The Prohibition Era has had a lasting impact on American society, but nowhere more so than the impact of Prohibition on women’s rights, freedoms and fashions.
The Mob Museum, in partnership with UNLV, will debut its first fashion-centric exhibition featuring the changing styles of the Prohibition Era. The emergence of speakeasies during Prohibition gave rise to “flappers,” young women who redefined social expectations and tradition through fashion. This special, temporary display will include an array of authentic dresses and accessories from the 1920s and early 1930s, reflecting the different styles that evolved from the era.
Admission to this exhibit is included in regular Museum admission.
The Roaring ’20s were a booming time of more in the world of fashion: More options, more variety, more buying power and more mobility. Innovations in technology and chemistry created a world of synthetic dyes and fibers that revolutionized the use of vivid colors, silks and velvet in mainstream fashion. Materials such as celluloid, an early dye-able plastic, were molded into all manner of shapes and embellished with bright colors. The rise of the automobile put an emphasis on mobility as compacts and purses surged in popularity.
The 1920s saw the demise of the male-oriented saloon and the explosion of illegal “speakeasy” bars and jazz clubs where young women for the first time were seen drinking in public with men. It was the period labeled the Jazz Age or the Roaring ’20s, known for the glamorous, carefree “flapper.” Women, who now had the right to vote, rejected the last vestiges of Victorianism and were free to hold progressive views about fashion, sexuality and the so-called vices.
The unprecedented impact of women on the temperance movement that began in the 19th century led not only to Prohibition but women’s suffrage. Women’s rights activists such as Susan B. Anthony, Amanda Bloomer and Lucy Stone started out in the anti-alcohol movement. That drive no doubt propelled the states, only a year after enacting Prohibition, to pass the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote nationally in 1920.
Photos courtesy of R. Marsh Starks / UNLV Photo Services.