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Flappers

FLAPPERS

No decade in recent history has seen as much change in the status and style of women as the 1920s, sometimes called the Roaring Twenties or the Era of Wonderful Nonsense. Trendy young women of the 1920s were nicknamed flappers, and the flapper became the image that represented the tremendous change in women's lives and attitudes during that period.

During the early part of the twentieth century women in countries from Australia to Norway were gaining the right to vote, and more and more women were able to support themselves by working at jobs. In addition to women's new freedoms, by the 1920s there were automobiles to drive, films to see, and jazz music to dance to, and modern young women wanted to join in the fun. Young women were no longer content to spend hours binding themselves into burdensome layers of clothing or styling long masses of hair.

The term flapper originated in Great Britain, where there was a short fad among young women to wear rubber galoshes (an overshoe worn in the rain or snow) left open to flap when they walked. The name stuck, and throughout the United States and Europe flapper was the name given to liberated young women. Flappers were bold, confident, and sexy. They tried new fad diets in an effort to achieve a fashionable thinness, because new fashions required slim figures, flat chests, and slim hips. The flapper dress was boxy and hung straight from shoulder to knee, with no waistline, allowing much more freedom of movement than women's fashions before the 1920s. While it did not show breasts or hips, it did show a lot of leg, and the just-below-the-knee length horrified many of the older generation. French fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (18831971) did much to popularize the new freedom of the flapper look.

Flappers also shocked conservatives by cutting their hair short and wearing makeup. Before the 1920s long hair was the mark of a respectable lady, but flappers had no time for elaborate hairdos. They cut, or bobbed, their hair just below the ears and curled it in dozens of tiny spit curls with a new invention called a bobby pin. Some also used electric curling irons to create small waves called "marcels," named after Marcel Grateau (18521936), the French hair stylist who invented them. Cosmetics had long been associated with prostitutes and actresses, but flappers considered it glamorous to wear dark red lipstick, lots of rouge, and thick black lines around their eyes, sometimes made with the burned end of a matchstick. New cosmetics companies including Maybelline and Coty began manufacturing products to help women achieve the new look. For the first time, women began to carry cosmetics with them in handbags wherever they went.

One of the most famous flappers was silent film star Clara Bow (19051965). Sometimes called the "It" girl, Bow was thought to have "it," a quality of open sexuality, innocence, and fun that was the very definition of the flapper. Many women imitated Bow's look by drawing a bow shape on their lips, rimming their eyes in black, and curling their hair onto their cheeks.

Despite the youthful enthusiasm for flapper style, some people felt threatened by it. When hemlines began to rise, several states made laws charging fines to women wearing skirts with hemlines more than three inches above the ankle, and many employers fired women who bobbed their hair. However, in the excitement and gaiety that followed the end of World War I in 1918, the movement toward a freer fashion could not be stopped by those who valued the old ways. It took the stock market crash of 1929 to bring the era of the flapper to a sudden end. Almost overnight, the arrival of an economic depression brought a serious tone to society. Women's hemlines dropped again, and the carefree age of the flapper was over.

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"Flappers." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Flappers." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/flappers

"Flappers." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Retrieved June 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/flappers

Flappers

Flappers


Flappers were modern adolescent girls and young women whose fashion and lifestyle personified the changing attitudes and mores of America and its youths in the 1920s. Magazines, books, and movies depicted the flapper with short, bobbed hair, powdered face, and painted puckered lips, and they dressed her in rolled stockings and scanty, low-waist dresses that emphasized a boyish figure. The flapper drank and smoked like men, and played and worked with men. She exuded an overt sexuality not only with her provocative clothing, but also in her actions: dancing to jazz, flirting with men, and attending petting parties unchaperoned.

The flapper was the subject of a great deal of controversy in public discussion. Many critics found her departure from the fashions and manners of the corseted women who came before her representative of a lapse in morality among the young and of an emerging generation gap. Indeed, the open sexuality and the sexual practices of the flapper generation were divergent from earlier generations: women coming of age in the 1920s were twice as likely to have had premarital sex as their predecessors. At a time when dating, the use of birth control, and frank discussion about sex was on the rise, the flapper became the symbol for the new sexual liberation of women. Portrayed as predominantly urban, independent, career-oriented, and sexually expressive, the flapper was hailed as an example of the New Woman.

Despite these stereotyped images, the flapper was not a revolutionary figure; rather she was an updated version of the traditional model of womanhood. Although she was freer in her sexuality and public conduct among men than her mother, the flapper had no intention of challenging the role of women in society or abandoning the path towards marriage and motherhood. On the contrary, like the rest of the middle-class younger generation that she exemplified, the flapper was conservative in her ultimate values and behavior. As contemporary suffragists and feminists complained, the flapper took up the superficial accoutrements of the emancipated woman, but she did not take up the ballot or the political pursuit for equal rights under the law.

In fact, the flapper and her lifestyle were reflective of mainstream American values and the emerging cult of youth that began to characterize popular culture in the 1920s. She represented the new vitality of a modern era. Advertisers used her image, combining youth and sex, to sell an array of goods, including automobiles, cigarettes, and mouthwash. In addition, although flapper fashion flourished to its fullest extent among the privileged and bohemian few, new innovations in the mass production of clothing made it possible for the fashion to have a wider influence in all of women's dress. Young teenagers could afford to follow fashion and made the style into a trademark among their peers. Even older women exposed to certain elements of flapper style in Sears Roebuck catalogs sported some of that look. While movie actresses like Clara Bow and personalities like Zelda Fitzgerald epitomized the flapper persona and philosophy, the flapper fad prevailed among middle-class youth, infusing its style and manner into mainstream American culture.

See also: Adolescence and Youth; Bobby Soxers; Manners; Teenagers; Youth Culture.

bibliography

Chafe, William H. 1991. The Paradox of Change: American Women in the 20th Century. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fass, Paula S. 1977. The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s. New York: Oxford University Press.

Yellis, Kenneth A. 1969. "Prosperity's Child: Some Thoughts on the Flapper." American Quarterly 21: 4464.

Laura Mihailoff

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Flapper

FLAPPER

FLAPPER. The nickname of the new female urbanites in America during the 1920s, "flapper" literally made reference to the unstrapped buckles of their shoes. While society appealed for "normalcy," the flapper practiced anything but as she sported makeup, a bob hairdo, and a tight-fitting dress to frequent the nightlife offered in the speakeasies of the big cities. Her behavior drew as much attention as her taboo attire, and a defining element of her womanhood became drinking, smoking, and a forward demeanor that included premarital intercourse, as the flapper strove to reshape gender roles in the Roaring Twenties. This entailed an assault on the Gibson Girl, the ideal of femininity in the Gilded Age. Measuring the flapper's success at overturning this convention depends on recognizing that leaders of the burgeoning woman's movement, such as Carrie Chapman Catt and Margaret Sanger, did not consider themselves flappers. This fact highlights the "new woman's" upper-class status more than her pervasiveness in society, and a penchant for comfortable living more than a desire to make a social statement. No matter, the flapper's symbolism outlasted her flare.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Latham, Angela J. Posing a Threat: Flappers, Chorus Girls, and Other Brazen Performers of the American 1920s. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2000.

Matthew J.Flynn

See alsoClothing and Fashion ; and picture (overleaf) .

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flapper

flap·per / ˈflapər/ • n. 1. inf. (in the 1920s) a fashionable young woman intent on enjoying herself and flouting conventional standards of behavior. 2. a thing that flaps, esp. a movable seal inside a toilet tank: flush the tank to make sure that the flapper is not dropping.

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flapper

flapper in the 1920s, a fashionable young woman intent on enjoying herself and flouting conventional standards of behaviour.
Flapper vote a derogatory term for the parliamentary vote granted to women of 21 and over in 1928.

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flapper

flapperclapper, crapper, dapper, flapper, grappa, kappa, knapper, mapper, nappa, napper, rapper, sapper, scrapper, snapper, strapper, tapper, trapper, wrapper, yapper, Zappa •catalpa, scalper •camper, damper, hamper, pamper, scamper, stamper, Tampa, tamper, tramper •Caspar, jasper •handicapper • kidnapper •whippersnapper •carper, harper, scarper, sharper •clasper, gasper, grasper, rasper •leper, pepper, salt-and-pepper •helper, yelper •temper •Vespa, vesper •Culpeper • sidestepper •caper, draper, escaper, gaper, paper, raper, scraper, shaper, taper, vapour (US vapor) •sandpaper • endpaper • flypaper •wallpaper • notepaper • newspaper •skyscraper •Arequipa, beeper, bleeper, creeper, Dnieper, keeper, leaper, peeper, reaper, sleeper, sweeper, weeper •gamekeeper • gatekeeper •greenkeeper (US greenskeeper) •peacekeeper • innkeeper •wicketkeeper • timekeeper •shopkeeper • storekeeper •housekeeper • goalkeeper •zookeeper • bookkeeper • treecreeper •minesweeper

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