Learn
comments 8

What to wear to a garden party in 1922

Next week is the Hamilton Gardens’ Mansfield Garden Party, and I’ll be speaking on garden party fashions in Mansfield’s life at the Glory Days Garden Party Salon.

The Hamilton Gardens have chosen to set the Mansfield Garden party in 1922, the year Mansfield’s story was published (it came out in early Feb, 1922 – and Mansfield had been living with Northern Hemisphere winters for the last 12+ years), rather than ca. 1907, which is when Mansfield was in Wellington, attending garden parties, and which is when I think the story is essentially set, based on the mentions of clothing.

Mansfield’s garden party may not have taken place in 1922, but the parties of The Great Gatsby did, and the early ’20s are certainly a fetching, and easy to wear, era for garden parties.

So what did people wear to garden parties in 1919-1922?

A hat and parasol are absolute must-haves.  The fad for tanning wouldn’t happen until later in the 1920s, and the desired complexion in the ‘teens and early ’20s was still very pale – with defined rosy cheeks.  To achieve pale, wide sunhats were worn.  The modern cloche shape was just emerging, but always with a wide brim – it wouldn’t loose its brim until the mid 1920s.

Fashions for May 1918, The Deliniator

Fashions for May 1918, The Deliniator

1922 skirts were long – hemlines are still at the level they had been since 1916, skimming the lower calf.  The mid-20s rise to just below the knee is still a few years away, and anything at or above the widest part of the calf was for girls under 13 only.

Anna Q. Nilsson and Ethel Clayton – 1919

Anna Q. Nilsson and Ethel Clayton – 1919

Fashion plates show slightly shorter lengths than most examples in photographs, indicating that most women, even the very fashionable, weren’t quite ready to show more than their ankles.

White gown by Molyneuz - Illustration by Ruth Eastman, 1921

White gown by Molyneuz – Illustration by Ruth Eastman, 1921

Garden parties frocks came in white, pastels, and white with touches of brighter shades, like the dress with cherries below.  Favoured colours were coral, apricot, rose, citron, ‘a fascinating golden flame colour’, apple green, nile green, eu de nil, cerulean, and delicate shades of mauve & purple.

Frocks were always worn with stockings, either in delicate pastels to match the dress, skin tones, or white, in silk or liesl (for the young and sporty), and heeled shoes in light shades.  A ca. 1920 silk stocking is much heavier than a modern nylon one – thicker tights give a closer period look.

The Delineator, Fashions for July 1921

The Delineator, Fashions for July 1921

The silhouette was very long, slightly rounder in a the lower half, rather than being a straight column, with a very slightly dropped waist (you can see how much the waist dropped between 1918 and 1921 by comparing the fashion plates above and below this one with the very first fashion plate).  The dropped waist was often emphasised with a wide sash or narrow belt.

For women who didn’t find the slim silhouette flattering, one alternative was the robe de style inspired look, with full, romantic skirt:

Mary Pickford in a Robe de Style, possibly by Lanvin, c. 1920

Mary Pickford in a Robe de Style, possibly by Lanvin, c. 1920

“Circular skirts and irregular outlines are characteristic of the season” read a McCalls fashion pamphlet from May 1921, as the irregular hemline on this dress demonstrates.

Garden Party Frock. New Zealand Herald, Volume LIX, Issue 17989, 14 January 1922, Page 4

Garden Party Frock. New Zealand Herald, Volume LIX, Issue 17989, 14 January 1922, Page 4

As were frocks with hip emphasis:

Garden Party Frock. New Zealand Herald, Volume LIX, Issue 18281, 23 December 1922, Page 4

Garden Party Frock. New Zealand Herald, Volume LIX, Issue 18281, 23 December 1922, Page 4

And lots, and lots of lace, particularly in white and palest tans.

For accessories, long necklaces and gloves were popular up until 1919, but appear rarely in fashion plates and photographs showing garden party attire from 1920-1922.

8 Comments

  1. First picture. Plaid frock. Will be mine! I love all of them!! That’s funny that you should post this topic! I’m making a robe de style as we speak. Saw one on Greta Nissen in the mid 20s and had to have it! I love this era for fashion, you simply HAD to feel so femininely beautiful and becoming in fashions as these!
    Gorgeous post! And hail to queen Mary!

  2. Fantastic post! I love seeing what would have been worn during specific years! I love all the lace and can’t wait to see what you will make!

    • Me too–I really liked the detail of the fabrics, the slight shifts in styles, and mentions of accessories.

  3. Nicola says

    My favourite is no 3 the green plaid, how gorgeous is that. However if I were to chose one as a garden party frock for 1922 it would be no 5 , botton left, and I’d lower the waist and maybe give the over tunic a little asymmetric action. Perdonally I like it as it is. I’m more a nine-teens kinda gal.

  4. Lovely post with lots of great information and details. I love learning about the fashions of this time period and appreciate your pointing out subtle changes (hemlines, waists, etc.). I’m so looking forward to seeing your dress for the event~it sounds like so much fun!

  5. Claire Payne says

    I love all the pretty frocks. The robe de style dress is of interest to me because 1920’s fashion doesn’t suit my shape. It is nice to have a style I can try. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I think numbers 2 and 4 are my favourites, though I do rather like the robe de style decorated with little suns. It’s interesting how these dresses are clearly influenced by the fashions of the preceding decade; they’re very much transitional styles in some ways.

  7. Imrana says

    Thank you. My comment I like the Olden days Fashion. and I give a slight touch of 2016 to go for different peoples liking on the clothes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *