Fashion in the 1920s continued the transition away from Victorian styles into looks that included looser clothing that allowed more of the body to be exposed. New manufacturing techniques meant that clothes could be produced more efficiently at a lower cost, and this made trendy fashions more accessible to all, not just the wealthiest people. It was during this period that individual fashion designers began to find prominence in worldwide culture.

Madeleine Vionnet

Paris was the center of the fashion world in the 1920s, and the trends set in Paris were influential on fashion in Europe and the United States. At the forefront of the fashion scene in Paris was Madeleine Vionnet. Vionnet’s couture house on Avenue Montaigne came to be known as the “Temple of Fashion.” Vionnet shook up the industry in the 1920s with her introduction of the bias cut. The bias cut was a technique of cutting a garment at an angle against the grain of the fabric. This allowed for the garment to hug the body more closely. Vionnet closed her fashion house in 1939 and retired in 1940, but her impact on the industry can still be felt today through numerous fashion designers who have cited her as an influence on their work.

Elsa Schiaparelli

Elsa Schiaparelli, through her House of Schiaparelli, made waves in 1920s fashion. Influenced heavily by the Surrealist artists of the time period, Schiaparelli lacked any formal training in patterns or the construction of clothing, but she made up for this lack of education with an ability to adapt her clothing as she progressed. Schiaparelli found a great deal of success in the 1920s and considered Coco Chanel to be a rival. After spending several years in New York during World War II, Schiaparelli returned to Paris to find that the trends had changed. Unable to adapt to the new styles, Schiaparelli was forced to close her fashion house in 1954.

Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel is arguably the most influential fashion designer to have ever lived. Her Chanel brand, started before World War I, is still popular today. Born into poverty and abandoned at a young age, Chanel developed a drive that helped her create a fashion empire. Chanel is credited with influencing the postwar transition from corseted, close-fitting clothes to the loose, free-flowing styles of the 1920s. By the end of the 1920s, Chanel Industries was reportedly worth millions and employed an estimated 2,000 people. From couture, Chanel progressed to jewelry, fragrances, handbags, and other accessories. Chanel’s brand is credited for the prominence of the little black dress, a fashion staple to this day. Her signature scent, Chanel No. 5, is one of the most iconic products ever created. Chanel continued to be active with her namesake brand until her death in 1971.

Jeanne Lanvin

The founder of the House of Lanvin, the oldest fashion house in France, Jeanne Lanvin was yet another haute couture designer of the 1920s. Lanvin first expanded into dressmaking when clients began requesting designs that she used to clothe her daughter. Lanvin was known as an innovator in the fashion industry. She was one of the first designers to produce four seasons of clothing each year. Lanvin’s style was noted as very modern and feminine, including dresses featuring a dropped waist and wide skirts. By opening her own dye shop, Lanvin was able to create her own color, “Lanvin blue,” as a calling card. Never sketching a design, Lanvin would design a garment completely on a dress form. Lanvin sought to keep every aspect of her business in-house, hiring her own embroiderers and seamstresses to ensure that everything was done to her standards.

Jean Patou

Jean Patou was the son of a well-known leather tanner and the nephew of a fur trader. Using these skills, Patou entered the world of fashion in the 1920s, creating styles that embodied the loose and free-spirited feel of the postwar fashion scene. Patou had originally opened his own couture house in 1914, but he had to leave the business to serve in a regiment of the French army during World War I. Although Patou is most widely known for the invention of the designer tie, his perfume Joy may be his crowning achievement. Created in response to the stock market crash of 1929, Joy was chosen as Scent of the Century over Chanel No. 5 at the Fragrance Foundation’s FiFi awards in 2000.