Learn How SIMPLE
Digital Patterns Really Are!

Sign Up to Receive
The Ultimate Guide to Digital Sewing Patterns eBook + a FREE Skirt Pattern!


Today we’re exploring four exciting eras in fashion: the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. Which one are you? Read on and see more images and get the patterns to create these looks yourself!

We all have our favorite fashion moments and eras, icons and styles. If you were to choose your favorite era from the list below, which would it be?

1920s The 20s usually brings the same word to everyone’s lips: flappers! The 20s modernized fashion. Out with corsets! In with short skirts and trousers! Fabrics were also changing and becoming more widely available— silk and wool were among the two most utilized fabrics and rayon was being introduced to consumers for the first time. The “Boyish Figure” was quite popular throughout the 20s (which really only worked for flat-chested girls and waifs though right?). Coco Chanel was one of the first women to wear trousers and cut her hair short at this time— she held the torch for modernizing women’s fashions around the globe. Sparkles and sequins were used to embellish gowns, and headbands and soft, curly hair were all the rage.

1930s The 30s were feminine and sleek. Think of metallic lame (invented in this time) and slinky silky fabrics, draped over womanly figures, taking center stage throughout this time. People liked to go out dancing and to listen to big band music. Dresses and gowns were cut on the bias (inspired by Vionnet), creating a super-sexy appeal. Parisian couturiers had a large influence on this gamine look, designers like Elsa Schiaparelli were especially inspired by costumes from film during this time, as well as their surrealist contemporaries like Man Ray, Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp. Hair was worn in soft perms and many women wore hats.

1940s 1940 was the year nylon stockings were invented, which completely changed women’s lives (until they were taken away to make parachutes for the war, which later caused riots when they were available again in shops!). Life during wartime is difficult, and the silhouette from this era was sharp and low-key— with broad, padded shoulders, knee length skirts, simply cut blouses and low heels. Many women had to look to men’s clothing to alter for themselves. Thus came the Eisenhower jacket, which was a men’s coat, altered at the shoulders and side seams and tightly belted at the waist. Because Americans couldn’t import European fashions at this time, Americans began looking to their compatriots for their wardrobes. Pompadour hairstyles were very popular, and many women wore pearls.

1950s America created the picture perfect (and perky chested) image of domesticity in magazine and television ad campaigns. Waists were high and nipped, skirts were full and made from yards of fabric. Dior’s “New Look” of rounded, soft shoulders and spiked heels took the world by storm. Coco Chanel, who made a comeback after WWII, invented the Chanel Suit (which is still being walked down the Paris runways each season) in 1954. Figures like Jackie-O who donned the look so well, inspired many women to dress in this fashion. Long, tightly fitted pants were also in the picture, as well as long jumpers, floral fabrics, fitted tops, white blouses, and of course— stilettos.

Which is your favorite era?

Try these patterns to recreate your own look: 1. Channel the 20s in a one shoulder dress made from a slinky metallic knit 2. Go for glamour and try this 30s inspired ruched waist dress 3. Relive the 40s in a cropped jacket and a sleek pencil skirt 4. Look like you’re straight out of the 50s in this fitted bustier top and go all Mad Men by pairing it with voluminous A-line skirt.


  • Missing

    Mar 1, 2011, 04.52 PMby kleger85

    i love the elements in all the era’s.. i esecially like the way the line of a woman was dressed in the 30’s

  • Mzl_ljixuoxi_320x480-75_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 04.32 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    I think I have the figure for 1950s garments but I like 1940s and 1930s clothes the best.

  • 5196510037_0646d0f80e_o_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 03.09 PMby kelepso

    I’d have to say the 20’s.

  • Missing

    Mar 1, 2011, 02.10 PMby plookiss

    I’ve always preferred the look of the 1950’s and still do.

  • Missing

    Mar 1, 2011, 02.09 PMby rizzo1

    I do so love the twenties. It was such a charming and optimistic and innovative period where everything was being rethought including womens fashion. Unfortunately the style is not flattering on me at all. For while I do have a flat chest, my hips are quite womanly. I wonder how girls in the twenties got around that problem – they can not all have been waifs, right? Does anybody have any suggestion how to modify the flapper style to a more, ahem, pear-shaped figure?

    1 Reply
    • Letterbicon_large

      Mar 1, 2011, 03.05 PMby burdastyle

      Flapper dresses had that dropped waist, which lands at the hips. I find this cut unflattering too. I would all together eliminate the waistline and make a shift dress in a metallic fabric. The pattern above (#1) has a nice high waistline which works well for hips too. I think you can achieve the 20s in how you style yourself too: i.e. headband, side part swept over your forehead, tassels, beading, sequins, etc.

  • Img_3462_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 10.35 AMby ladyshape

    That is like trying to chose your favourite child.

  • C360_2013-07-09-19-57-47-392-1_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 10.02 AMby popbabe7

    I love them all!!

  • Naburdaprofil_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 09.54 AMby janul

    I love the 20s, definitelly! I think it´s so pretty and flattering. But I´m probably the only one who doesen´t like the 50s… I think this style looks bad on most women and makes them look older (I´m such a heretic! :)

    1 Reply
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Mar 1, 2011, 03.20 PMby alisondahl

      I was thinking while I was posting this blog that people who were in their prime in the 50s probably had parents or grandparents who were in their prime in the 20s.
      The 20s silhouette was extremely progressive for it’s time (and a feminist movement was taking place), the 50s silhouette on the other hand seems to have taken women back in time to restricting corsets and more uncomfortable clothes.
      What I wonder is: Did the people donning the 50s style think that fashion from the 20s was too progressive? Too modern? Too feminist? Too “hippy”?

  • Peko_chan_classic_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 09.52 AMby happytomodachi

    Love the dresses you that are posted for the 30s. Love the formal wear from then. I love the 50s for the lines and cuts of outfits. I do very much like the 60s…and yes, the free flowing 70s!

  • Small_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 08.54 AMby marrrija

    I love the 1940s style. You’ve put some great pictures there.. ‘40 were so.. feminine, but also very ergonomic. That’s my favorite fashion: simple, but nice! :)

    1 Reply
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Mar 1, 2011, 03.34 PMby alisondahl

      I fell for the women’s suit the other night when watching the film “Desk Set” starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. They work in TV at Rockefeller Center (where the BurdaStyle team works) and I loved all of the costumes so much. The film came out in ’57 but the working girls outfits looked really straight out of the 40s!

  • Holliebell_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 08.49 AMby freakusbzzz

    I love the twentis but the styles would definitely not suit my body type.

  • Buttons_buttons_buttons_by_ink_beneath_my_skin_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 08.12 AMby helle04

    The 50’s definately. Full skirts, fitted bodices and cute girl-next-door.

  • Dscn5250_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 07.26 AMby mixtlii

    It has always been and will always be the 50s for me. It’s just so cute! Although I really like the dresses you put on for the 40s…

  • 7dddc9613ac57079351f8a4d299e9aece5cf3908_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 07.26 AMby peaudane

    In the 20s, women banded their bosom, which couldn’t have been very liberating! I love the 30’s and the 70s, which to me are an extension of the 30s. But I don’t think the pattern you chose is a very good representation of the 30s.

  • Meee_and_kelseeey_bmp_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 06.52 AMby Kelsey Edwards

    the 20s was, without a doubt, an iconic turn in fashion history with coco chanel’s passion and vision. but i have to say that the 50s is, hands down, ‘my’ fashion era. i love the pretty, flattering cuts and cute dresses! and it suits my body shape as my bum is a bit bigger than my boobs! (:

  • Bub_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 06.50 AMby baka-pepica

    I love mixing that styles :D

  • Flo03_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 05.31 AMby agirlnamedflo

    I don’t know? I love the 20’s because of Coco Chanel and all of those rowdy women:) Then again, I also love a 40’s party dress and a 50’s daytime house dress. What’s a girl to do!

  • P1010585_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 05.23 AMby lennert

    Without a doubt the 1920’s. I think the fashion looked so delicate and feminine. I love flapper dresses and the frilly things that come with it. Louise brooks has always been a huge inspiration….

  • Singer_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 03.44 AMby HollyGoltly

    I love them all, but I’m a 1940s girl at heart. I’ve got curves and nothing accentuates that like 40s fashion. Millions of soldiers can’t be wrong.

    3 Replies
    • Dahlnyc_1352392376_600_large

      Mar 1, 2011, 10.04 PMby alisondahl

      Haha! Good point!

    • Img_4404_large

      Mar 2, 2011, 09.49 AMby nikotina

      Oh, but they can, and usually are.

    • Singer_large

      Mar 10, 2011, 09.44 PMby HollyGoltly

      True – one of them should have created video chat back then instead of looking at the big ol girl Betty Grable.

  • Aabfd023f086c732fa12732aac63a3aa797f4f56_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 03.39 AMby gaidig

    I tend to be a bit of a mash-up with 20’s or 30’s style hair and more 50’s style dresses. And I love hats.

  • Missing

    Mar 1, 2011, 03.08 AMby momob

    50s, all the way! Not so constructed, but very feminine and so Sandra Dee cute. Not glam, but girl next door. Wholesome. Healthy. Smart.

  • Dsci0410_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 02.39 AMby momsgotanewhobby

    I’m buxom, so if I were dressing myself I would have to say between the 40’s and 50’s. My absolute fave for formals come from the 20’s and 30’s

  • Crystal_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 02.21 AMby Crystal Henson

    The 40’s fit my body type better, but I think it’s a tie between the 40’s and the 50’s.

  • 3044175_l_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 02.17 AMby olystyrene

    The styles of all of those eras were incredible. I think my personal favourites would be the 30’s and 40’s though – the couture designers of the 30’s and 40’s were remarkably creative and paved the way for fashion of future decades!

  • 55139_10150116983919745_813899744_7497939_1500221_o_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 02.16 AMby cweeks

    I LOVE the 20’s and 30’s but those styles do not work on me AT ALL. I have to go with the 40s and 50s because I have a more hour glass figure. However I always like to add some modern flair. If you wear too much from one era you look like you have on a costume.

  • Dscf0672_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 01.13 AMby artemis-ivorywings

    20s has always been my style, with a little 30s thrown in for good measure. 20s has suited me well, due to my personality and build. :)

  • Burdastyle_profile_large

    Mar 1, 2011, 12.01 AMby junaluska

    Such a tough question! Historically and culturally speaking, I love the 20s, 30s, AND 40s. I also love them for their fashion. The sequins and fringe of the 20s, the dresses of the 30s, the double breasted 40s coats… the HATS… ah, I can’t choose!

    But sorry, 50s, I’m not too fond of you. Except for the Marilyn Monroe dress.

    • This is a question
  1. Sign in to add a post


  • Editors' Pick
  • Pattern Collections
  • BurdaStyle Academy
  • Burda Challenge
  • Backstage Report
  • Fashion & Trends
  • DIY to Try
  • Tips & Techniques
  • Member Highlights
  • Sewing Projects
  • Outta Town
  • Contests & Competitions
  • Archive
  • Guest Columns
  • Videos
  • Meg's Magazine Mash Up
  • As Seen In
  • Podcast
  • Holiday