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Content warning: mentions of alcohol, smoking, and sex.

Flappers were young Western women in the 1920s who embraced a free lifestyle. They were known for their short skirts (here meaning knee-length) and shoulder-length hair. They also listened to jazz. Smoking, drinking, driving automobiles, and casual sex were another part of Flappers. Essentially, Flappers made their disdain for socially-acceptable female behavior known.

History

Flappers came out of the increasing freedoms throughout the 1910s. Due to large numbers of men fighting in WWI, a significant number of women entered the workforce, exposing them to freedoms that many wanted to keep. Women's freedoms were further expanded with the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving them the right to vote. Improvements in birth control also contributed to the growing freedoms of women.[1]

Then the men came back from war. As Frederick Lewis Allen says in Only Yesterday, "(Women) 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."[2]

Fashion

In summary, flappers defied the previous norms by wearing short(er) skirts, makeup, and having short hair.

Examples of flapper clothing include:

  • Straight, up-and-down, knee-length or above, shift dresses, with no cleavage showing
    • For day: Heavy wool and tweed
    • For night: Fur, velvet, quilted satin, shimmering/shiny textured silk/rayon
  • Highly visible, sheer, light-colored silk/rayon stockings fastened just above the knee with lace-adorned garters
  • 2-3 inch Mary Jane heels with button fastenings in black, gold, silver, or nude
  • Colossal sparkly chandelier-style earrings
  • Cigarette holders
  • Hair cut in a shingle bob cut with bangs or a pixie cut
  • Close-fitting, pulled-down bell-shaped cloche hats to keep hair in place
  • Bar arms with bangles layered up each arm
  • Long ropes of pearls or glass beads
  • Close-fitting beaded caps
  • Toques with gigantic fake flowers or beaded motifs attached
  • Narrow, sparkly scarves worn cravat-style or around the head, secured at the side
  • Shawl-collar, wraparound coats
  • Velvet/fur opera coats
  • Fox/mink stoles complete with heads and eyes attached
    • Feather boa is an acceptable substitute if you are ill at ease with wearing fur
  • Small beaded bags
  • Horn-rimmed glasses
  • Kohl rimmed eyes, dark crimson cupid's bow lips, and bright cheeks with bright red blush

Key Designers

  • Coco Chanel - knitwear
  • Jeanne Lanvin
  • Edward Molyneux
  • Jean Patou - important for knit swimwear and women's sportswear
  • Paul Poiret
  • Elsa Schiaparelli - knitwear
  • Callot Soeurs
  • Madeleine Vionnet - designs naturally emphasized shape of woman's body

Activities

1920s_dances_featuring_the_Charleston,_the_Peabody,_Turkey_Trot_and_more

1920s dances featuring the Charleston, the Peabody, Turkey Trot and more

This is a list of activities commonly associated with Flappers.

  • Dancing
    • The Charleston, Black Bottom, and Shimmy were popular.[3]
  • Drinking
  • Driving cars
  • Sex
  • Smoking

Locations

This is a list of general places where Flappers went.[4]

  • Jazz clubs
  • Speakeasies
  • Vaudeville shows

Notable Figures

  • Clara Bow
  • Louise Brooks
  • Josephine Baker
  • Colleen Moore
  • Gilda Gray
  • Zelda Fitzgerald
  • Dianna Cooper
  • Nancy Cunard
  • Tamara de Lempicka
  • Tallulah Bankhead

Media

Books

Fiction

  • This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (as well as many of his other books)
  • Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald
  • The Forgotten Flapper: A Novel of Olive Thomas by Laini Giles
  • Flappers (series) by Jillian Larkin
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes by Anita Loo
  • The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Nonfiction

  • Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation by Judith Mackrell
  • Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern by Joshua Zeitz

Other

  • Flapper (magazine; 1922)

Movies

  • Chicago (2002)
  • Flaming Youth (1923)
  • It (1927)
  • Pandora's Box (1928)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
  • The Great Gatsby (2013)

Pinterest

Music

Flappers were known for listening to jazz.

Musicians

  • Louis Armstrong
  • Bix Beiderbecke
  • Duke Ellington
  • Earl Hines
  • Jelly Roll Morton
  • King Oliver
  • Kid Ory
  • Paul Whiteman

Songs/Pieces

Playlists

Gallery

Resources

  • https://www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/flappers
  • https://www.thoughtco.com/flappers-in-the-roaring-twenties-1779240
  • https://www.thoughtco.com/flappers-in-the-roaring-twenties-1779240
  • https://www.ushistory.org/us/46d.asp