There is nothing like the winter coats of the Jazz Age. Their curved shapes with large fur collars created a cocoon of warmth and style that has yet to be duplicated. Still, unlike the clothes underneath, coats tended to be quite simple. They typically closed with just a single center button wrapped over to the right and they rarely had more than the bare minimum of decorations or embellishments.
Any trim was usually simply narrow side panels, embroidered in metallic rayon thread. Cording, self-fabric trim and embroidery on the sides or back in art deco patterns added subtle details without detracting from the fine fur collars and cuffs. Belts were not required and were optional as a purely ornamental feature that usually did not go all the way around the coat. Full belts were common in the early ’20s and for trench style men’s inspired coats.
Summer coats or jackets were made of lighter tweeds, knits and wools. They were worn open with just a fabric belt to tie around the waist. The length too was shorter, just to the knee, revealing sporty skirts and traveling suits underneath. The look was very sporty. This style was favored in the early years but was replaced by the more feminine cocoon wrap style of the later ’20s.
The spring cape was another coat type that was also worn open with just a tie around the neck. The cape was usually a fancy evening wrap, but as a day coat its elegance hinted that the wearer was both high fashion and probably wealthy.
Coat alternatives for all seasons were the shawl, scarf or silk scarf coat. Read about them here.
Another variation of the winter coat was the collegiate-style coat, more often seen on young girls, teens and young women. The coats were cut straight, double breasted, and closed with two rows of six large buttons down the center. They were exactly like the men’s wool coats. Bright reds, blues and plaids were popular colors. Mid-calf length double-breasted wool coats were popular, especially in the early part of the decade, and by 1925 knee-length wool tweed coats with fur trim at the cuff and collar were in style. The length of coats rose to go with the dresses. Long coats with long dresses for the first part of the 1920s followed by shorter coats and shorter dresses for the second half.
Coats were often made of wool suede velour, deep pile velvet, wool broadcloth, and velour coating. Popular winter colors included black, brown, tan, medium green, blue crackle, and cranberry red. Brown and gray plaids were also in style. Linings were made from crepe de chine, satin de chine, brocade, or other silks and blends.
For those that could afford it, coats in the last half of the decade featured both real and fake fur collars in either a mushroom shape or as a large shawl collar. Popular fur trim included mink, possum, raccoon, seal, fox, sable, and beaver for the upper classes. Middle classes may have chosen the cheaper weasel, squirrel, chinchilla or mole. Some cheap furs like rabbit were dyed to look like the more expensive fox and seal furs.
If real fur was out of your price range, there were synthetic fake furs often called Siberian fur cloth, that resembled the real thing. The most favored furs had long, soft hairs.
Coat cuffs were typically deep bands of matching fur and sometimes even longer gauntlet cuffs. Those on a budget skipped the fur trim altogether and simply turned back their wool cuffs to show off the silk or satin lining for a spot of color.
One trend for both men and women college students was full length raccoon coats. A raccoon was a cheaper fur making it slightly more affordable to college students. To own one still meant you came from money and that you owned a Model T car or least enjoyed riding in them. Model T’s were very cold to ride in winter. Long fur coats were the perfect outerwear for driving in cars or watching football games. Every student wanted a raccoon coat, including the women, who were less likely to be drivers but were no less eager to show off their families’ wealth.
For rainy weather, some women followed the men’s lead and wore a gabardine trench coat, although that became more popular in the 1930s. Of course, the purpose of the raincoat is to keep the wearer warm and dry, so materials tended to be oilskin or other rubber-coated cotton fabrics. A woman’s raincoat was often a brighter color, such as yellow, red or blue.
This made it easier for drivers to see women walking in heavy rain. Mature women sometimes preferred the rain cape, which fit like a poncho and had slits on either side for the arms. This was a common raincoat for children as well.
Whatever style of raincoat a woman chose, a hat was necessary. Some women could get by with a wool cloche hat but heavier rain required a rain cap, which looked like an old mop cap with a curved brim. Even in the ’20s, sometimes function took precedence over fashion.
Read more about 1920s raincoats and hats here.
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