1920’s Plus Size Fashion in the Jazz Age

flapper dresses plus sizeThe iconic image of the woman of the 1920s is the flapper. A photo of a tall thin woman in a drop waist shift dress and a cloche hat instantly identifies the era. However, just as fashion of the 1960s covered far more territory than bell bottom jeans and tie dye T-shirts, fashion of the Jazz Age was about more than being a flapper.

 

1920s plus size women photo

Two lovely ladies in full figure fashions

If a woman looking for plus size clothing in the 1920s wanted to wear the latest fashions from Paris she was going to be out of luck, although she was not alone. American women considered “average” in size felt a bit neglected by the Parisian fashion designers, too. Still, that did not mean that women needing plus size clothing were shut out of the fashion world.  Vogue said, “surely the makers of the mode do not expect all women whose waist-lines measure more than 34 inches to retire to one of those communities where the genial garment known as the Mother Hubbard is the last word in dress.”

1920’s  Plus Size Clothing Industry

plus size fashion catalog

1925 Lane Bryant Catalogg

When Lane Bryant opened its doors in the early 1900s, the term for its clientele was “stout. ” Whatever term they used, their business model was a success because by 1916, their sales were over $1 million a year. The fact that the founder, Lena Himmelstein Bryant, and her husband, Albert Malsin, bothered to take the time to actually research body sizes no doubt helped the company’s success. Lane Bryant did not simply want to make clothes in larger sizes. It wanted to make clothes that helped larger women look and feel thier best. In their stores and catalogs they also made maternity clothing utilizing similar design principals.

Department stores and mail order catalog companies caught on to the plus size garment industry quickly. Offerings included dresses, coats, lingerie, corsets, hats, and shoes. Each style was designed to flatter her body type.

Charles Williams 1926 catalog describes this dress:

plus size 1920s dress

1926 Plus Size Silk Satin Dress

“The circular flare has proven itself very becoming to the stout woman. Slender lines are achieved on this ALL Silk Satin-Faced Canton Frock. The narrow panel set in with fagotting down the front is of contrasting color. The collar and long tie string at the front are very smart and effective. There is a half belt of self-materiel, which ties at the back. The Tiny glass buttons on the panel down the front add a smart finish. Stout sizes 38 1/2 to 54 1/2 inch bust. Navy, Brown, Black. $10.98″

1927_CWS-_Page_027_color_stout_dress_plus1In some ways, the style of the era actually created more plus size options. A woman could wear a straight evening gown that dropped straight to the floor, perhaps with an uneven hem, and be fashionable while still camouflaging her build. Wide, bell-shaped sleeves with fluting, buttons, or unusual shaped cuffs provided interest. Deep V backs elongated the body, as did longer, flared skirts. Tall women wore blouses with attached capes that started just under the shoulder blades, paired with a long skirt. Tulle capes were flattering and great for adding a touch of youthfulness.

1920s plus size women

Mother and daughter in full 20’s finery flattering to thier shape

1920s plus size woman

Woman in a drop waist dress with pleated skirt sides.

1920s plus size dress

Crochet dress overlayed on a slip

Women in search of plus sizes also benefited from the popularity in sportswear. A big appeal to this clothing was that it came in colors other than black or navy blue. Manufacturers rarely created plus size clothing in bright colors (only in the past few years has that trend begun to change.) Other casual clothing that was popular was loose, unbuttoned cardigan sweaters worn with a long skirt. Stockings and shoes matched to avoid drawing attention to the ankle.

1920s sporting dresses plus

Sports Wear

1920s hats for plus size women

1928 Hat for Fuller Faces

Of course, the emphasis on plus size clothing was concealment and to that end, fabrics were “quiet.” No swishing satin or ruffling taffeta. No high shine fabrics that glistened under bright light. That did leave a wide range of other fabrics, though, including crepe de chine, crepe romain, jersey, and twills. Hats were not too large and not too small with perhaps a drooping brim.

 

1920s plus size flapper

Enid Stamp Taylor, 1924, Actress and Plus Size Flapper

It seems that regardless of the decade and a woman’s frame, finding clothing that is both fashionable and flattering can sometimes be a challenge. However, the clothing industry made important strides in the 1920s in acknowledging that women come in all sizes and shapes. The fact is that most women were not flappers but that did not mean that they were relegated to the sidelines when it came to the fashion and fun of the roaring 20s.

1920s plus size fashion

Beautiful! Fringe bottom dress with lace center accent.

Plus Size 1920’s Fashions Today

I hear over and over again “twenties clothing does not look good on my curvy figure.” This is really a shame because when dressed in the right 20’s clothes, “stout” women look amazing. For example take Cherie S. posing in a beautiful 1920’s reproduction dress from Unique Vintage:

1920s clothing plus szie

Cherie S. shows us how to dress well in 1920’s clothing

Cherie chose a straight fitting beaded dress worn with a long scarf coat that came to mid shin. Both the long beads on the dress and fringe on the coat create vertical lines that are very 20’s and very slimming. Well done Cherie! You look amazing (and congrats on your wedding.)

Here is another example. Last summer I helped my sister in law, Tricia, find a thrift store costume for the Great Gatsby Festival in Lake Tahoe. We started with a black 60’s velvet shift dress, added a matching velvet evening jacket, cute beaded purse, scarf for a headband, Mary Jane shoes, and simple long gold necklace. We were both really happy with the final outfit. Based on pictures of 20’s plus size catalog dresses this is pretty darn accurate and quite flattering.

1920's plus size gatsby dress

Gatsby Costume

There are many tips women were given the 1920’s to choose the right clothing based on your figure as well as hair color, face shape, height and age.  I put all these tips in the free 1920’s Fashion or Your Body Type ebook. I just finished revising it with even more information and about 40 new pictures of 20’s clothing. It should help you pick an outfit that is the most flattering.

 

plus size fashion

1920’s Fashion for Your Body Type V2
Click to Download now

Click to Download a PDF copy of the 1920’s Fashion for Your Body Type

Shopping Guide:

 

flapper dresses plus sizes

1920’s Plus Size Flapper Dress at Macys.com

1920’s plus size reproduction dresses and inspired dresses are plentiful this year. After looking at the dresses here use the menu on the left to add shoes, stocking, hats, headbands and shawls.

1920’s One Hour Dress and Pretty Frocks ebooks are both excellent 20’s patterns adapted to your own measurements.

Sewing patterns- many in plus sizes. See the BIG list of 20’s patterns. 

More 1920s style plus size dresses for sale:

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SL Fashions Plus Size Dress and Jacket, Sleeveless Tiered Sequin
 

SL Fashions Plus Size Dress and Jacket, Sleeveless Tiered Sequin

$129.00

Buy at: macys.com

Unique Vintage Plus Size Green & Silver Embroidered Somerset Flapper Dress
 

Unique Vintage Plus Size Green & Silver Embroidered Somerset Flapper Dress

$298.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Plus Size Ivory & Silver Beaded Fringe Fitzgerald Flapper Dress
 

Unique Vintage Plus Size Ivory & Silver Beaded Fringe Fitzgerald Flapper Dress

$211.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Patra Plus Size Kimono-Sleeve Beaded Dress
 

Patra Plus Size Kimono-Sleeve Beaded Dress

$229.00

Buy at: macys.com

R & M Richards Plus Size Sleeveless Glitter Shift and Jacket
 

R & M Richards Plus Size Sleeveless Glitter Shift and Jacket

$129.00

Buy at: macys.com

J Kara Beaded Godet Dress (Plus Size)
 

J Kara Beaded Godet Dress (Plus Size)

$244.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

J Kara Beaded Godet Dress (Plus Size)
 

J Kara Beaded Godet Dress (Plus Size)

$190.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

London Times Embellished Flutter Sleeve Tiered Skirt Blouson Dress (Plus Size)
 

London Times Embellished Flutter Sleeve Tiered Skirt Blouson Dress (Plus Size)

$98.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Adrianna Papell Pleat Bodice Tulle Gown & Shrug (Plus Size)
 

Adrianna Papell Pleat Bodice Tulle Gown & Shrug (Plus Size)

$166.80

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Alex Evenings Plus Sequined Pleated Drape Dress
 

Alex Evenings Plus Sequined Pleated Drape Dress

$87.26

Buy at: Lord & Taylor

Like, Oh My Dot! Dress in Black
 

Like, Oh My Dot! Dress in Black

$89.99

Buy at: ModCloth

1920s Style Fuchsia Fringe Flapper Dress
 

1920s Style Fuchsia Fringe Flapper Dress

$64.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1920s Style Aqua Fringe Flapper Dress
 

1920s Style Aqua Fringe Flapper Dress

$66.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Beaded Illusion Gown
 

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Beaded Illusion Gown

$335.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Patra Plus Size Dress, Beaded Tiered Evening Dress
 

Patra Plus Size Dress, Beaded Tiered Evening Dress

$169.00

Buy at: macys.com

Plus Size Women's Eliza J Lace & Layered Chiffon Gown
 

Plus Size Women's Eliza J Lace & Layered Chiffon Gown

$238.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Mignon Petal Pink Sequin Gown Prom 2015
 

Mignon Petal Pink Sequin Gown Prom 2015

$398.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Unique Vintage Exclusive Hand Beaded Floral Antique Style Anna May Flapper Dress
 

Unique Vintage Exclusive Hand Beaded Floral Antique Style Anna May Flapper Dress

$129.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Grey & Black Embroidered Somerset Flapper Dress
 

Grey & Black Embroidered Somerset Flapper Dress

$398.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Lovedrobe Art Deco Embellished Maxi Dress - Black
 

Lovedrobe Art Deco Embellished Maxi Dress - Black

$114.00

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Beaded Sleeveless Cocktail Dress
 

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Beaded Sleeveless Cocktail Dress

$173.98

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Adrianna Papell Plus Size Beaded Illusion Gown
 

Adrianna Papell Plus Size Beaded Illusion Gown

£320.00

Buy at:

Plus Size Women's Komarov Embellished Mixed Media Dress & Jacket
 

Plus Size Women's Komarov Embellished Mixed Media Dress & Jacket

$438.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's J Kara Embellished Handkerchief Hem Cocktail Dress
 

Plus Size Women's J Kara Embellished Handkerchief Hem Cocktail Dress

$148.80

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Komarov Embellished Charmeuse & Chiffon Dress with Jacket
 

Plus Size Women's Komarov Embellished Charmeuse & Chiffon Dress with Jacket

$424.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Alex Evenings Lace Shift Dress with Double Tier Hem
 

Plus Size Women's Alex Evenings Lace Shift Dress with Double Tier Hem

$106.80

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Komarov Beaded Pleated Charmeuse Dress & Jacket
 

Plus Size Women's Komarov Beaded Pleated Charmeuse Dress & Jacket

$428.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Komarov Floral Print Pleated Chiffon Dress
 

Plus Size Women's Komarov Floral Print Pleated Chiffon Dress

$328.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

J Kara Plus Three Quarter Sleeve Filigree Sequined And Beaded Chiffon Gown
 

J Kara Plus Three Quarter Sleeve Filigree Sequined And Beaded Chiffon Gown

$195.30

Buy at: Lord & Taylor

Plus Size Women's Komarov Long Charmeuse & Chiffon Dress with Jacket
 

Plus Size Women's Komarov Long Charmeuse & Chiffon Dress with Jacket

$438.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Komarov Embellished Chiffon & Charmeuse Dress
 

Plus Size Women's Komarov Embellished Chiffon & Charmeuse Dress

$398.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Komarov Embellished Scoop Neck Charmeuse Dress & Chiffon Jacket
 

Plus Size Women's Komarov Embellished Scoop Neck Charmeuse Dress & Chiffon Jacket

$424.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Beaded blouson dress by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 14, blue
 

Plus Size Beaded blouson dress by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 14, blue

$260.00

Buy at: Lane Bryant

Plus Size Women's Soulmates Silk Crochet Shell, Skirt & Jacket
 

Plus Size Women's Soulmates Silk Crochet Shell, Skirt & Jacket

$322.80

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Beaded cap sleeve gown by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 16, blue
 

Plus Size Beaded cap sleeve gown by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 16, blue

$360.00

Buy at: Lane Bryant

Plus Size Illusion beaded gown by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 22, Dark khaki
 

Plus Size Illusion beaded gown by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 22, Dark khaki

$335.00

Buy at: Lane Bryant

Plus Size Beaded blouson dress by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 22, blue
 

Plus Size Beaded blouson dress by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 22, blue

$260.00

Buy at: Lane Bryant

Alex Evenings Plus Plus Sequined Lace Sheath Dress With Jacket
 

Alex Evenings Plus Plus Sequined Lace Sheath Dress With Jacket

$132.30

Buy at: Lord & Taylor

Adrianna Papell Plus Shimmer Shutter Tuck Lace Sheath Dress
 

Adrianna Papell Plus Shimmer Shutter Tuck Lace Sheath Dress

$126.00

Buy at: Lord & Taylor

Adrianna Papell Plus Size Short-Sleeve Beaded Sheath
 

Adrianna Papell Plus Size Short-Sleeve Beaded Sheath

$349.00

Buy at: macys.com

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Sleeveless Lace Dress
 

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Sleeveless Lace Dress

$113.98

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

R & M Richards Plus Size Sleeveless Metallic Dress and Jacket
 

R & M Richards Plus Size Sleeveless Metallic Dress and Jacket

$129.00

Buy at: macys.com

R & M Richards Plus Size Sleeveless Metallic Dress and Jacket
 

R & M Richards Plus Size Sleeveless Metallic Dress and Jacket

$129.00

Buy at: macys.com

Alex Evenings Plus Size Three-Quarter-Sleeve Lace Sheath
 

Alex Evenings Plus Size Three-Quarter-Sleeve Lace Sheath

$179.00

Buy at: macys.com

Alex Evenings Plus Dress and Jacket Set
 

Alex Evenings Plus Dress and Jacket Set

$174.30

Buy at: Lord & Taylor

Lovedrobe Beaded Maxi Dress - Cream
 

Lovedrobe Beaded Maxi Dress - Cream

£129.00

Buy at: ASOS

Patra Plus Metallic Lace Dress and Jacket
 

Patra Plus Metallic Lace Dress and Jacket

$219.00

Buy at: macys.com

Plus Size Women's Pisarro Nights Draped Back Beaded Dress
 

Plus Size Women's Pisarro Nights Draped Back Beaded Dress

$198.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Beaded Sleeveless Cocktail Dress
 

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Beaded Sleeveless Cocktail Dress

$280.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Xscape Chiffon Overlay Dress with Beaded Hem
 

Plus Size Women's Xscape Chiffon Overlay Dress with Beaded Hem

$208.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's J Kara Beaded V-Neck Cocktail Dress
 

Plus Size Women's J Kara Beaded V-Neck Cocktail Dress

$268.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Sl Fashions Plus Size Bead-Trim Chiffon Dress and Jacket
 

Sl Fashions Plus Size Bead-Trim Chiffon Dress and Jacket

$129.00

Buy at: macys.com

Plus Size Beaded blouson dress by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 14,16,18,20,22, blue
 

Plus Size Beaded blouson dress by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 14,16,18,20,22, blue

$260.00

Buy at: Lane Bryant

Plus Size Antique Rose Brilliant Beaded Dress
 

Plus Size Antique Rose Brilliant Beaded Dress

$358.00

Buy at: Bluegala.com and alight.com

Plus Size Bijou Blue Sweetheart Beaded Dress
 

Plus Size Bijou Blue Sweetheart Beaded Dress

$418.00

Buy at: Bluegala.com and alight.com

Plus Size Plum Sweetheart Beaded Dress
 

Plus Size Plum Sweetheart Beaded Dress

$418.00

Buy at: Bluegala.com and alight.com

Plus Size Women's Pisarro Nights Beaded V-Neck Lace Illusion Gown
 

Plus Size Women's Pisarro Nights Beaded V-Neck Lace Illusion Gown

$238.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Francesca Sequin Plus Size Cocktail Dress
 

Francesca Sequin Plus Size Cocktail Dress

$208.00

Buy at: igigi.com

Jessica Howard Plus Size Sequin Lace Dress and Jacket
 

Jessica Howard Plus Size Sequin Lace Dress and Jacket

$129.00

Buy at: macys.com

Alex Evenings Plus Size Sequin Chiffon Dress and Jacket
 

Alex Evenings Plus Size Sequin Chiffon Dress and Jacket

$209.00

Buy at: macys.com

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Lace High/Low Dress
 

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Lace High/Low Dress

$130.80

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Beaded cap sleeve gown by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 14,16,18,20,22, blue
 

Plus Size Beaded cap sleeve gown by Adrianna Papell Lane Bryant Women's Size 14,16,18,20,22, blue

$360.00

Buy at: Lane Bryant

ASOS CURVE Exclusive Shift Dress With Embellishment - Navy
 

ASOS CURVE Exclusive Shift Dress With Embellishment - Navy

$111.00

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

ASOS CURVE Skater Dress With Beading - Teal
 

ASOS CURVE Skater Dress With Beading - Teal

$101.00

Buy at: ASOS.com USA

Adrianna Papell Plus Size Embellished A-Line Cocktail Dress
 

Adrianna Papell Plus Size Embellished A-Line Cocktail Dress

$269.00

Buy at: macys.com

Adrianna Papell Plus Size Elbow-Sleeve Beaded Gown
 

Adrianna Papell Plus Size Elbow-Sleeve Beaded Gown

$355.00

Buy at: macys.com

Adrianna Papell Plus Size Embellished Gown
 

Adrianna Papell Plus Size Embellished Gown

$355.00

Buy at: macys.com

Patra Plus Size Embellished Tiered Chiffon Dress
 

Patra Plus Size Embellished Tiered Chiffon Dress

$219.00

Buy at: macys.com

Patra Plus Size Dress, Short Sleeve Beaded Tiered
 

Patra Plus Size Dress, Short Sleeve Beaded Tiered

$109.00

Buy at: macys.com

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Beaded V-Neck Gown
 

Plus Size Women's Adrianna Papell Beaded V-Neck Gown

$318.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Pisarro Nights Beaded Gown
 

Plus Size Women's Pisarro Nights Beaded Gown

$218.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Pisarro Nights Beaded Mock Two-Piece Gown
 

Plus Size Women's Pisarro Nights Beaded Mock Two-Piece Gown

$218.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Sl Fashions Plus Size Metallic Crochet Fringe Shift and Jacket
 

Sl Fashions Plus Size Metallic Crochet Fringe Shift and Jacket

$129.00

Buy at: macys.com

Betsy & Adam Plus Size Fringed Blouson Dress
 

Betsy & Adam Plus Size Fringed Blouson Dress

$209.00

Buy at: macys.com

Plus Size Women's City Chic 'Fringe Fever' Dress
 

Plus Size Women's City Chic 'Fringe Fever' Dress

$80.36

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's City Chic 'Sequin Dazzle' Chiffon Overlay Dress
 

Plus Size Women's City Chic 'Sequin Dazzle' Chiffon Overlay Dress

$149.95

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Alex Evenings Sequin Lace Shift Dress
 

Plus Size Women's Alex Evenings Sequin Lace Shift Dress

$74.97

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

Plus Size Women's Pisarro Nights Sequin Blouson Cocktail Dress
 

Plus Size Women's Pisarro Nights Sequin Blouson Cocktail Dress

$218.00

Buy at: NORDSTROM.com

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About Debbie Sessions

Debbie Sessions is passionate about wearing history through fashion. She and her husband, Oscar, have turned their hobby into a career by teaching others how to re-create vintage style with affordable new vintage inspired clothing and accessories. We connect shoppers to the best vintage inspired clothing, shoes and accessories and teach fashion history as it was worn by everyday people. Need more help? Contact us anytime.

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