They were called flappers – young, reckless, emancipated women who defied the generation of their parents and grandparents. They behaved emphatically freely, had a lot of fun, danced, drank alcohol and, in fact, lived in the moment.
Women of the new generation and how they appeared
If you have read the works of Francis Scott Fitzgerald or watched the film adaptations, then you can easily imagine the image of the “new” woman that appeared in the 1920s in the United States. This is necessarily a dress that barely covers her knees, a short haircut, brightly painted lips and a cigarette. But even at the beginning of the century, the so-called Gibson girls were in fashion, wearing corsets, collecting their hair in a high hairstyle, radiating calm and confidence.
It was a significant time for women.
First, they were recognized as a full-fledged labor force: while men fought in the war, women were forced to work and earn. When peace time came again, they no longer wanted to return to the previous structure of society. True, these were still exclusively “female” professions: secretaries, clerical workers, salesmen.
Second, in August 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed, giving white women the right to vote. Around the same time, activist Margaret Sanger pushed for women to be given contraceptives so they could control their births.
These factors influenced the fact that young girls became more free in their actions and views. And the rise of jazz music and dance and Henry Ford, who launched the mass production of cars, influenced the social and visual image of flappers.
Why flappers are synonymous with youth and rebellion
Women of the new generation, in contrast to their mothers and grandmothers, behaved emphatically freely, destroying all norms of decency.
Flappers completely reimagined femininity
They abandoned the restrictive corsets in favor of underwear and stopped wearing long skirts that exposed their calves, because such clothes were much more comfortable to dance in. They cut their long hair so that it barely covered their ears. It has become fashionable to look like a boy – tall, thin, without eye-catching forms. Many girls even specifically tightened their breasts.
Fashion was dictated by Coco Chanel, who created elegant dresses with a simple free cut, comfortable shoes and handbags on a long chain – such that you could not wear a reticule.
Flappers began to do what was previously only allowed to men.
Namely smoking, drinking alcohol and dancing. Dances such as the Charleston and the shimmy seemed basically wild to the older and more conservative generation. And the fact that young girls “limp like lame ducks to the barbaric yapping of strange instruments” could not but resent.
But most of all, of course, drinking alcohol was considered out of the ordinary. Flappers often even carried flasks with them. In addition to the fact that people did not like the sight of a tipsy young girl in itself, it was also illegal – in the United States at that time there was prohibition.
Flappers started dating
Women began to freely meet with men without the accompaniment of a companion, to kiss, to explore their sexuality. At the same time, many women still feared for their reputation, so they could not feel as free as possible. In addition, marriage was still an important stage in a woman’s life, and after marriage, many quit their jobs and devoted themselves to the family.
Muses, icons and destroyers of the world order
The main “educator” of the flappers, who both reflected their way of life and influenced their behavior, was Francis Scott Fitzgerald. In 1920, he wrote flapper stories for the Saturday Evening Post. And in 1925 he published the novel The Great Gatsby.
In addition to being a representative of the Roaring 20s himself, Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, was literally the epitome of a flapper girl. And it was her image that inspired Fitzgerald when creating his heroines.
The Flappers were inspired by the writer Anita Luz, although she described their life in a satirical way in her novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It was filmed twice: in 1949 and in 1953. The latest version starred Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.
Of course, the flappers and their lifestyle have had many detractors . For example, Washington housewife John B. Henderson tried to start a mass women’s movement against them. Some states, such as Virginia, Utah, and Ohio, have tried to ban fashion by controlling the length of skirts or banning tight-fitting outfits altogether. And sometimes women in too revealing bathing suits were simply taken away from the beaches.
They were also criticized by some activists, such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who felt they were going too far in their exploration of their sexuality. And other influential women, such as Ellen Wells Page, on the contrary, considered themselves to be flappers, thereby showing that in fact, this is not about frivolity, but about freedom.
Cover: frame from The Great Gatsby, 2013