Influence of Jazz on Women’s Fashion and Society

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In the early 20th century, the new woman was born after the United States took up the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and granted women the right to vote. This change has transformed lives of women from domestic servants to be an independent, financial freedom and they started to splurge on entertainment such as going to jazz clubs and fashion. The demand from these new women has further spur the domestic economics and simultaneously many advertising targeted towards women’s expectations.

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The nature of jazz music could be groovy and slightly aggressive in some beats, but the jazz music helped to shape the way people danced to the music, especially women. According to the journal (page 3, paragraph 2, line 2), those traditional dances such as One-Step, was went outdated and evolved to Fox-Trot and later to The Toddle, a more vigorous new version of Jazz. The evolution of Jazz music and dance become even more prominent and popular when Broadway musical Running Wild by Charleston hit the scene.

That’s said, dances were more vibrant and energetic, thus dancers required different outfit that allowed full, unrestricted movement complement to the rhythm of music. Women’s dress in the early 1920’s was very complex and structures. Women had to wear corset, puffed sleeves, cage crinolines, shawls and more to emphasize the tiny waist line. It also gives people an impression of being “tied down” and modest. However ever since Jazz hit the music scenes, and crowded heavily by the mass media coupled with social status changes, women opted for a boyish look such as wearing short sleeves. The boyish look resulted from synchronizing and being on pace with the jazz dances. The fashion opted for a shorter dress to allow the limbs to dance freely and dresses with fringes were favorable as it accentuated the dance moves with the flowiness of the dress. To further match the changes of women outfits, they prefer shorter hairstyle to be on pace with the dance moves instead of traditional long hair to reflect of feminine nature.

One have the most influential and renown black artist, Josephine Baker, significantly influenced the development of Jazz and women’s fashion. Baker was an African American entertainer/artist and she was fluent in both French and English, perfectly to be a bridge between two distinctive cultures of United States and France, in which both countries were seeking inspiration for music and fashion respectively. Her most iconic look and eventually became a symbol in the Jazz Age with her signature “banana costume”.

The “banana costume” consisted of a skirt with artificial bananas dangling of it, pairing with gold chains and big statement earrings. The shape of the bananas in the eye of fashion had ‘spikes’ to mimic the male organs. Despite the obscenity of the dress, her costume had an underlying motive as it exhibited the need for freedom to express oneself. Additionally, during her performance, she chose her perfect Charleston dance with Jazz music while advocating the freedom of movement.

Another highlight pointed out by the journal, it was gowns were cut to look flattened and featured an asymmetric style as this created a boyish appearance. One of the most iconic clothes that was inspired by this era was Coco Chanel’s little black dress. The little black dress opted a neutral, versatile approach, which was ideal for the working class women in the fast paced society and good sign of women’s fashion development.

Hairstyles, is a fundamental requirement to match with updated fashion complement to the jazz dance. This is another breakthrough experience for women in twenties. They enjoy dancing in jazz clubs to reflect their social status, so having a bob length hairstyle was more practical; stylish hats soon emerged and were often short-brimmed, matching the hair. Another popular style of headwear is turban, unlike turban worn commonly in Asia was for religious reason, turban worn by women during the Jazz era signified freedom, pure and wild (page 5 paragraph 4).

As for footwear, designs of shoes evolved due to the craze for jazz dancing, which was how crossover-straps and T-bars were invented. Shoes started to become more visible, as to having more glimpse of the feet and shoes with pointed toes became popular as it helps to stretch the legs and dance moving around. To draw attention of new fashions of outfits, hairstyles and footwear, women put on necklace and wearing wristwatches not only serve as fashion statement but with practical reason. This is perfectly meeting the life of working-class women.

In summary, there are few key takeaways from my few readings in respect of the jazz and women’s fashion; my first take was the Jazz music and dance have transformed the old and tradition women’s outfits to modern and stylist designs based on the jazz dance performance. This has inclusive the women’s jewelry, shoes and hairstyle. Secondly was drawing from politic, social and economic perspectives, Both countries, The United States and French has established the trade relationship due to the demand of fashion and the jazz development, this bilateral relationship will be benefited both countries in term of their social and economics environment respectively. Another key highlight was the presence of Jazz music and dance has created misunderstanding between Black and White and raised the racial tension initially, but this negative impact has reduced significantly with few influential representations, to pave a way for greater unity within the nation.

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Influence of Jazz on Women's Fashion and Society. (2021, Apr 08). Retrieved January 30, 2023 , from
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