OSMOND — The United Methodist Church in Osmond hosted a unique fashion show this week — but instead of models strutting in the latest designer brands, a historic collector displayed a variety of authentic Roaring Twenties clothing.
Members of the United Methodist Women in flapper-themed garb transformed a spare room of the church with black and gold decorations, spritzing glitz and glitter from the entrance to the curtains revealing the vintage clothing. Guests from surrounding areas chatted and dined on refreshments while calling out answers to various 1920s trivia questions, glad to be back together after a yearlong COVID-induced hiatus.
"It's just fun and fellowship for Christian women," said Luella Hodson, an organizer for the event.
After introductions, Susan McLain, founder of the Beatrice museum Yesterday's Lady, exhibited outfits popping straight out of the pages of "The Great Gatsby." McLain explained the style and purpose of every item of clothing she brought, from cloche hats to makeup bags to beaded evening dresses. She has amassed more than 2,000 pieces in her 25 years of collecting, often given to her from museums or families, ranging from the 1840s up to the 1970s.
Every piece is authentic from its time and makes an excellent prop as she speaks on the impact historical events have on clothing.
"Fashion and history go hand-in-hand," McLain said.
What affected 1920s fashion was the end of World War I. Women had to "step up" while men were off to war, and the strict corsets and long sleeves of the Edwardian era proved difficult for women working outside the home.
Loose-fitting dresses and short skirts defined an era of liberation — women winning the right to vote, the introduction of jazz and start-up speakeasies during Prohibition all contributing to the budding carefree fashion movement, McLain said.
Women flaunted confidence and independence, seen most prominently in bobbed hair and exposed arms and legs.
"Dresses like this were meant to do the wild dances," McLain said, showing off a sheer party dress.
Most dresses of the era had easy access buttons on the sides rather than the back, meaning women could now dress and undress themselves without help from others. Girls often did their own beadwork and embroidery, adding lace and floral details to personalize their outfits. Popular fabrics included chiffon, wool, silk and rayon, while colors stayed neutral: Brown, Nile green, French blue and peach, all with matching stockings.
in 1926, fashion designer Coco Chanel introduced the famed little black dress in Vogue magazine — a piece of clothing still considered a staple nearly 100 years later.
By 1925, the style had shifted away from "matronly" to more "boyish," with drop-waist hemlines and emphasis on the hips rather than waist. The art deco style blended with the "relaxed but strict" society at the time, as seen in geometric designs on makeup bags and evening dresses.
McLain said even Nebraska had a hand in fashion trends. Though Harold Lloyd, a silent movie star from the Beatrice area, had good vision, he wore circular glasses to define his own "signature look." Soon enough they were cemented as a style of the era.
However, all fashion periods must come to an end, and the flapper era died on Oct. 29, 1929.
"The ’20s started with a roar and ended with a crash," McLain said.
The infamous "Black Tuesday" saw the crash of the stock market, throwing the United States into the Great Depression. Since history does indeed define fashion, gone were the blithe styles of finger waves and bedazzled beaded frocks; now, women grew out their hair and donned dresses sewn from chicken seed fabric.
Even so, the glamorous memory of Roaring Twenties fashion remains rooted in history and in McLain's museum.
"The style was very dainty, very feminine-looking and very fun," she said.