The Complete Roaring 20's Costume Guide - What to Wear, Makeup & Hair

The Complete Roaring 20's Costume Guide - What to Wear, Makeup & Hair

12th Jan 2017

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How To Dress Roaring Twenties

The period of the Roaring Twenties is renowned for many things, including Jazz music, flappers, wild parties, and nightclubs. But perhaps the thing that stands out most about the period was the sudden change in clothing style. Women no longer allowed themselves to be restricted by tight corsets or floor-length hemlines, but instead opted for the loose, glitzy style of the flapper. Men too, began to dress in bolder colors and less formal suits for parties and outings.

We carry  roaring twenties costumes and we also have high quality flapper and gangster outfits available to rent. When attempting to dress like someone from the Roaring Twenties, it’s important to keep in mind several guidelines.

Women's guide to dressing like you're from the 1920's

Look for loose, shapeless dresses.

John Knight explains fundamentals of dressing like the 1920's in his video, "History of Fashion"

Women in the 1920s typically wore dresses that were easy to slip in and out of without much help from maids or ladies-in-waiting. Not only did this style make up for the loss of servants during the war, but it also allowed for greater ease of movement— a necessity when women began to take on more of the roles that men had formerly occupied.

For party attire, look for frills and glitz that accent movement.

There's a reason that the Roaring Twenties was also referred to as The Jazz Age; young people frequented Jazz clubs where they would perform wild and extremely athletic dances to the latest Jazz hits. When dressing up for a night on the town, flappers would typically look for dresses and accessories that would help to showcase their dancing prowess. This could mean anything from long strings of pearls that would swing back and forth with their movement, to dresses with tassels and frills that would flare out each time they shimmied on the dance floor (as seen in Knight's video).

Look for knee-length (or slightly shorter) hems.

The Twenties was a unique time period because it challenged many of the social norms that had been in place prior to the war. Women began to push the boundaries of propriety and began to wear dresses with knee-length hemlines; something that had once been viewed as improper and scandalous. At the same time, the world wasn't quite ready for the miniskirt of the 1960s, so length didn't usually stray much farther above the knee.

Headwear and footwear 1920's women wore

For headwear women usually wore rounded felt hats that helped to show of their short hairstyles, or they'd wear a headband. Footwear usually included short heels (about 2 to 3 inches).

Men's guide to dressing like you're from the 1920's

For less formal attire, look for suspenders and vests.

Men typically still dressed very respectably even if they weren’t going to a formal event. Unless they were playing a sport or doing something particularly athletic, men typically wore suspenders, slacks, and a simple white button-down. Vests and bowties were also a nice way to keep a simple outfit looking classy.

For formal clothing, look for suits in either striking solid colors or plaid/pin-striped.

When it came to parties, the men began to push the boundaries a little too. Their suits became louder and more attention grabbing- though not obnoxiously so. Solid-colored suits in white were often accented with brightly colored ties in pinks or reds.

Headgear and footwear 1920's men wore

For headgear, men usually wore fedoras or cabbie caps that matched with their suits, while footwear was usually a simple dress shoe.

The Roaring Twenties was a time of innovation and pushing the boundaries. Those who grew up in the Twenties certainly knew how to party and have a good time. With these tips in mind, hopefully you can do the same!

How to Make a Roaring Twenties headband

The 1920s were an exciting time in fashion. Popular designers had created a new standard of feminine style by merging a playfully boyish look with boldly exotic and dramatic elements. The headband became a signature piece for the flapper look and complemented the short bob hairstyle that many women wore.

You can recreate the roaring twenties headband with a few basic craft supplies and have your own piece of retro style. The style usually consisted of a close-fitting band that wrapped around the head from the base of the neck to the hairline or the forehead. Sometimes they were embellished with feathers, sequins, beads, and jewels for a more fanciful, dramatic style. This is the style most indicative of the period that you can learn to make using the following steps.

Step 1: Choose your headband material.

Material good for this project would be a length of lace trim or ribbon because it has finished edges on both sides and only needs to be cut to fit around the crown of the head. But you could also make a band of fabric by folding a long piece lengthwise with right sides facing. Turn the piece inside out and press it flat so the seam is in the center of the side that will not show.

Step 2: Measure and Hem.

Wrap the strip of trim, ribbon, or fabric around your head the way you want it to fit. Consider while you are doing this if you want the ends to overlap. Now, cut the length you have chosen. If you have specific measurements that you have taken from someone else, then cut to that length.

Step 3: Sew the Band

On each end, fold over a half inch for the hem and sew it down. Take a 1-inch long strip of elastic and sew it to one end of your fabric or lace band, then the other to create a loop. The elastic will give the band room to stretch.

Alternatively, if you added an inch or two for overlap when you first cut the strip of fabric or lace you can sew on a button or snap for the closure.

Step 4: Embellish

Now that you have the basic band sewn together, add a few decorative pieces to create an exotic and theatrical accent. Beads, feathers, a sequined applique, or a broach are elements that can be used to finish the look. layer two or more of these elements and secure them to the headband with thread or strong adhesive (hot glue or a clear craft or hardware glue).

Step 5: Embellish a little more

When creating this fancy flapper look, layers and texture are really important. For a little more glitter and glam, glue on rhinestones, attach a short string of pearls or beads that will dangle a little off the edge of the headband.

Step 6: Finishing touches.

Finally, make sure everything is secure and cut off any loose strings. Once the glue has dried thoroughly, you're done and can sport your new accessory.

Now that you have created your own unique roaring twenties headband, use it to add a 20s twist to a modern outfit or as an authentic touch in a  complete 20s inspired costume. It's an easy and fun craft to make for yourself and share with others.

How to do Roaring Twenties Hair

The 1920’s is remembered for flappers and unique hairstyles. These styles have been recently making a comeback and are popular once again. Here’s a quick guide to a few different styles straight out of the roaring 20’s.


Fingerwaves are a hallmark part of an authentic 1920’s hairstyle. You will need a good hairspray, a fine-toothed comb, and a lot of pin curl clips. Click here, or here for a video reference.

Step 1: Give yourself a deep side part. Make the part as far to one side of your head as feels comfortable.

Step 2: Part your hair on the wide side parallel to your face, combing the front half forwards and the back half towards the back of your head. Use one of your pin curl clips to keep the back section in place.

Step 3: Use water to get your hair damp, but not very wet. If it’s too wet, the curls will take much longer to set.

Step 4: Comb your hair all the way forwards, and place two pin curl clips facing downwards to hold your hair in that position.

Step 5: Carefully comb your hair backwards to create a large contrast between sections. Use another two clips to hold your hair, but this time face them towards the back of your head. Try to keep the clips parallel.

Step 6: Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you reach your temple. Wait until your hair is completely dry and then spray the curls liberally with hairspray. Once the spray is dry, remove the clips.

If you feel more comfortable with a curling iron, you can also make faux fingerwaves with a curling iron.

Faux Bob

Faux bobs allow women with longer hair enjoy a bob for a while. As with most other 1920’s styles, this one looks nice with a nice fingerwave. For this look you will need a curling iron, hairspray, a hair tie, pin curl clips, and bobby pins. Click here for a video reference.

Optional: Pre-curl your hair for added texture, which can make the hairstyle come together more easily.

Step 1: Make a center part. Then make two parts on the back of your head, sectioning off just the back part of the hair.

Step 2: Tie back the back section of hair. Braid the hair and use bobby pins to make a bun on the lower back of the head. This will be used as an anchor for pinning up your faux bob.

Step 3: Change the center part to a deep side part, and separate the hair on the wide side into a front and a back section, parallel to the face.

Step 4: Begin curling the two sections of hair. Take care to not curl the ends. Curl the front section towards the face and the back section towards the back. When you complete a curl, clip it into place to cool instead of letting it fall.

Step 5: Once the curls have cooled, let them out of the clips and gently brush through them. Use your fingers to manipulate them into the shape you want. Place pin curl clips into the hair in a fingerwave pattern and spray with hairspray.

Step 6: Back-comb up the hair on both sides to create a loose, teased appearance.

Step 7: Lift the bottom of the hair and use bobby pins to secure it to the bun at the back of your head to create a short look.

Ever struggled over what to do with yesterday’s curls? Simply allow two curls to hang in front of your face, pile the rest of your hair on top of your head, and pin into place.

If you're looking to do a hairstyle but don't have the right length of hair, you can always  throw on a wig.

Men's 1920's hair

For men, you're looking at more of a swept back look. You'll need to hit up your barber and request a classic cut like this video illustrates.

How To Do 1920's Makeup

Oh, the roaring twenties. It was a glamorous era, immortalized by movies like The Great Gatsby. At some point or another, all of us have certainly dreamed of being an elegant flapper in a daring little beaded dress that moves when we dance.

While you can't take a time machine back to the 1920s, you can get a stunning flapper makeup look. Here are the essential components of any 1920s makeup look.

Matte, Even Skin

Today's skin trends are all about creating dimension. From highlighting to contouring to strobing, a modern complexion should have depth and a wide range of hues. However, the 1920s face was a lot more simple. It was about creating a matte, even skin tone.

Ditch your dewy face products that are meant to highlight. Instead, apply a full-coverage, matte-finish foundation to the entirety of the face with a brush to create that perfect, almost doll-like complexion. Use a dry makeup sponge to gently press powder into the skin, sealing in the product and giving you a shine-free result. To give your face a bit of dimension, work a bit of a cream pink or peach blush into the apples of your cheeks.

Thin, Simple Brows

Yes, the look of the 1920s was a pencil-thin brow. No, you don't have to pluck your brows until there's barely anything left. Instead of actually waxing or plucking your brows to a pencil-like finish, just skip the brow waxes and colored gels that are so popular thanks to today's trend of full, thick brows.

Instead, use a sharpened brow pencil to lightly fill in any sparse or bald patches. Use a clean mascara wand to brush your brows into place. The finished look should be simple and minimalist.

A Smoky - But Not Too Smoky - Eye

1920s gals loved a smoky eye. However, these eyes didn't look like the smoky eyes of today that you see all over Instagram. Instead, they were quite simple and usually only used one color shadow.

To create a 1920s-inspired smoky eye, use a single eyeshadow in a dark brown, black or gunmetal color. Apply the powder very lightly to the inner corners of the eye and then work out, applying a heavier dose of color at the outer edges. The goal here is to use only one color, but to build it strategically to create dimension. No great 1920s look would be complete without a thin, smudged line of dark shadow along the lower lashes.

Complete the shadow look by applying a very light dusting of a matte bone or ivory shade to the brow bone, blending thoroughly. To finish the look, apply a few coats of a voluminous mascara to the upper and lower lashes. Although falsies weren't popular in the era, you can use them if you want to fake the doe eyed, dramatic look of the 1920s.

A Dramatic, Perfectly Drawn Lip

If you're looking for an era where lips were simple and nude, look elsewhere! The roaring twenties were the era of dark, dramatic red lips. A cornerstone to 1920s lips is a perfectly drawn cupid's bow.

To get a 1920s lip, start by blocking out your lips with concealer. Then, draw your lip line with a very sharp lip liner that matches the color lipstick that you'll be using. Accentuate the cupid's bow, creating a stark and obvious line. Fill in the line with a matte lipstick in a dark burgundy or red. If your edges aren't perfect, clean them up with a bit of concealer on a finely tipped synthetic brush.

You don't have to time travel to the era of flappers and speakeasies to rock a flapper look. This makeup is perfect for both costume parties and modern parties alike. It's elegant, dramatic and evocative of another time. If you're looking for some excellent  pro quality makeup, we stock plenty of it online.

What Were the Roaring Twenties?

The Roaring 20s was a decade in the early part of the 20th century characterized by stock speculation, real estate booms and riotous spending coupled with riotous behavior, at least on the part of some people. It was also a time when the arts, particularly music and literature, flourished, and the relatively young medium of motion pictures was maturing. This era mostly affected western nations in general and affected the United States in particular.

Many historians have speculated that the mood of frivolity and light-heartedness that made the Roaring 20s distinctive was a recoil from the horrors and gloom of the just completed Great War. The good mood was further bolstered by the fact that the United States and its allies had won.

Why Did the 20s Roar?

The “roar” of the 1920s came from its booming, bullish economy. This economy was caused in part by supplying those goods for the United States and for other countries that the war had destroyed, made unavailable or whose production had ceased during hostilities. Interestingly, the boom was not continuous. There was actually a depression that lasted from 1920 to 1922 and two short recessions in 1924 and 1927. But economists believe that the period from 1922 to 1929 was when the 20s were truly roaring.

What Started the Roaring 20s

The Roaring 20s started in 1919. It was called the “New Economic Era” and was characterized by high wages, high levels of production and low inflation. Though the population rose about 9 percent, wages rose 23 percent, and the cost of living remained relatively flat. People had enough money to buy durable goods like automobiles and refrigerators and did not have to work as many hours to afford them. The Federal Reserve extended easy credit, and industry had surplus funds. Both economists and ordinary people assumed this would go on for years, if not decades.

Another event that happened in 1919 was the passage of the 18th Amendment. This amendment prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. Many people despised the amendment and drank anyway, but in secret. This led to the rise of illegal clubs called speak-easies and the rise of the mobs that benefited from the sale of illegal liquor, called bootlegging. The resistance to the 18th Amendment gave the decade much of its character.

What Ended the Roaring 20s

The Roaring 20s was ended by the collapse of the stock market in October 29, 1929, when speculators sold 16,400,000 shares of stock. By year’s end, the liquidation of loans on Wall Street cost investors $40 billion. This was not actually the beginning of the Great Depression, for businesses had been declining well before the stock market crash.

How Did the Roaring 20s Lead to the Great Depression?

The economic recovery after the war was a deception, for it was based on the debt that most of the shattered European countries owed to the United States. Private debt started to rise and national budgets became unbalanced. American businesses started to open up factories abroad to deal with European tariffs.

The surplus that had powered the post war recovery could no longer be sold and began to accumulate. The prices and values of these commodities fell, but not their volume. This was especially true of the agricultural sector.

Herbert Hoover became President in 1929. During his tenure, Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which raised tariffs to punitive levels. Despite pressure from economists and the objection of nearly every foreign country, Hoover signed this law. This caused other countries to raise their tariffs, which were already hurting the economy. The result was disastrous.

Why Were the Roaring 20s Important?

The Roaring 20s were important because they represented a type of progress for the country as a whole. Household appliances, ready-to-wear clothing and canned foods freed many women from household drudgery, and more and more of them went out to work. The 19th Amendment was passed in 1920 and gave women the right to vote.

A set of young women called flappers scandalized their elders by bobbing their hair, raising their hemlines, wearing make-up, smoking and even kissing young men they were not particularly serious about. They drank and visited speak-easies and listened to jazz music. According to some historians, they were called flappers because they wore open galoshes that flapped whenever they walked.

Newspapers and radios featured sensational tales of murders, boxing matches and the goings-on of movie stars and heroes such as Charles Lindbergh, who flew solo across the Atlantic in 1927. His feat not only caused a swell of hero-worship but helped to bolster the young aviation industry.

The 20s was an especially golden period for literature. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works epitomized the era, especially his masterpiece The Great Gatsby. He is said to have coined the phrase, “The Jazz Age ” to describe the Roaring 20s, and his madcap wife Zelda was said to be the first flapper or Jazz baby. Other writers of the period were Fitzgerald’s friend Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Willa Cather and William Faulkner.

Jazz, a type of popular music invented by African Americans, also prospered. Considered scandalous among many, including African Americans, it was played often in speakeasies. One center of jazz music was Harlem, an African American neighborhood in the northern part of Manhattan. Jazz musicians who were prominent in the 20s included Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton.

Harlem itself was the scene of a Renaissance which began at the time of World War I and lasted until the Great Depression. The Harlem Renaissance saw innovations in writing, music, fashion and art from African Americans, including Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Helene Johnson, James Weldon Johnson and many others.

How Did the Roaring 20s Affect American Culture?

The culture of the Roaring 20s is still felt today. Jazz has been raised to an art form, and people still read the works of the great writers of the era or have rediscovered them in the case of a writer like Zora Neale Hurston. Films are still being made about the 20s, most notably the different versions of The Great Gatsby. The fascination with mobs, gangs and bootleggers is unabated. The recklessness of the economy of the 20s still gives economists, legislators and executives food for thought as they contemplate budgets, deficits and tariffs.