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1920s Costume Party
Life in the 1920s

Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918. With the end of the First World War, a new era of peace and prosperity was envisaged. Most people had high expectations of the 1920 and although the decade did not turn out to be as idyllic as they hoped, definite improvements were made in areas such as health, fashion, education and the standard of 1920s life living.
The political situation

The political situation during the 1920s was extremely complex. In foreign affairs, it was soon discovered that all had not been solved by the First World War and that international differences were still numerous. Russia, with her threat of Bolshevism, was regarded with mistrust, and nearer home, Adolph Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy were growing in power. Attempts were made to prevent further disagreements by the Locarno Pact (1925) and the Kellogg Pact (1928). The former guaranteed the French frontiers and the latter invited all nations to renounce aggressive warfare. It had been signed by all major countries including the USA and the USSR by 1930. At home, Ireland was a continual source of concern as more and more violent means were used by extremists to persuade the British Government to grant Ireland her independence. On the British mainland, unemployment and the worsening economic climate were the major issues to be dealt with, culminating in the crisis of the General Strike in 1926.
    Music 1920s 1930s that were played over and over in radio
    1920s Popular Music CD Album like 1920s Jazz Music, Piano Music, charleston music, 1920s Blues and 1920s Country
  • The Big Broadcast, Volume 1: Jazz and Popular Music of the 1920s and 1930s
  • Hot Dance Music Of The Roaring 1920s
  • The Roaring Twenties
  • Charleston: Great Stars of the 1920s
  • Piano Concertos of the 1920s
  • Piano Trios of the 1920s
  • Shaking the Blues Away: Good Tunes for Hard Times

These problems would have been difficult for a stable government to cope with. However, during the decade there were six changes of government, and the emergence to power of a new political party. For the last fifty years the Conservative and Liberal Parties had dominated the political life scene, but by 1918 the Labour Party had emerged and was steadily growing in support and confidence. The first Labour Government was in power in 1924. Many more people were entitled to vote in the 1920s than ever before. After the war there was universal male suffrage, and votes for women over the age of 30. An Act of 1928 allowed women over the age of 21 to vote also, a move which caused considerable concern at the time.

Bright Young Things

With a life style very different from "normal" during the 1920s, the "Bright Young Things" scandalized many people by their madcap activities. They were a small group of upper class young people who specialized in doing shocking things drinking a lot, driving fast cars in a dangerous manner and indulging in outrageous behaviour in the cars. They loved playing pranks, especially at the expense of others. One young lady, at an important buffet party attended by many famous people, replaced all the ham in the sandwiches with pink flannel and then watched gleefully as the guests dealt with their surprise! Midnight bathing, treasure hunts and parties were also loved. At one party in 1928, all the guests arrived dressed up as babies. As the "Bright Young Things" were mostly titled people, all their antics were eagerly reported by the press, to the disgust of the more conservative members of society.


During the war many women, by force of circumstances, had become more independent. Many had done "men's jobs" and when the war ended were not prepared to go back to their former, restricted way of life. In the 1920s life more women than ever before had a job and some achieved high positions, the most notable being Margaret Bondfield who in 1929 became the first woman Cabinet Minister. In 1928 women over the age of 21 were given the vote and this further enhanced their status. (The previous age limit had been 30.) For those who remained at home (and the vast majority did, once they were married), the life situation was also improving. Families tended to be much smaller and homes were becoming much easier to run. Their new found freedom was reflected in fashion as women gaily abandoned their old corsets and long, heavy dresses in favour of short, loose frocks. Very "modern" girls also wore make up, smoked in public and used slang.

Entertainment Radio 1920s Music and Jazz Music Sports in the 1920s

During the twenties everyone was eager to enjoy themselves and there was a boom in popular entertainment. The radio, and the BBC radio, had the greatest influence with 1920s jazz, 1920s piano, blues music and country and charleston music. In 1922 sports were also considered important and the most popular included football, tennis, swimming, skating and greyhound racing.

1920s Transport & 1920s Cars

Huge improvements were made in transport. Cars became available to anyone who could pay and by 1930 there were over one million private cars on the roads. In towns, trams and omnibuses provided a cheap and efficient service, while charabancs and motor buses opened up new possibilities for country people. No new railways were built, but the London Underground was extended to include the developing suburbs. Aeroplanes were much loved. Flying exhibitions attracted large crowds and anyone who could afford it could buy his or her own aeroplane. A Gypsy Moth, for example, cost £595 in 1926. Passenger airlines became yearly more sophisticated and by the end of the decade were taking travellers to destinations all over the world.

Extract from “Growing up in The 1920s”, written by Amanda Clark. London: B.T.Batsford Ltd, 1986.

Rock ’n’ roll. Hip-hop. Rap. Heavy metal. These contemporary types of music may cause the older generation to be concerned about the popular music that youth listen to today. Did you know that the young people of the 1920s faced similar issues with their older generation? When the adults of the 1920s heard the blues and jazz being played, they expressed concern about the popular music that their youth were listening to, as well. Many of the cultural conservatives viewed the music as having a bad moral influence on youth. We can define music as “vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony.” Ultimately, music reflects personal tastes and situations. We listen to music when we are happy or sad. We play music for amusement and pleasure and when we want to forget the cares of the day. We can hear music in our places of worship, riding in the car, or in the shower. Historically, the United States has been one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse nations in the world. Nearly every cultural and ethnic group has brought its own music to America. History and geography have also played their parts in the music of America. Think about work songs, cowboy songs, Depression songs, war songs, union songs, train songs, and protest songs. The first Europeans to arrive in the New World brought with them the memories and songs of their native lands. These songs were, in turn, mixed and blended with the sounds of the American Indians whom the colonists encountered. Each group of settlers brought its own unique ethnic form of music. Puritans and Pilgrims sang hymns and psalms without instruments at meetings and church. English and Scots-Irish gentry remembered ballads of the British Isles, and enslaved people brought here in slave ships carried with them the chants and rhythms of Africa. The interweaving of European and African musical styles is perhaps the most significant factor in the history of American music. In the South, particularly, the music of black and white working people mixed, remixed, and blended. Enslaved peoples and their descendants added a fluid and expressive vocal style and a highly developed sense of rhythm to European songs and instruments. As a result, a new African American music was created. American music is a mixture of these many factors. Foreign songs were planted like seeds in the fertile soil of the New World and grew into varied styles of American music. Each year there are thousands of folks festivals and gatherings throughout North Carolina and the nation. America’s folk music may have its roots in faraway places, but as the nation’s people live, work, and struggle, their music is reborn every day. Only one original folk music exists in America—the music of the American Indian. It is as varied as the hundreds of different tribes and languages. This music was old long before the first explorers crossed the ocean. The earliest documentation of European music in the New World says, “The Pinta leads the procession, and her crew is singing the Te Deum [a religious chant]. The crews of the Santa Maria and the Nina join in the solemn chant, and many of the rough sailors brush tears from their eyes.” Christopher Columbus wrote these words in his journal on October 12, 1492, as his three ships landed in America. Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown in 1781 was accompanied by music. Colonial fifeand- drummers tootled “Yankee Doodle,” and the British played an appropriate folk tune, “The World Turned Upside Down.” In the South, the fiddle tradition flourished. It was influenced by the rhythmic music of enslaved people. It laid the basis for later styles such as bluegrass and country-andwestern music. From Scotland and Ireland, successive waves of migrations have kept alive traditions in many communities throughout North Carolina and the United States, where protest songs and ballads can still be heard. Music for dancing was an essential ingredient in communal activities such as corn husking, quilting bees, tobacco curing, apple stringing, log rolling, and wood chopping. Music served other important functions. The traditional ballads were the storybooks, radios, and news flashes of isolated rural life. New songs told stories of local events, famous happenings, and legendary heroes and outlaws. Songs detailed the ups and downs of farming and rural life. There were sentimental songs, love songs, and many songs about the railroad. The railroad in the nineteenth century helped break down the isolation of rural communities and to many people held out hope of adventure and freedom. In the early 1900s, some southern rural communities grew to be less isolated as they became industrialized, and major social and technological developments changed the way of life for many people. The radio came to many isolated rural areas in the 1920s. It brought popular commercial music from northern cities. It also made possible a venue for country musicians to broadcast throughout the South, on programs such as the National Barn Dance. Another important innovation was the phonograph. When the phonograph became popular in the South, country people could buy records only of northern entertainers. However, in 1923 Fiddlin’ John Carson, an old-time fiddler, political campaigner, and moonshine maker, became one of the first of the southern musicians recorded when he played the song “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane.”

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1920s 1930s, A cartoon from 1927 of a "typical" Twenties family out for a walk. Note the large perambulator, and the dummies firmly stuck in the mouths of the babies. The semis in the background are a good illustration of contemporary ribbon fashion development.


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Sat Apr 30 21:12:27 2016

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