Jul 2, 2009
Americans, including myself, seem to be obsessed with flappers -as evidenced with the plethora of flapper costumes seen every Halloween. They were amazingly revolutionary for the time of course and we even learn about them in school. But we don’t learn much about these women in school, here are five fascinating facts about the flappers of the 1920s.
Flappers Completely Changed Social Standards For Women
While many feminists deplore flappers for throwing away all the progress made by the suffragettes, they made quite a bit of progress for women in other aspects. While most people know they were the first women to actually show off their legs, cut off their hair and even wear shorts, they did much more than that. In the Victorian era, it was unheard of for a woman to go to a bar, to drink or to smoke. Bars were places for men to escape their wives.
That all changed in the twenties – and not only because of prohibition. These young women also dated around, something that was unheard of in the past. Lastly, they were some of the first women to drive cars. (Source)
Where Flappers Got Their Name
The name was widely popularized after the release of the 1920’s movie The Flapper, but there are a whole lot of differing stories about where the word came from. My favorite story is also one of the more popular tales of the time, it claims the term came from groups of girls walking around in unbuckled galoshes that flapped around as they walked. For a humorous read on Flapper footwear, you may want to read the 1922 article by The New York Times, “Flappers Flaunt Fads in Footwear.” (Source)
Like F. Scott Fitzgerald? You May Actually Like His Wife’s Writing
While F. Scott Fitzgerald was a great writer, he was not entirely original. In fact, large portions of his books were actually stolen directly from his wife’s diary. In fact, the conclusion of This Side of Paradise has a soliloquy by the protagonist Amory Blaine that is taken word for word from Zelda Fitzgerald’s journal. After their marriage, many things that Zelda said or wrote continued to find their way into Scott’s books, particularly in the Great Gatsby. In a review of The Beautiful and The Damned, she wrote:
“It seems to me that on one page I recognized a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters which, though considerably edited, sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald—I believe that is how he spells his name—seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.”
Coco Chanel Single-Handedly Made Tans Fashionable
Before Coco Chanel stayed out too long one day while on vacation, fair, paper-white skin was the ideal shade for women. But she was so popular and stylish that after she accidentally received a tan on a 1923 cruise to Cannes, everyone else wanted one too. (Source)
They Weren’t Just American
French flappers outside a cafe Via Vintage Lulu [Flickr]
While commonly considered an American phenomenon, due in part to the rebellion against prohibition, flappers were more of a response to the increased independence gained by women during the first World War. As a result, many countries had flappers, including Japan, Germany, England and France. Obviously these women had far different social norms to rebel against, but the effect was much the same -short skirts, increased independence and a modernized view on sexuality. (Source)