Flappers

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Flappers: The ‘new breed’ of young women to the 20th century : 

Flappers: The ‘new breed’ of young women to the 20th century Made by Gabby Martin

Why is “Flapper” a historical 20th century term? : 

Why is “Flapper” a historical 20th century term? The word Flapper comes from the word and the image of the movie “The Flapper” which starred Olive Thomas, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Colleen Moore, and Joan Crawford. These ladies would also be considered the earliest flappers of their time. Prohibition, a strict law against any sale or consumption of alcohol, brought the attention of the Flappers. Testing the waters and defying federal law were something these ladies exercised freely. They drank as they pleased and broke as many laws as they felt comfortable breaking. Their “peculiar” characteristics were unfamiliar to the many generations of women who had been docile and obedient to the household. There was immediate attention brought to their unique attitude. These women set the wild atmosphere for the 1920s and are a contributing factor to women’s rights.

The Flapper & the Jazz Age : 

The Flapper & the Jazz Age Above is the movie poster which first introduced the Flapper to American society. This poster shows Olive Thomas dressed as a Flapper. This movie alarmed the public due to the female’s poor attitude towards older generations of women. Note how the poster says “your gateway to the roaring twenties.” Also because of the Jazz Age, the 1920s is characterized as roaring thanks to the “booming good days.” The Jazz Age set the music for the Flappers to dance to. The new music allowed the Flappers to get crazy with the new wave of songs. Characterized by fast moving hot jazz fuzz and the use of new instruments and the new combinations of old ones. This type of music gave the Flapper something to dance to. And of course, the Flappers were known for their dangerous dancing.

Why so rebellious? : 

Why so rebellious? In history, it’s important to study the cause and effect of an event. With Flappers, little is known regarding the reasons for their prominence, or cause. While movies depicted their style and advertised their purpose it was the Gibson Girls who gave Flappers direction. The Gibson Girls were the rebellious women who gained popularity in the 1880s to the early 1900s. These women dressed in sophistication and held an attitude of confidence to induce envy over anyone who knew them. These girls represented the belief that they could always find a solution to a problem. “Remote, yet accessible” is the best way to characterize these ladies. The typical Gibson Girl, 1880s Speakeasies also exaggerated their rebellious persona. These rowdy ladies were known for their attraction to bootleggers (which were typically found in speakeasies). A speakeasy was once a bar but was operating illegally due to the Brooks High License Act. Under this act, bars were mandated to pay for a saloon license 10 times more expensive than ever before. Bootleggers would sell liquor out of these illegal bars while the rebellious atmosphere intensified with the crazy dances Flappers pioneered.

Speakeasies & Bootleggers : 

Speakeasies & Bootleggers Left demonstrates speakeasies as a hotspot for illegal behavior. Right is Flapper dancing in a Speakeasy. Below is a typical Speakeasy dance floor.

Development in American Culture : 

Development in American Culture Somewhat because of World War I, Flappers were able to freely express themselves without much repression. World War I opened opportunity for women to work while men fought overseas. Trench warfare indirectly changed our society as large numbers were slaughtered and American Culture grew mortified with loss. It wasn’t long before Americans became more apathetic towards morals. Not only did this give Flappers the leeway to express themselves radically, it also inspired many new ideas which are considered modern to America presently. When the man returned from overseas women were pushed into unemployment. Bored and agitated with the grief of war, many assimilated into flappers—partying their young life away among the masses. There was no hope in returning to normalcy. Americans had fallen too far out of their Social Structure and the Flapper population was increasing rapidly from year to year. Frederick Lewis Allen wrote “they found themselves expected to settle down into the humdrum routine of American life as if nothing had happened, to accept the moral dicta of elders who seemed to them still to be living in a Pollyanna land of rosy ideals which the war had killed for them. They couldn't do it, and they very disrespectfully said so.” in his novel about the 1920s. America was growing up.

How did we get ourselves here? : 

How did we get ourselves here? Women working in a factory during World War I A poster encouraging male employment in the navy. World War I. This picture is a fine example of the Flapper’s unique characteristics. Note the cigarette holder and bold posture which was unfamiliar to the many generations of shy housewives.

Pretty lady, what’s your name? (Characteristics) : 

Pretty lady, what’s your name? (Characteristics) Flappers shocked their Gibson Girl mothers as they drunk and smoked—something the Gibson Girls were strongly against. Aside from the Gibson Girl, the Flappers also favored the single life. These ladies typically shied away from marriage and the world of spinsterhood. Also against the Gibson Girl, Flappers wore make up and bobbed their hair in unique styles which exhibited difference and individualism. The Flappers dressed in ways which were groundbreaking to fashion. Their style had never been approached—let alone thought of—by anyone. The flappers originated their own dance techniques which expanded theatre and entertainment arts. Flappers had their own unique slang which cultivated the 20s and expanded the English language in America. It was very hard for America to accept the women speaking slang after the promising role model the women always set for America’s future generations. Defied any authority. Bold enough to drive Ford cars without any prior permission or driving education.

Pretty lady, what do you do? (Characteristics continued) : 

Pretty lady, what do you do? (Characteristics continued) Displaying low esteem in marriage, this Flapper sits with her girlfriend as a lesbian couple in a speakeasy. (Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle by Brassi in 1932) The Flapper was strongly despised by their Gibson Girl mothers for drinking and smoking. Often Gibson Girls felt Flappers were “incompetent”—as seen above. A typical Flapper in an American home during the 1920s. Flappers were pioneers in new dance styles which revolutionized theatre arts.

May I have a word with you? : 

May I have a word with you? The flappers had no fear in trying new things and exploring new ideas. It’s no surprise that slang became apart of their everyday vocabulary. Some of this slang included: Snugglepup- a man who frequents petting parties Barney-mugging- sexy “…ask a man about a dog”- going to buy whiskey Handcuff, manacle- engagement/wedding ring Bimbo- a tough guy Butt me- I’ll take a cigarette Bird- to describe a man or a women, usually as odd Don’t take any wooden nickels- don’t do anything dumb It- sex appeal You slay me- that’s funny “That’s so Jake”, “that’s the bee’s knees”, and “the cat’s pyjamas” were used to express approval.

Dress Attire of the Flapper : 

Dress Attire of the Flapper The Abdomen After the Jazz Age encouraged wild dancing, corsets became obsolete due to their limited mobility. The Flapper wore no corset and virtually no bra. Instead, they wore “step ins” which offered very little support and flattened the flapper’s chest—much to the envy of many other women. The Legs The stockings of the Flapper were made out of Rayon and were rolled over with a garter belt. Shoes were represented diversely from high heels to a completely flat slipper looking shoe shown here. The Lower Body The skirt was famously known for it’s short length. Skirts worn by Flappers ended at the knee and promised a view of the leg after a Flapper passed. The flapper’s fashion was influenced by French fashion and some Gibson Girl attire. Flappers were “young and boyish: short hair, flattened breasts, and straight waists” were all the characteristics essential to Flapper fashion. A women who commented on 20s flapper fashion said that “a thin little flapper of a girl donning a skirt in which she can hardly take a step, extinguishing all but her little white teeth with a dumpy bucket of a hat, and tripping down Fifth Avenue.” The Flappers also wore make up and bobbed their hair like boys.

Flapper dancing : 

Flapper dancing The Flapper daringly practiced new methods of dance. Three of these dances fell into the fast paced roaring twenties so fast that they are still remote in our culture today. The Charleston- quickly moving arms with kicking feet. With the heels outward the knees bend to the music. This dance is important as it allowed for individual creativity as it let the dancer interpret the song. Black Bottom- slide back, move left, move right, hands on hips, swing your hips around, “break a leg until you’re near the ground” This song had many similiarities with the Charleston. The Shimmy- a dance move which alternates the shoulders back and forth while the body stays still. Two young Flappers dancing on the roof of a building in New York City.

What nerve! : 

What nerve! Note the short hair, make up, pearls, and dress. All of this offended the Gibson Girls since they opposed the bobbed hair and make up. Gibson Girls, on the contrary of the Flappers, enjoyed their long hair and natural beauty. The Gibson Girls were astonished women could be that bold. Flappers were bold enough to take control of a vehicle. It was almost bizarre for a women to put herself behind the wheel of a car due to the awkward role change and gender identity swap. However, this did not stop the Flappers. She did what she did when she pleased, and she drove whenever she felt like doing so. Just like the car, flappers were risky and fast. They gave little time to make decisions.

What Critics Say : 

What Critics Say F. Scott Fitzergerald (known famously for the Great Gatsby) wrote about the 1920s but often gave specific attention to flappers. Described a flapper as “lovely, expensive, and all about nineteen.” John Held, Jr (known for making famous political cartoons) depicted the style and intent of the Flapper. Held drew Flappers wearing their unbuckled galoshes which would make a flapping sound while she walked. In the Dictionary of Word and Phase Origins, the Flapper is used to describe a “unconventionally attractive foolish girl which upheld an image and attitude.”

The End : 

The End The ending is inevitable and though it’s very unfortunate it’s something we all must accept. The flappers also met their end abruptly during the early years of the Great Depression. After the stock market crash, flappers lost their wild feet to the abyss of debt. It’s no surprise that they fell apart due to the economic hardships. Like a hangover after a party, Flapper lifestyle disappeared as America was hung over with mistake and regret. There was simply no way the cheerfulness of the Flapper could survive. Instead America grew more conservative as they saw an increase in religious revival. Flapper fashion, cosmetology, and style were eradicated but Flapper spirit carried on to the generation. Though America would never again see such outspoken ladies, they would be influenced by the Flappers again and again.

… or not : 

… or not As strange as it may seem, there is something we will always share with flappers. Vocabulary is a big one. Much of American language today still exhibits many slang terms Flappers used during the 1920s. Some of these modern terms are: “big cheese” (important person) “to bump off” (murder) “baloney” (nonsense) “Beef” (complaints) “beat it” (get lost) “beeswax” (business) “baby” (sweetheart) “attaboy” (well done) “cat’s meow” (splendid) “crush” (infatuation) “double cross” (cheat) “Daddy” (a rich boyfriend/lover) “dough” (money) “Gold Digger” (a women who marries for wealth) “joint” (establishment) “nifty” (great, excellent) “sap” (a fool) “spiffy” (an elegant appearance)

Flappers gave women a boost : 

Flappers gave women a boost The flapper not only expanded vocabulary but the fashion world. More and more women were beginning to dress less formal and more to their liking. Future generations became fearless towards pioneering new styles and wearing different styles. In fact, Flappers were a milestone in women individualism. Although they did not campaign for any liberty, they exhibited enough spunk and individuality to speak for itself. The following generations of women were exposed to the work force as the depression ended and World War II started. These factors and a little more gave the women an extra boost to fight for their rights. If it was not for the flapper manifesting themselves into American culture women may never experienced any extreme independence. Cosmetology expanded. More women were using beauty treatments and wearing make up at their own leisure. As a result of their experimentation, down the road cosmetology became more of an accepted career option. Since the Flapper had a broken relationship with men, it was no surprise to a close relationship with women (immediate result). Not only did this strengthen communication but lesbian relationships (a long term result) were less of a surprise to American society.

There’s a little Flapper in all of us : 

There’s a little Flapper in all of us Since television was just being developed in the 1920s many Americans turned to newspapers, radios, and books for their entertainment. The Flapper was an essential voice in the 1920s and therefore was prominent throughout each one. By playing such a strong role in American entertainment, she left her mark on America as America left their mark on her. In nearly all pieces of 1920 literature a flapper is involved wherever there is a lady. This statement speaks for itself, but not the effect this had on the American people. The depiction of the flapper in literature attracted the interest of the average individual. Envy, empathy, whatever it was, caused more and more females to become flappers. More interestingly is the power the Flapper had in film. In nearly any film taking the setting of 1920 America had a Flapper. The girls were also becoming more prominent in theatre as more and more scripts were being made after them. This had a lasting impression on the American society. Since Flappers were virtually everywhere, they manifested themselves as a permanent piece of our culture. Their spirit has been carried in every generation and expanded the definition of American attitude.

Flappers today : 

Flappers today It’s not unusual to see a lady to dress up as a Flapper today. There are many websites which allow consumers to purchase Flapper costumes. Surprisingly there is a large variety of dresses to choose from. Websites today offer advice or tips to be more “flapper-like.” Though Flappers were nearly a hundred years ago, there are still small opportunities to express the style. A lot of teenagers and adults exhibit behavior similar to flappers. Female individualism and independence is still a familiar trait to both flapper and adult/teenager alike. This spunk which females exhibit is always being defended as women gender roles are challenged everyday.

Modern Flappers : 

Modern Flappers A teenage flapper, c. 2007. Celebrity Rachel Zoe dressed in designer clothes inspired by Flapper styles. (2007) This modern book by Joshua Zeitz recaps the Flappers who made America modern

Always give credit where credit is due : 

Always give credit where credit is due Slide 1- picture courtesy of grassrootsmotorsports.com Slide 2- wikipedia.org, about.com Slide 3- picture 1 courtesy of flapperjane.com, picture 2 courtesy of silentsaregolden.com. Info researched trailend.org/dow-jazzge.htm, wikipedia.org Slide 4- about.com, eyewitnesstohistory.com, picture courtesy of brandonwalsh.wordpress.com Slide 5- pic 1 courtesy of wonkette.com, pic 2 stopthedrugwar.org, pic 3 mavericktheater.com Slide 6- about.com Slide 7- pic 1 zazzle.com, pic 2 saddoboxing.com, pic 3 parkhillflats.co.uk. Info about.com Slide 8- about.com, wikipedia.org Slide 9- pic 1 flickr.com, pic 2 ???, pic 3 classes.berklee.edu Slide 10- http://local.aaca.org/bntc/slang/slang.htm, wikipedia.org Slide 11- about.com, wikipedia.org, pic courtesy of tomandrodna.com Slide 12- pic pastreunited.com, info wikipedia.org, wisegeek.com Slide 13- pic 1 angiegoboom.com, pic 2 wikis.nyu.edu, pic 3 rootsweb.ancestry.com, info about.com Slide 14- info about.com, wikipedia.org, pics from google Slide 15- wikipedia.org Slide 16- wikipedia.org, local.aaca.org Slide 17- associatedcontent.com, pic www.websters-online-dictionary.org/ Slide 18- psfk.com Slide 19- pic & info lingerieandcostumeco.com, info wikihow.com pic my own, pic parisapartment.files.wordpress.com, pic www.thedrakehotel.ca Slide 20- pic 1 dallasvintageshop.com, pic 2 about.com, pic 3 americanheritage.com Slide backgrounds courtesy of http://www.fashion-era.com/flapper_fashion_1920s.htm

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