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Flappers Style in 1920’s the United States

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    As men left to fight in the Great War in the late 1910’s, women in the U. S. and all over Europe found themselves necessary to make the homefront function, i. e. women had to fill the holes in industry and social life that the absence of men created for them. It is at this time that the flapper appears; a new kind of woman with short, bobbed hair, shorter skirts and freer clothes to match her new, freer lifestyle. It is no wonder that the vote was given to women during this time, as the idea of gender equality became a reality in its necessity.

    It is a bit difficult to say where the term “flapper” came from. It was used in Britain to mean “a young girl”, mostly in the sense that a young girl resembles a baby bird leaving the nest, flapping its wings and unable to really fly yet. F. Scott Fitzgerald used this term back in the States to define the new young women who had emerged after the war. John Held, Jr. , a leading cartoonist of the time who drew the covers of many magazines, perpetuated the idea by drawing young women wearing floppy shoes that flapped when they walked.

    A flapper was supposed to be a young woman, not yet mature in herself, but with a rather brazen attitude towards life. These new teenaged women drank, smoke, and drove cars. F. Scott Fitzgerald said a good flapper would be “lovely, expensive, and about nineteen. ” They were often criticized for their lack of clothing – women of earlier times wore layers upon layers of skirts that went down to their ankles, while flappers were suddenly wearing short, open dresses with a new scandalous pair of “step-ins” as their only form of underwear.

    They refused to wear garter belts to hold up their stockings, and instead rolled these down under their skirts. Flappers also openly wore make-up, something that had been restricted to prostitutes in the past. It was as if girls were smashing the old conceptions of womanhood to the ground, flaunting both their newfound freedom as equal to men and reveling in their absolute womanhood. There were, of course, many different degrees of “flapperhood”, and certainly your average suburban girl was not nearly as wild as the stars of Hollywood or the infamous Zelda Fitzgerald.

    Older generations criticized the younger for stepping too far over the boundaries of what was socially acceptable; but eventually all women bought into this new movement in some form or another. While grandma might not go so far as to go to a petting party, she’d still wear looser clothing, a long string of pearls, and a huge fur coat for the winter. She might even rouge up her lips a little. Flappers were best known for their social life, spent dancing and boozing with men.

    Flappers, it seems, invented dating, refusing to go around with just one man at a time when they could find half a dozen to buy them drinks. A woman no longer had to be engaged to a man to go out on the town with him. Flappers were even so bold as to engage in sexual activities with men before being married to them. Petting parties were common, and girls who participated in these non-committal sexual activities were not ousted from the social scene or labeled as too fast.

    While it does sound racy, women apparently did not go “all the way”, and still kept their virginity until marriage, but you can imagine how hugging and kissing multiple partners in public would be received in a world where these activities were reserved for married couples in the privacy of their own homes. These girls were also known for their new “slanguage”, consisting of terms to label their new world. There were dozens of words for cheapskates, bores, drunks, women who went too fast, and other social phenomena that a flapper would encounter.

    For instance, a “snugglepup” was a young man who frequented petting parties; “dogs” meant feet, and “kennels” meant shoes; and “handcuff” signified “engagement ring. ” This new slang was colorful and descriptive, but, like most language of younger generations, completely undecipherable to parents or adults, and therefore a very useful code as well. The flapper lifestyle was idealized in the lives of famous women, such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Anita Loos, and dozens of actresses both on the silver screen and the stage.

    It is no wonder the style spread quickly, enflaming the 1920s with a vitality and wildness previously unknown in the now urban-based society of the United States. Unfortunately, the good times couldn’t last forever; in 1929 with the stock market crash, hemlines went back down with the economy, and lives of reckless abandon could no longer be lived. Even so, the flapper will always be remembered as one of the most colorful characters of the American landscape, and her style will be imitated in this country as long as there are girls who want to have fun.

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    Flappers Style in 1920’s the United States. (2017, Mar 25). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/1920s-flappers/

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