In the United States, the 1920s were, above all, a decade of profound cultural change. From new technologies to new moral standards, nearly every aspect of people’s lives were transformed in this period. As the automobile became more and more popular, American society reflected the demands of this new invention. Entire industries emerged to build the infrastructure for our new, car-focused society; from service stations to motels to drive-in restaurants, people’s lives and actions reflected their mobility more than ever.
Morality also changed in this decade, particularly in the younger generation, and especially among women. Everything from dress to appearance to behavior changed dramatically, reflecting the “new morality” and the “new woman” of the era. Gone were the cumbersome, multi-layered dresses with their accompanying gloves and corsets; the fashion now included strappy, beaded dresses that dropped just below the knee and showed not even a hint of a feminine form. Makeup was darker and more seductive; behavior in public went from soft and reserved to open and free, including drinking and smoking in public, as well as dancing closely – and some might say lewdly – with anyone and everyone.
Economically, the 1920s was a decade of prosperity, or at least it seemed that way on the surface. In actuality, more and more Americans were living above their means, using lines of credit and installment plans to live a life marked by consumerism and creature comforts. Some would go so far as to use credit to invest in the stock market, something that would artificially inflate prices and contribute significantly to pushing the nation over the economic precipice that led directly to the Great Depression. All the raucous, jubilant elements of the 1920s came crashing down and the decade ended with America beginning her journey into one of the darkest times our nation had ever known.