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Author Topic: The 1920s Flapper's Ensemble Cost in 2017 dollars  (Read 444 times)
J. Wilhelm
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« on: November 29, 2017, 10:14:00 am »

So, I'm rummaging through my new Pinterest pages, as I'm updating all of thephotos, and I stumble on this 1920's magazine article:

"What it costs to be a well dressed Flapper." The thing is, that the Flapper style was anything but complicated. The whole point for the woman's Flapper fashion was to look boyish, and wear modern yet elegant, relatively simple clothes. However, as the author of the article points out, "simplicit is one of the most expensive effects that a designer can achieve."

Case in pint. he breaks down an ensemble worn by famous Flapper Clara Bow, and the total bill comes to $346.50. Not that expensive, it seems, probably the cost of a separate ladies' business blazer by Ann Taylor, perhaps? But in today's dollars the number looks very different. Accounting for inflation and assuming the magazine article was written in 1925, the bill for the ensemble comes to $4,835.62 (!). And this is not a ball gown or anything like that. Definitely the roaring 20's...

Velvet cap with silver band                          $25     $348.89 in 2017
Large White Gardenia                                 $5      $69.78   in 2017
Black silk Faille coat lined with white Crepe    $150   $2,093.34 in 2017
White silk Faille blouse with black piping        $25    $348.89 in 2017
Pearls, 3 strands                                        $50    $697.78 in 2017
Doe skin gloves white, embroidered              $8.50  $118.62 in 2017  
Black silk Faille skirt, Box pleated                 $30    $418.67 in 2017
Lizard skin handbag                                    $30    $418.67 in 2017
Rose beige chiffon stockings                         $4.5   $62.80  in 2017
Rose beige shoes trimmed, brown appliqués   $18.5  $258.18 in 2017

Total                                                      $346.5  $4,835.62 in 2017

Some of the prices don't seem unreasonable for certain items (eg pearls), and shoes can be very expensive today, so the prices are in line with today's prices. But for other items (e.g. stockings), the prices just seem outrageous.The price for the coat is not out of the world for a luxury coat but I'd expect a natural fur for that price, maybe not Mink, but some other critter. However, $348 for a silk blouse and hat each, just seems high... Then again, a stupid men's casual silk polo shirt today can run well over $120 (Tommy Bahamas).


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« Last Edit: November 29, 2017, 10:44:38 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged

Hurricane Annie
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« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2017, 10:37:41 am »



 Much like the Namibian safari set, Vogue and Harper's Bazaar photo spread advertorials of today   - who doesn't  pay 345 pounds  for a thin cotton camisole  and $529  for a pair of Daisy Dukes 

 all that sand will play havoc with those 1, 076  euro mules
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Crescat Scientia
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2018, 06:03:20 am »

The stockings would have been knit from real silk.

$62.80 is a bargain price for real silk stockings, assuming one could find them.

The velvet cap would also have been real silk. I do not know of any textile manufacturer in the world today who makes 100% silk velvet (most modern “silk” velvet is rayon pile on a thin silk backing). The silver band, if real silver and I don’t see why not, would also jack up the price.

Single gardenias today cost in the range of $10-$25, barely two or three times the 1925 price. Perhaps horticulture has gotten more efficient. $5 for a gardenia in 1925 was crazy expensive.

Women’s clothing is considerably more expensive than men’s, even when the quality is lower. $348 for a silk blouse is not even something to blink at. $348 for a silk faille blouse actually seems a bit low. Faille is a very heavyweight ribbed luxury silk, almost an upholstery fabric, and very difficult to find these days.

Basically what the author of the original article has done is a piece of clever sleight-of-hand, decking out Ms. Bow in some of the thickest, heaviest luxury fabrics available at the time and then throwing up his hands in shock at how much such a “simple” outfit costs.
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2018, 11:32:49 pm »

The stockings would have been knit from real silk.

$62.80 is a bargain price for real silk stockings, assuming one could find them.

The velvet cap would also have been real silk. I do not know of any textile manufacturer in the world today who makes 100% silk velvet (most modern “silk” velvet is rayon pile on a thin silk backing). The silver band, if real silver and I don’t see why not, would also jack up the price.

Single gardenias today cost in the range of $10-$25, barely two or three times the 1925 price. Perhaps horticulture has gotten more efficient. $5 for a gardenia in 1925 was crazy expensive.

Women’s clothing is considerably more expensive than men’s, even when the quality is lower. $348 for a silk blouse is not even something to blink at. $348 for a silk faille blouse actually seems a bit low. Faille is a very heavyweight ribbed luxury silk, almost an upholstery fabric, and very difficult to find these days.

Basically what the author of the original article has done is a piece of clever sleight-of-hand, decking out Ms. Bow in some of the thickest, heaviest luxury fabrics available at the time and then throwing up his hands in shock at how much such a “simple” outfit costs.


I also get the feeling that the article was one of many critiquing the Flapper lifestyle. There was quite a bit of controversy of the look and sexual freedom that Flappers enjoyed at the time. Some of the more outlandish psudo-medical claims in the early 1920's was that the short shingle bobs of the period would lead to headaches in women due to the nape of the  neck being exposed to cold air!  Cheesy

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« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2018, 01:28:59 pm »


Single gardenias today cost in the range of $10-$25, barely two or three times the 1925 price. Perhaps horticulture has gotten more efficient. $5 for a gardenia in 1925 was crazy expensive.

Basically what the author of the original article has done is a piece of clever sleight-of-hand, decking out Ms. Bow in some of the thickest, heaviest luxury fabrics available at the time and then throwing up his hands in shock at how much such a “simple” outfit costs.


Might the gardenia have been a silk flower too?
I totally agree the aricle was written by someone who wanted to make a point about this expensive "simple" look.  I sincerely hope that the average flapper had the equivalent of Primark (whose Gucci-style mules were only £8 last summer instead of hundreds!)
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« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2018, 04:56:40 am »

And choosing a movie star as a "typical" example of clothing prices is part of the problem.  I remember once reading an article titled "Get the Look for Less"  the designer version came to several thousand including a $900 blazer.  The "Less" was only $300.  I realized I needed the article on how to "Get Look for Less, for Less (or even less)"
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