Afternoon Dresses

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While silk, chiffon, and velvet party and evening dresses were characteristic of women’s 1920s formal wear, they certainly were not the only dresses hanging in a fashionable woman's closet.

Day dresses were made to be loose fitting and comfortable for running quick errands, visiting close friends or relatives, and relaxing around the home. They were typically constructed from much simpler and sturdier materials, such as cotton, chambray, or jersey.

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Casual clothing options were just starting to become acceptable for both women and men, but that did not mean that they did not represent larger fashion trends in their design. This day dress features a drop-waist, scalloped hem, a contrasting color for the piping, and embroidery details around the hem and on the sleeves.

Additionally, while many casual frocks were homemade, this dress still has its tag from Franklin Simon & Company, once located on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

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At first glance, this simple shift dress would appear to be from the 1960s or 1970s. However, “peasant” or “folk” style embroidery was a popular decorative detail in the early 20th century as well, although it did not reach the level of popularity that it would 40 years later.

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The counterculture of the 1920s went against both the mass consumerism of the glitzy flapper lifestyle and also, quite literally, the tight-laced culture of previous generations. Of course, mainstream retailers were quick to market the trend, offering folk-inspired clothing in storefronts and for do-it-yourself handstitched embroidery.

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This afternoon dress is a bit more chic compared to the others, thanks to the fabric and design details. It is embroidered with wildflowers and pink chrysanthemums, which allowed for a less expensive and lighter alternative to heavy beading. Along with its classic drop waist design, a tiered hem skirt gives the dress its structure. Made from a lightweight silk chiffon, it would have been perfect for an afternoon gathering in spring or summer. The light blue piping and extra embroidery on the sleeves demonstrates the creator’s care in making the garment truly special.

Afternoon Dresses