Flapper Fashion

Flappers seem to be all around us these days! They are so easily identifiable; I could not avoid doing a post about their fashion!

There are different perceptions and definitions of flappers floating around.   From a prostitute or immoral woman to a wild and

Two flappers smoking in a train car

flighty young woman.  The origin of the term is thought to come from a young bird that flaps its wings as it learns how to fly (oddly similar to the moves of the Charleston, no?).  With the right to vote being given to women only four years ago, this recent movement marked a rejection of traditional roles and women becoming more independent.  It has also been used as a term to describe young women at the awkward age between childhood and maturity.  The older generation generally looks down on them disdainfully claiming they are wild, boisterous, and disgraceful ladies. In any case, I believe we can all agree that these women dress in a very identifiable way.

Their look is highly influenced by Cubist painters, such as Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, and Fernand Leger.  Their work is characterized by hard, geometric forms and visible lines. Similarly, flapper dresses are angular (almost rectangular), androgynous, sleeveless, slender, and straight.  They have short sleek hair, their dresses are a bit shorter than average, and their chests are flattened.

They wear obvious lipstick, face powder, cheek color, and eye makeup.  They sometimes even apply it in public! They are known for smoking and drinking and dancing the night away to jazz music.  Another identifying factor is the hats they wear.  These cloche hats are bell-shaped, usually made of felt, and fit close to the head.  They are worn either at an angle or pulled down deep over the brow.  The grandmothers are especially upset about the fact that they go around kissing men they have no intention of marrying!

A ‘step-in’



There are new undergarments tailored especially for flappers.  If you do not have a slim figure to begin with and would like to wear flapper dresses, I would recommend some of the undergarments in the following photograph.  One of the most popular is the ‘step-in’.  The Gossard version shown here is highly pliable and usually boneless.  They are made of silk or cotton and are loose, short, and lightweight.  The freedom from tight, restrictive, bone corsets finally allow us to breathe properly!


While I realize these flappers desire to appear more manly in an effort to be equal to men, but I wonder if this look does not instead make them look like prepubescent youths?  The flatness of their chests, their very short hairstyles, and the rectangular shape of their dresses make it appear as if they have not actually undergone puberty, but they wish to remain in a state of constant youth.




Photo Sources:





Information Sources:

Mendes, Valerie, and Amy De La Haye. Fashion Since 1900. London: Thames&Hudson, 2010. Print. Thames&Hudson World of Art.

Sherrow, Victoria. Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Group, 2006. Print.

Spivack, Emily. “The History of the Flapper, Part 1: A Call for Freedom.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 5 Feb. 2013. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

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