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Getting dressed has never truly been a personal thing. What one wears is a public construct, stitched together with values and decorated with democracy. Clothes have been (and always will be) a reflection of a time, a culture, and a moral order. Now, as in the past, we humans clothe our bodies—our public selves—in particular ways and for a variety of reasons: for protection against the elements and to meet our social and religious requirements of modesty, to make ourselves attractive sexually and socially, to display our wealth and position through conspicuous consumption, to support the role we choose to play in life, and to perform the physical movement necessary to work or play. Each day of our lives, as we search through our closets and drawers, we make decisions that, one way or another, reflect our sense of ourselves.

The odds are good, however, that we spend less time examining our reasons for dressing than we spend viewing the results in the mirror. Unless we have a particular interest in history, we are even less likely to ponder clothing worn in the past. Yet clothing is a rich source of intelligence about our history and ourselves. We can look at clothing worn by those who built American culture and better understand the fears, obstacles, and rewards confronted by the human beings whose history we share.

American clothing, notwithstanding the influences of practicality and necessity, manifests the history of American life, an epic story of the making of our country and our civilization. Articles of clothing worn by men, women, and children in the long parade of the American past often reveal much about the people whose lives combined to produce our culture. Clothing evidences directly the hardships and recreation, the vanities and practicalities of the men and women whose lives converged in the development of the United States. Literally, Americans have worn their history on their backs, and it is a dramatic, often poignant history.

Few periods demonstrate with such clarity the way fashions reflect their own times as do the 1920s and 1930s. This site explores the relationship between clothes and the character of America in these decades, showing how the nation's collective identity was bound up in its citizens' closets. Exploring debates over fashion and values, the media's influence on and perpetuation of fashion, and changing dress and changing times, this site examines how fashion was a product of Interwar America and how its citizens wore their "Americanness" on their sleeve.