Hemlengths: Edwardian to Flapper

As cultural standards were redefined in the 1920s, so were the accepted standards of modesty within dress, particularly the acceptable length of a hem. The early part of this decade showcased the remnants of the Edwardian era, with respectable ankle length skirts and dresses of a dark solid color.[1] From 1920-1922 there is little experimentation in new forms of style, a possible reason for this could be the proximity to the end of World War I. [2]  The time of recovery could still be present, and the new prosperous mindset of the Jazz Age could have not yet reached the student body of Geneva College. By 1923 a midi length dirndl skirt appears on campus, in both solids and prints, which continues to be prevalent on campus until 1925, when a true Flapper thread of style makes it mark on the women of Geneva. The Class of 1926 is the marker for this new idea of beauty in the Flapper ideal, the women of their year and the successive years after, raise up their hemlines to a mid-calf or below the knee, some even hovering around knee length in some instances.[3] Although some prefer the longer Edwardian lengths throughout the decade, this look becomes the minority, with shorter skirts prevailing as the new look of Geneva’s campus. The overwhelming acceptance of a new look, speaks to the power of the movement behind the Flapper style, as it even infiltrated a conservative Christian school. It was not a matter of immodesty, but the choice of its female students to embrace a new idea of a modern woman, free to now move about in life.

Photo Credit: 1920 Genevan Yearbook, McCartney Library, Geneva College

Photo Credit: 1920 Genevan Yearbook, McCartney Library, Geneva College

Genevan 1925 Mcartney Library  Geneva College

Genevan 1925 Mcartney Library Geneva College

Photo Credit: 1929 Genevan, McCartney Library

Photo Credit: 1929 Genevan, McCartney Library

Photo Credit: 1929 Genevan, McCartney Library

Photo Credit: 1929 Genevan, McCartney Library


[1] Drowne, Kathleen. The 1920s. (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 2004), chap. 5.

[2] 1921 Genevan.

[3] 1925 Genevan.

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