, with flapper dresses, cloche hats, and stylish accessories becoming the order of the day. The pricing structure of these fashionable commodities offers a fascinating glimpse into the consumer society of the 1920s and its comparison with today’s world.

Day dresses during this period ranged from simple designs to more elaborate creations. Their cost depended on various factors, including the materials’ quality and the level of craftsmanship. Evening wear was typically more expensive and elaborate, with the beaded flapper dress standing as the iconic outfit of the era.

Accessories also played a vital role in the fashion landscape of the 1920s. Hats were functional items for protection against the elements and stylish additions to one’s outfit. Shoes were equally important, and the cost varied depending on the design and material.

Undergarments had their price bracket, and items like brassieres and corsets were essential for a woman’s wardrobe. The cost of these items was influenced by their design and the materials used in their construction.

Although prices give us an idea of the economic aspect of fashion during the 1920s, it’s important to remember that various factors, including the specific period within the 1920s, the geographical location, and the socio-economic status of the consumers, influenced these costs.

The fashion evolution from the 1920s to today is a testament to the dynamic nature of this industry. It reflects the changing cultural and societal norms and underscores fashion’s integral role in personal expression and identity. The journey from the Roaring Twenties to our present-day offers a fascinating study of the changing patterns of consumerism, cultural shifts, and economic developments in the fashion world.

Price Fluctuations and Economic Cycles

The 1920s, an era filled with significant economic booms and sharp recessions, presented a unique economic landscape that profoundly impacted the pricing of goods and services. This period began with a brief but severe recession following the end of World War I in 1918, which resulted in an economic downturn that lasted until 1921. This initial downturn was marked by deflation, high unemployment, and a decrease in consumer spending, leading to lower prices for goods across the board.

However, the economic scenario changed dramatically by mid-1921, with the “Roaring Twenties,” a time of rapid economic growth and expansion that lasted almost a decade. This boom period was characterized by increases in productivity, consumer spending, and stock market investments. As a result, prices for goods and services began to rise steadily. Optimism permeated the economy, and spending on non-essential goods such as fashionable clothes and new technologies like radios and automobiles became more common.

During the Roaring Twenties, advancements in manufacturing and production techniques and the rise of consumer credit led to increased availability of goods at varying price points. However, despite the overall economic prosperity, wealth distribution was highly unequal, which meant that the affordability of these goods varied greatly among different socioeconomic groups.

By the end of the decade, the economic situation took a drastic turn with the Wall Street Crash of 1929, marking the beginning of the Great Depression. This period of economic decline led to a sharp drop in consumer spending and significant deflation. Prices fell dramatically as demand plummeted, and the economic turmoil impacted all sectors, leading to widespread unemployment and economic distress.

The 1920s thus offered a vivid example of how prices for goods and services can fluctuate widely in response to changing economic conditions. During this period, the economic booms and recessions provided stark contrasts in pricing, consumer behavior, and overall economic activity. These historical economic fluctuations serve as important lessons for understanding the dynamic nature of markets and the factors that influence price levels.

Affordable Alternatives: Vintage-Inspired Fashion on a Budget

Slipping into vintage-inspired fashion on a budget can be as effortless as finding the perfect little black dress, thanks to affordable alternatives that capture the glamour of the Roaring Twenties without breaking the bank.

With these cost-effective options, you can channel your inner flapper or dapper gentleman while leaving some wiggle room in your wallet for other fabulous finds. The key is knowing where to look and being open to mixing modern pieces with classic 1920s styles.

To help you put together a stunning Gatsby-esque ensemble without emptying your pockets, consider these affordable tips:

By following these suggestions and staying mindful of your budget, you’ll soon find yourself dancing through life with all the elegance and sophistication of an authentic Jazz Age aficionado.

Fashion Icons of the 1920s: Pioneers of a Style Revolution

The 1920s was a period of immense change and evolution in fashion. This transformation was orchestrated by several influential fashion designers who challenged the norms and introduced fresh, innovative styles that would define the era.

Perhaps the most influential designer of the 1920s was Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. She revolutionized women’s fashion with simple, comfortable designs that veered away from the previous decade’s restrictive corsets and flamboyant frills. Chanel championed the ‘garçonne’ look with straight, waistless dresses, which defined the era. She also made wearing jersey fabric in women’s clothing famous, affordable, and comfortable.

French designer Jean Patou was another influential figure of the 1920s. He, like Chanel, moved away from the highly structured and uncomfortable fashions of the past. Patou is credited with popularizing the sporty, casual chic look and raising the hemline of skirts and dresses, which gave way to the iconic flapper dress.

Elsa Schiaparelli, though her peak was in the 1930s, began her fashion career in the 1920s. Known for her bold, avant-garde designs, Schiaparelli often incorporated surrealist elements into her work. Her designs were artistic and imaginative, contrasting the more practical styles of Chanel and Patou.

Paul Poiret was another influential figure of the time. Known as the “King of Fashion,” Poiret was influential in freeing women from corsets and introducing vibrant colors and various ethnic-inspired styles.

The 1920s was also a significant era for American fashion, with designers like Elizabeth Hawes and Claire McCardell leading the way in the “American Look,” which prioritized functionality and comfort alongside style.

The designs and influences of these fashion visionaries from the 1920s still resonate today, reminding us of an era marked by societal changes, newfound freedoms, and a style revolution. Their legacy is a testament to the power of fashion as a reflection of the times and an influence on societal norms and expectations.

Women’s Fashion Statements That Redefined Femininity

The 1920s saw a significant shift in women’s fashion, reflecting the changing social and cultural landscape. Women increasingly challenged traditional norms and expectations, and their fashion choices became powerful expressions of their newfound liberation.

The ‘flapper’ style emerged as a prominent symbol of this period. Flappers were young women known for their energetic freedom, embracing a lifestyle viewed as unconventional and scandalous by previous standards. Their clothing reflected this spirit.

The typical flapper dress was straight, loose, and knee-length, a significant departure from the earlier era’s cinched waists and full-length skirts. These dresses symbolized a move away from restrictive social norms and towards a more comfortable, practical, and modern lifestyle.

In addition to the revolutionary changes in dress, the 1920s also saw a significant shift in women’s hairstyles. Women began cutting their hair short, adopting a style known as the bob. This was a bold rejection of the long, elaborately styled hair that had been the norm for women. The bob was seen as a symbol of independence and modernity. It was a realistic style that required little maintenance and provided greater freedom of movement, reflecting the increasingly active and public roles women were taking on in society.

Another trend during this period was the rising hemlines of women’s skirts and dresses. While not quite as daring as the mini-skirts that would come in later decades, the shorter skirts of the 1920s were nonetheless a significant departure from the floor-length styles of the past.

This trend was both a reflection of and a catalyst for changing social norms, as women increasingly participated in activities like dancing and sports, which required more practical, comfortable clothing.

These fashion statements of the 1920s were not just about style. They were also symbolic of the significant social changes happening then, with women increasingly asserting their independence and challenging traditional norms. These fashion choices were acts of rebellion, expressions of freedom, and powerful declarations of modern womanhood.

Unraveling the Fabric of 1920s Fashion Controversies

The 1920s, known as the Jazz Age, were rife with social change, especially in fashion. This era saw an extraordinary shift in how American women presented themselves, sparking widespread controversy nationwide. The heart of these controversies beat in New York City, where the young women’s flapper style broke away from previous modest fashion norms.

Flappers were young women characterized by their audacious behavior and modern, liberal style, symbolizing a new kind of American woman. Their attire, featuring short hair, shorter skirts, loose evening dresses, and bold makeup, starkly contrasted with the restrictive garments of the past. This revolution in fashion was amplified by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s character, Jay Gatsby, and real-life icons like Greta Garbo, whose popularity grew in tandem with these new fashion trends.

The flapper style, however, wasn’t accepted without resistance. Many people viewed these dramatic changes in women’s fashion as an alarming sign of moral decay, contrasting sharply with traditional ideas of femininity. The exposure of legs and arms was considered scandalous, and the liberal use of makeup, previously associated with illicit behavior, marked a further departure from the norm.

Men’s clothing also underwent changes during the 1920s, although not as revolutionary as women’s. The popularity of tailored suits grew, reflecting a departure from the past’s more formal and rigid attire. The informal and relaxed styles of men’s clothing, inspired by characters like Jay Gatsby in F Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel “The Great Gatsby”, created a noticeable contrast to the more formal styles of the previous era. However, these changes did not spark much controversy in women’s fashion.

Furthermore, the availability of consumer goods, including fashion items, grew considerably during this period. With industrial production soaring, fashion became more accessible to the masses. This democratization of fashion further fueled the spread of popular styles and trends, ensuring that the fashion controversies of the 1920s were not just confined to the elite but resonated across all levels of society.

The 1920s were a time of significant change and controversy in fashion. The bold and liberal styles adopted by women, coupled with the more relaxed and modern menswear trends, challenged traditional norms and sparked widespread debate. Despite the resistance, these changes laid the foundation for fashion’s evolution in the following decades.

The Impact of Advertising

The advent of the 1920s saw a revolution not just in fashion styles but also in how these styles were communicated to the public. In particular, advertising was critical in promoting and influencing fashion trends during this era.

With the economic prosperity of the Roaring Twenties, American consumer culture expanded significantly. More people had disposable income, and this newfound purchasing power was met with advertisements promoting everything from household goods to the latest fashion trends. The era of mass advertising had begun, leaving an indelible impact on the fashion world.

Newspapers, magazines, and billboards were flooded with advertisements featuring the latest styles and fashion trends. These ads showcased fashionable men and women, setting standards for what was considered stylish and desirable. They promoted the latest seasonal fashions, dictated color trends, and informed the public about the materials in vogue.

Clothing manufacturers, retail stores, and fashion designers turned to advertising to reach a wider audience. They hired skilled illustrators and photographers to create visually stunning and persuasive ads. The rising popularity of film also offered a new platform for fashion advertising. Hollywood stars became fashion icons, influencing public taste and driving the demand for certain styles.

Moreover, advertisers understood the value of aspirational marketing. They sold not just clothes but a lifestyle. Ads often depicted sophisticated and elegant men and women, presenting an idealized image of life in the Roaring Twenties. These images resonated with consumers’ desire for glamour, sophistication, and modernity, influencing them to adopt the fashion styles portrayed.

Additionally, advertising played a role in promoting new fashion products. For example, ads for silk stockings proliferated when shorter skirts became fashionable. As women’s fashion became more daring and showed more skin, cosmetics companies used advertising to convince women that they needed makeup to complete their look.

In conclusion, the role of advertising in shaping 1920s fashion cannot be overstated. Advertisers tapped the zeitgeist, creating compelling narratives around new styles and trends. By doing so, they helped define the era’s fashion and, in many ways, shaped the modern fashion industry’s reliance on advertising to drive consumer behavior.

Star Power: Celebrities and Fashion Trends

During the 1920s, the burgeoning film and music industries introduced the public to a new type of icon: celebrity. Movies and music offered widespread entertainment, and the stars of these mediums had a profound impact on the fashion choices of the general public.

Film stars such as Rudolph Valentino and Greta Garbo commanded a large following, and their on-screen attire often translated into fashion trends off-screen. Valentino, known as the “Latin lover,” had men mimicking his suave, well-tailored suits and slicked-back hair. Garbo’s portrayal of strong, independent women led to a surge in women’s fashion that mirrored her screen style: sleek, sophisticated, and slightly androgynous.

Flappers, a term used to describe young, liberated women of the 1920s, embodied this trend of fashion rebellion, greatly influenced by the actors and actresses they admired. Silent film actress Louise Brooks, with her, bobbed hair and streamlined dresses, became a style icon for flappers and epitomized the rebellious spirit of the time.

Similarly, the music industry, particularly the Jazz Age, also impacted fashion. Jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were influential not just for their music but also for their style. Their sharp suits and unique accessories became popular styles for men.

Women’s evening wear also reflected the glamour and glitz of the Jazz Age, with sequined dresses and feathered headbands becoming popular. Stars like Josephine Baker, an African American dancer, singer, and actress, epitomized this look. Her daring and unconventional stage outfits, often featuring shimmering beads and ostrich feathers, inspired many women to experiment with bold styles.

Fashion magazines and newspapers further fueled the public’s fascination with celebrity fashion, featuring photographs of these stars on and off the screen or on stage. Their influence was so potent that manufacturers and retailers often used celebrity endorsements to sell their products, a marketing strategy that remains in use today.

The trend-setting power of film and music celebrities helped mold the decade’s unique and transformative fashion landscape, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to resonate in today’s fashion world.

A Decade of Growth and Innovation in Fashion Industry Jobs

The 1920s was a dynamic decade in many ways, not least in its influence on fashion. As styles changed and consumer demand increased, the industry responded by creating many new jobs and roles, helping to shape the structure of the modern fashion industry as we know it today.

In summary, the 1920s was a transformative decade for the fashion industry regarding styles and trends and creating new roles and jobs. These jobs laid the foundation for the structure of the modern fashion industry, reflecting the industry’s evolving needs as fashion became an increasingly central part of everyday life.

Economic Ripple Effects: Fashion and Its Wider Impact

The 1920s, known as the “Roaring Twenties,” was a period of significant economic growth, and the fashion industry was a major contributor to this expansion. Not only did the booming fashion industry directly create jobs in design and retail, but it also spurred growth in manufacturing, imports and exports, and associated sectors.

The fashion industry’s impact during the 1920s extended beyond clothing and style. It had significant economic implications, contributing to job creation, manufacturing, and international trade. This ripple effect illustrates fashion’s integral role in shaping the Roaring Twenties’ economic landscape. 

The transformative power of fashion, not only in how people looked but also in how the economy operated, is a testament to the sector’s far-reaching influence.

Fashion Capitals of the Roaring Twenties

The 1920s were an era of tremendous change in the fashion world, with several cities and countries emerging as influential fashion hubs. These fashion capitals showcased the latest trends and played a significant role in shaping global fashion narratives. Let’s delve into a few of these prominent fashion locales:

The 1920s witnessed the rise of multiple global fashion hubs, each contributing unique styles and trends to the global fashion landscape. These cities and countries not only influenced the fashion of their time but also laid the foundation for their enduring status as fashion capitals in the present day.

The Influence of 1920s Fashion on Today

From cloche hats to tailored suits, the iconic styles of the 1920s continue to reverberate in today’s fashion world. This era, known as the Roaring 20s, marked a significant shift in American fashion, influenced by social, economic, and cultural changes that unfolded during this period in American history.

The 1920s was a period of significant growth and change in women’s fashion. The ‘New Woman’ of the era rejected the restrictive garments of the past, opting for shorter dresses, cloche hats, and more comfortable and practical trousers. This trend toward practicality and comfort continues to shape women’s fashion today, emphasizing functionality without sacrificing style.

Furthermore, the 1920s introduced evening dresses that embraced the feminine form, a departure from the more restricting styles of earlier decades. With its dropped waist and free-flowing fabric, the flapper style is often revisited in today’s fashion, particularly cocktail dresses and evening gowns. The flapper’s bold use of makeup and accessories also paved the way for women to express themselves more freely through their fashion choices.

The influence of the 1920s on men’s fashion is equally significant. The era saw the rise of the tailored suit, marking a transition from the more formal, rigid styles of the past. Today, the tailored suit remains a staple in men’s fashion, symbolizing sophistication and style.

African American culture profoundly influenced 1920s fashion and continues to shape contemporary styles. The Jazz Age brought Harlem’s vibrant fashion into mainstream American culture, introducing new fabrics, colors, and designs that had a lasting impact on fashion.

In manufacturing, the influence of the 1920s is also palpable. Henry Ford’s assembly line concept initially used for automobile production, found its way into the clothing industry, revolutionizing fashion manufacturing. This shift made fashion more accessible to the masses, a trend that continues today, with fast fashion and affordable styles dominating the market.

The liberal, bold, and practical styles of the Roaring 20s laid the groundwork for modern fashion, emphasizing self-expression, comfort, and accessibility. The echoes of the Roaring 20s continue to shape the fashion world, reminding us that fashion is not merely a matter of clothes but a reflection of social change and cultural evolution.


The 1920s, also known as the Roaring Twenties, was an era characterized by dramatic social and cultural change, with fashion playing a crucial role in reflecting and even driving some of these changes. However, we must also consider the economic realities of the time, including recessions, which inevitably influenced the price of clothing and the accessibility of new fashion trends to different segments of society.

During this decade, style trends moved quickly and were greatly influenced by the advent of mass advertising, celebrity culture, and a thriving consumer goods industry. 

As manufacturing processes improved and became more efficient, fashion became more affordable for the middle classes. This democratization of fashion spurred a cultural shift as clothing became a means for individuals to express personal identity and social status.

However, the economic volatility of the 1920s, including the economic boom of the early years and the devastating Wall Street Crash of 1929, significantly impacted the cost of clothing. In periods of economic growth, consumer confidence was high, and people were willing to spend more on clothing. But in times of recession, discretionary spending on fashion was often one of the first areas to be cut back.

Interestingly, these economic fluctuations did not halt the evolution of fashion; instead, they drove innovation and adaptation. Hardship often led to creativity in style and re-using or modifying existing garments. At the same time, periods of prosperity saw them embracing new fashion trends and indulging in luxury items.

Reflecting on the cost of clothes in the 1920s, we can see a fascinating interplay between fashion, culture, and economics. The rapid evolution of style trends during this decade was a response to changing aesthetic preferences and a reflection of the broader socio-economic context. This trend continues in fashion today, underscoring the enduring importance of understanding fashion within its broader cultural and economic context.

Exploring the Era: Connecting Fashion and the American Dream of the 1920s

As we delve into the fascinating world of 1920s fashion in this article, it’s crucial to contextualize the era’s cultural backdrop. To enhance your understanding of this transformative decade, we highly recommend reading “What Was the American Dream in the 1920s?.” This insightful article comprehensively explores the social and economic aspirations defining American ethos during the Roaring Twenties.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much did a typical day dress cost in the 1920s? 

A typical day dress could cost anywhere from $5 to $15 during the 1920s. However, the cost varied depending on the quality of materials and craftsmanship.

How much did fancy or evening dresses cost in the 1920s?

If you wanted a more elaborate or fancy dress for an evening event or party, you might have to pay around $25. These dresses often had intricate beadwork and luxurious fabrics that justified their higher price.

How much did men’s clothing cost in the 1920s?

The price of men’s clothing varied depending on the type and quality. A good quality tailored suit could cost around $30. Casual daywear, such as shirts and trousers, was generally cheaper.

How much did accessories cost in the 1920s?

Accessories like hats could cost between $2-$8, while shoes ranged from $3-$10 per pair. Undergarments like bras or corsets typically cost around $1–$4 each.

Did the economic conditions of the 1920s influence clothing prices?

Yes, the economic conditions of the time, including periods of economic growth and recessions, significantly influenced the price of clothing.

How did people afford new fashion trends during the 1920s?

The advent of mass production made clothes more affordable for the average person. Additionally, during periods of economic prosperity, people had more discretionary income to spend on the latest fashion trends.

Did the Wall Street Crash of 1929 impact the cost of clothes?

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression significantly impacted the economy as a whole, including the price of clothes. Many people had to cut back on non-essential spending, which included fashion.

Was there a difference in clothing prices between the early and late 1920s?

Yes, there could be differences in clothing prices between the early and late 1920s due to factors such as economic conditions, availability of materials, and changes in fashion trends.