3.4 The overview of chapter 3
The interwar period witnessed the significant changes as well as the growth and expansion of social classes, mainly working classes. The prosperity was increasing and the life style changed and, in general, improved. However, the style of living greatly depended on where they lived and what kind of job and for whom, they had. The social surveys of the inter-war years showed that the average level of living standards health and housing had improved, however showed as well that the poverty is still an issue to be solved. The differences between the classes were great and could be mostly seen in the prosperity of the middle classes and better paid skilled workmen and the poverty of the unemployed and disadvantaged. As well the differences between the wealthy and poor were intensified. Many unemployed blamed the government for the situation they were in and subsequently turned to one radical political party or another.
Chapter 4: Culture and leisure
One of the biggest and most important developments in the twentieth century society had been the growth of leisure and recreational activities. The shorter working hours and holidays enabled even the lower social scale of society to enjoy some leisure time activities. The development of new technologies, mainly in the communication area, ensured that the society even though talked about as class divided and very differentiated was becoming more homogenous and uniform. The media such as radio, cinema and later television; and common past times activities were unifying the nation.
4.1 The Golden Age twenties
This era is as also known as ‘Roaring twenties’, being a decade from 1920's to 1929 that is distinctive for its culture during the periods of economic prosperity and stability. The post war society realized that life is short. During the war there were many deaths and people died very young. So the ones that returned from war had rebelled against the old uptight society. The war disrupted the previous common roles of men and women, because women and not only the young ones worked as nurses and were part of the war too. The post war era was an era of boom and prosperity too, there were money to be spent and people looked for ways to spend them. People wanted to live their supposedly short lives in the best ways they could.
The London was the centre of the Golden Age in United Kingdom. The centre of London started to be much too crowded and unsatisfactory to live in so the businesses, firms and administrative offices took most part of the central London. The division of London into several significant parts started at this time. The East End with its docks became the import and export heart of London. The centre of London was given to the banking and administrative offices and the West End became the centre of culture and recreation. The entrepreneurs opened night clubs, bars, restaurants and dance houses here to entertain the masses. Some poor people still lived in the central London, however the trend was to move to the outer London suburbs, where whole living estates were built for the wealthy people. The city electrified and became connected with the outer parts by railways and at the early thirties the railways unified under one system.
4.2 The fashion
During the Great War women and men in Britain wore uniforms or very simple clothes. Fabrics were rough and hard, so the clothes would last longer. However as with everything, the new society during the Golden Age expected new things and new fashion too. What was colourless before had to be full of colour now. The skirts got higher and higher hemline and orient oriented fashion with bright colours was in. The 1920's typical liberated rebelling woman was a flapper as described in fashion-era:
Flapper fashion embraced all things and styles modern. A fashionable flapper had short sleek hair, a shorter than average shapeless shift dress, a chest as flat as
a board, wore make up and applied it in public, smoked with a long cigarette holder, exposed her limbs and epitomised the spirit of a reckless rebel who danced the nights away in the Jazz Age.
In reality the beginning of the 1920's showed the bolder colours and better fabrics, but what was the major change in the fashion of that time even before the flapper fashion was the silhouette. The typical dress was a straight tubular column with dropped waist and no body curves evident, making it a boyish fashion silhouette. Skirts were getting shorter and shorter still. Even during the war period the skirts were allowed to come up to the half-calf length and after the war the shortness of skirts increased, making it the shortest one during the 1925 when the real flapper fashion came in.
Flapper dress was straight and loose with no sleeves, the length of the dress was just over the knee or above the knee. At the late twenties the uneven hems and asymmetric skirt hemlines were in fashion. Flappers wore buckled Mary Jane ankle strap shoes and Cloche hats. (see fig. 1. Flapper dress)
The knee length flapper dresses brought up a need for socks and stockings. Until then women knew only the wool black stockings that were very warm and practical. However by the 1920's stockings with patterns were hot fashion items. Embroidery snaked around the ankles and up to the knees. Flesh and soft pastel colours were popular and they were made in either silk or artificial silk known as art silk later called rayon.
Women of almost all ages cut their hair short, the most fashionable hairstyle being the Bob, which was hair cut like a helmet bob cut often worn with bangs or a fringe. The typical fashion icon of the 1920's that modelled the hair cut was Luise Brooks, an actress and model (see fig. 2. Bob hairstyle). The really special thing about the flapper fashion was that because the construction of the flappers dress was less complicated than earlier fashion, women were much more successful at home dressmaking. The fabrics were very light and artificial materials could be used to make the flapper's dress so that it was available to many classes in the society. The 1920's high fashion was the first one that was not meant only to the elite in the society but a common well paid worker could dress the same way for the Friday night out. The beginnings of mass production of the fashionable clothes date to the 1920's. The class this had influenced the most was the middle class, which by this again got closer to the rich and lessened the differences between the classes, at least in the appearance.
Flapper was not only the fashion of the decade and probably the most obviously seen icon, it had been a lifestyle as well. The women liberated by the extended right to vote felt in power. They were allowed to go out with men and drink together with men, they wore short dresses, showed their bare arms and silk covered legs in shiny stockings raising an air of nudity. They drove cars and smoked cigarettes, they danced and visited all clubs just as men were allowed to. Dorothy Dunbar Bromley, a noted liberal writer at the time, summed up this female freedom by describing flappers as "truly modern", "New Style" feminists who "admit that a full life calls for marriage and children" and also "are moved by an inescapable inner compulsion to be individuals in their own right." (wikipedia.org)
4.2.2 Fashionable 1930's
However this boyish behaviour and strong woman picture did not last long, in 1928 the flapper fashion slowly disappears and the fashionable 1930's arrive. The woman silhouette comes into fashion once again and the waistline and bustier is to be shown. The trend turns to more gentle ladylike fashion with softer curves and colours, even though some fashion designers inspired themselves in the newest art movements as cubism and designed really colourful and modern clothes that could be worn up to today. The asymmetric hemline led to lengthening of skirts so the hemline settled again on the half-calf length. (See fig. 3 Typical dress of 1930's) The hairstyles even though still following the fashion of shorter hair were becoming softer too, waving and curling around the face.
Women in 1930's liked to sunbathe so the arms still stayed quite bare. They also liked wearing any kind of coats and jackets, so the arms were bare only in the undergarment. Bras and panties are becoming the normal underwear for most of women. The 1930's woman was busy with her life, she was educated and took care of the household. Her busy life was perfectly suited by the simpler mass made fashionable clothes, while more luxurious gowns were kept for evening. New fabrics like metallic lame were very popular at night and were made to shimmer even more richly by adding plastic sequins and glass beads.
By the time war arrived in 1939 European designers had shown simple clothes, trousers and sweaters and classic shirt waisters designed to stay in fashion.