Decadence. Champagne. Dance. Smoking. Sequins. The Roaring Twenties were all about parties, if we are to believe the Great Gatsby. I admit, the movie renewed my love of fringes and long gloves and almost convinced me to sport low headbands.
But how did women go from Gibson Girl hairstyles and sculpted waists to bobs and low waistlines? How did they change completely their view of femininity?
It didn’t happen overnight but it was a quick, direct effect of being able to vote for the first time. In the 20s, British and American women won the right to have a say in their country’s future, like men! This newly found freedom was going to change every aspect of their lives. Now, they weren’t afraid to smoke, drive cars or fly planes anymore – they could be as wild as men.
This age of speed and the chance to narrow the gap between genders made women cast away past’s rigors. Defined curves and abundant hair were keeping them still, so they had to get rid of them.
These young, brave women who wanted to feel like they could move and breathe freely for the first time in their lives were… the flappers.
During the day, they wore unfastened boots that flapped, hence the name, mirroring their craving for freedom. Instead of displaying feathers on their wide-brimmed hats, they had cloche hats. These took the shape of the wearer’s head, forcing her to cut hair short, at ear level, leading to the invention of the bob.
All of a sudden, the S-shaped corset of before proved useless. Instead of wishing for a tiny waist, flappers wanted a flat, almost invisible bust. A side lacer took its place – a bra-corset that could be tied on the side, thus pressing on the bust. Of course, a lot of tomboys preferred to bandage their breasts, blurring the line between men and women.
The Jazz Age emphasized vitality, athleticism, a joy of life that rejected old rules. Back then, women could be seen dancing together in clubs, wearing fringed dresses with V necks and bare backs. Indeed, flappers wore for the first time an open back dress, before Hollywood dictated its return and “improved” upon it (the naked dress). Why then? They just discovered the pleasure of sunbathing and loved showing their tan backs and limbs.
Before you knew it, tubular, embellished dresses for evening, with a waistline defined by belts or horizontal lines worn at the hip, could be seen all across the dance floor. The hemline reached mid calf by now, women starting to embrace beautiful shoes, such as T-bar Mary Janes.
There was an exuberance in the air that could not be contained. It was an age of discoveries – of what you were, what you could be and what you’ve secretly been afraid to be.
photo source: glamourdaze.com, vintagefestival.co.uk, flickr.com, Russell Patterson illustration