Harlem renaissance fashion was about celebrating life within the African American community. The Harlem Renaissance in general was a celebration of art, poetry and black culture. Harlem renaissance fashion took place during the 1930s at a time when many Americans were cutting back due to the depression which also lends to the uniqueness and monumental feat of the Harlem Renaissance period.
Harlem Renaissance Fashion for Men:
Suits during this period were about color and flashiness. These suits were often made of wool. Suits very much depended on the individual and came in many forms including the popular flare pants suit that was worn by mainstream society. Some coat tails of jackets were usually longer with the front end cut around the waist, similar to the tuxedo. The signature suit of the 1930s for men in the African American men was the zoot suit. Zoot suits were often baggy and were often accessorized with a matching hat, sometimes plumed with a feather. Zoot suits were often frowned upon by mainstream society since many Americans at that time were cutting back on materials and this type of attitude would extend into the next decade during the war effort. Despite this, African American men during this period should be commended for choosing to express their individuality when fashion in general had been toned down in uncertain, economic times.
Harlem Renaissance Fashion For Women:
Harlem Renaissance fashion for women was about loose fitting gowns and dresses that were suitable for dancing and party going. Dresses came without sleeves and the shoulders were bare; this was about being comfortable while out and about around town. Shoulder strap dresses were worn in public that spread far apart, revealing the upper back, neckline and collarbone. Many dresses resembled flapper dresses of the 1920s which was suitable for the lively atmosphere that came with the Harlem renaissance. Beads and rhinestones were popular accessories. Chiffon along with silk was popular garments which complemented dresses and gowns. Heeled shoes were popular as well, often open toed which was also in vogue in mainstream society as well.
Harlem renaissance fashion for both genders was about unshackling the bonds of oppression and celebrating life and literature and this type of attitude extended to fashion. African Americans had not had a chance to make large contributions to American fashion until the Harlem Renaissance period which gave them a chance to make unique contributions to the American fashion scene that would extend to later decades.