Flappers of the 1920’s


Flappers of the 1920’s

Imagine being a flapper in the 1920’s. Disobeying parents, breaking new boundaries with flapper fashion and attending late night parties surrounded by the thick cigarette smoke hearing the loud jazz music. Witnessing the shiny pearl necklaces cascading down the other flappers’ necks and hearing the click of their heels against the ground as they dance. The thoughts of sneaking out tonight and worrying about getting caught by parents but ignoring those ideas for the time being and focusing on the crazy untamed melody of the saxophone.

Also being able to partake in sports such as golf, rollerblading and cycling, out enjoying the fresh air and getting exercise, feeling the sun beat down and hearing the cries of people around you laughing and joking. The 1920’s was an era of scandalous and even illegal events including the bootlegging and speakeasies due to the prohibition act. Talking media and the Model-T were also invented. But for many, the first thing that comes to mind is the swinging jazz music and the risque women known as flappers.

These flappers challenged the traditional roles of women in society and personal liberty, along with freedom, were important elements of flapper thought. They were young rebellious women who shifted from the traditional outlook amongst their gender and decided to revolt, causing them to cut their hair, wear revealing clothing, smoke cigarettes and take part in sports. All of these new ideas and such tested the boundaries with these kids’ parents. The jazz age transformed the modern women in many ways that can either be looked at in a positive light, or a negative light.

Overall, the twenties revolutionized young women for the most part, fashion sense and music. In the 1920’s, young people in general began acting out and attempting to test the bounds they could stretch their behavior to with parents, leading to more outrageous forms of behavior. They listened to wilder music, drove faster cars and the women wore shorter skirts earning this era the name, The Jazz Age. In Walter Fabian’s book, Flaming Youth, he states, “Women were portrayed as saucy, outspoken bombshells with short skirts, shorter hair and plenty of ‘It’.

It’ was nothing more than sex appeal – something women were not supposed to exhibit” (The Jazz Age 1). This type of woman was looked at as the “bad girl” or “rebel” that the older generation tended to look down upon. According to Mary Morris’ Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, “In America, a flapper has always been a giddy, attractive and slightly unconventional young thing who, in [H. L. ] Mencken’s words, ‘was a somewhat foolish girl, full of wild surmises and inclined to revolt against the precepts and admonitions of her elders’” (Flappers in the Roaring Twenties 2).

To the young women of this time, their so-called, outrageous acts and overall stance on many subjects was looked down upon by their elders who thought it was a foolish way to express oneself. Charles Dana Gibson’s drawings inspired this new fashion era. “The Gibson Girl wore her long hair loosely on top of her head and wore a long straight skirt and a shirt with a high collar. She was feminine but also broke through several gender barriers for her attire allowed her to participate in sports, including golf, roller skating and bicycling” (Flappers in the Roaring Twenties 1).

Gibson’s drawings transposed the original dress of women who thought they had to wear clothing that covered every inch of their body, but when he came out with his works, a new breed of women was born. Mentioned once before, the clothing worn in the 1920’s was a drastic change to traditional attire and a key accessory to the flapper style. Research states, “The slender flat-chested tanned body and face of a fifteen year old became the desired silhouette of the bright young things in the 1920’s. Health and beauty clubs helped women refine their silhouettes whilst getting fitter and healthier” (Flapper Fashion 1920’s 2).

The goal was to attain a young boyish and healthy, thin look, which was probably a good thing considering the women exercised and stayed physically fit. Gabrielle Chanel was a fashion designer that reflected the 1920’s flapper style. “The great fashion designer Gabrielle Chanel 1883-1971 self styled herself to be known as Coco Chanel. By 1920 the silhouette of her clothing designs have come to be the epitome of the twenties style. The work of other famous designers beside her seemed old fashioned and outmoded belonging as they did to the pre World War One era” (Flapper Fashion 1920’s 3).

This style certainly promoted the flapper look and was a potent key aspect their fashion. According to Chanel unisex styles were now going to be intermixed with the world. “Chanel had introduced the world to the jumper and it was worn by both men and woman. Knitted garments for men really took off in the twenties and women eagerly wore the same knots too. Fair Isle patterns became very popular for both sexes” (Flapper Fashion 1920’s 4). Obviously, the little boy look was in for women of the time, so unisex clothing was the obvious next stage in style for that time.

Jazz had originated in the New Orleans and spread throughout the country within a few decades and is the primary music that flappers and young adults listened to in the twenties. Research states, “The musical forms that most impacted the 1920 and 20’s were ragtime, blues and jazz which rose from the African American community” (The Jazz Age 2). The crazy swinging and random melodic tune of the saxophone, which was the primary instrument, was a very different form of music that people were used to or familiar with.

According to researchers, “Unlike other popular music of the day, jazz was considered an evil influence on America’s young people” (The Jazz Age 2). This biased opinion led to accusations that this music was the issue for drunkenness, deafness and an increase in unwed mothers. Contrary to popular belief, it is proven that, “Despite the popularity of the new dances, many people still favored the old standbys: the waltz, polka, two-step, schottische and reel” (The Jazz Age 3). This caused musical artists to have diverse music so their music could span out throughout all ages and made music slightly more diverse.

The flappers of the 1920’s have influenced today’s day and age in more ways than one. Flapper fashion made expression and individuality an important element in fulfilling life. Women desired liberty and believed they had a right to choose their clothes, music choice, simple everyday decisions and ultimately, their destiny. Their clothing choice has affected today’s style by Chanel’s modern, stripped down dresses, loose waistline and rising hemline. As for the crazy jazz music, it began a type of music that today might better be known as R&B. This type of music may be more well known, or suited, for today’s young adults.

The 1920’s was an age obscene jazz music and the crude women known as flappers who were young anarchistic women who shifted from the traditional outlook of women, causing them to cut their hair, wear revealing clothing, listen to jazz and take part in sports. All of these new ideas and such tested the boundaries with these kids’ parents. The jazz age altered the latter-day women in many ways that can either have a productive outlook, or an antagonistic outlook. Overall, the twenties revolutionized young women in a variety of ways that included these different concepts.

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