1920's Flappers Fashion and Lifestyle of the Flappers of the Roaring Twenties
Who were the flappers, what kind of fashions did they wear, what was their lifestyle...all answered in this brief history of the flappers.
The American graphic artist, Charles Dana Gibson (1867 - 1944), created one of the first pin-up girls with his series of illustrations of "The Gibson Girl". This independent woman became the role model of the 1920's woman and was featured in many an art deco painting. Even before the World War I, there was a movement afoot in which women were exerting more independence. These strongly independent women were dubbed "flappers" as early as 1912 in a British coinage that came from the comparison of these women with fledgling birds leaving the nest.
With the onset of the First World War, women took on roles that had previously been the preserve of men. The euphoria and sense of freedom that came with the end of the war in 1918 provided fertile soil for the new-found independent spirit of women to flourish and resist any demands to return to the kitchen.
1920's Flapper Fashion
1920s fashion for women was characterized by the fashions worn by the flappers. Flapper fashion was an androgynous style of dress that made the flapper woman look young and boyish. Flapper hairstyles started out with the short "bob" and eventually progressed to the even shorter "Eaton" or "shingle" in which the hair was slicked down and curled around to cover the ears. The bust was flattened with tightly wound cloth, and flapper dresses were straight and loose, often leaving the arms bare and with the waistline slung low. As the Roaring Twenties progressed, the hemline rose to the knee, and by the end of the decade knees were being exposed as the flapper spun herself around the dance floor to the jazz of the Twenties in the scandalous dance styles of the Charleston, the Shimmy, and the Black Bottom. To top it all off, the flappers took to wearing makeup, which up to this time, had only been worn by actresses and prostitutes!
Flapper women were not only known for their 1920's fashions, but also their behavior, characterized by the extent to which it "pushed the envelope" of what was acceptable and "lady-like". They rode bicycles and drove cars, drank (often in public), smoked cigarettes through long holders, and were sexually liberated, throwing "petting parties", the Roaring Twenties equivalent of the modern sex party. As a further mark of their uniqueness and separateness, the flappers even had their own vocabulary, with expressions such as "snugglepup", being a man who attended a petting party, and "bamey-mugging" a term for having sex.
Despite all the scandal associated with the flappers, eventually even "respectable" women followed their lead, albeit in a less "out-there" manner. Flapper fashion contributed in some way to the liberation of women in that they abandoned the corset and popularized short hair for women. Flapper fashion and style was imitated everywhere, not just by actresses, but even by Betty Boop and Minnie Mouse!
As the Roaring Twenties passed into the 1930s the Great Depression was ushered in and economic hardship brought to an end the care-free and exuberant era of the flapper. But despite the passing of the flapper period with the Depression, throughout the 20th Century, and even still into the 21st, the fashions and spirit of the flappers of the 1920s is instantly recognizable and continues to influence female fashion and behavior .
F. Scott Fitzgerald in his books such as The Great Gatsby, illustrators such as John Held Jr. and screenwriter/playwright Anita Loos gave more impetus to the flapper of the Roaring Twenties, building them up to be enviable and attractive figures for the women of the 1920s to emulate
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