Let’s get straight to the point: a flapper was everything that a woman (in general) wasn’t in the 1900’s-1910’s. She was frivolous with spending and spent an excessive amount of time dancing, drinking, smoking, dating, and casual intimacy. Hence the nickname “Roaring Twenties.” But why the sudden change in culture? With the passing of the 19th Amendment, the role women took during WWI as leaders, and a more progressive view, women began to pursue a new idea of what they believed freedom to be.
During the Victorian Era, women were confined with their fashion in a sense. Corsets were still an everyday norm, especially the S-bend corset. It made the hips appear thrown backward and moved the chest forward. Tops were comprised of puff sleeves, and often times fake hair was added to a woman’s head to support the wide brimmed hats worn atop their heads. The length of a woman’s skirt or dress was still to the floor.
It wasn’t until the 1910s that we began to see the hem rise. What’s that I see? Is that an ankle? Yes. In the 1910s, ankle length and hobble skirts became the new fashion. The hobble skirts cinched at the hem of a dress, which made it a little difficult for women to walk sometimes. Overall, the blouses, hats, and wide brimmed hair remained the same, yet the introduction of trousers and work clothing became acceptable. One main reason we most likely began to see this trend was due to the introduction of the world war. With a small percentage of men left in the states, women were called into action to take up duties that men would have normally filled. This includes factory workers, policemen, mailmen, instructors, and weapon producers. The suffragists’ quest to put aside their own desire to vote to help the war effort had a huge impact in the signing of the 19th amendment.
After showing their ability to work as efficiently as men receiving high wage jobs, the passing of the 19th amendment, and the end of the first world war, women found a new found sense of independence. Now enter the era of the flapper. A young, financially equipped, independent woman was on her way to rule the twenties. She cut her hair short – a bobbed haircut. It gave a sense of freedom, and the opposite of what we had seen for the past 20 years. The style of the 20’s is easily recognizable. Unlike the the wide brimmed hats and additions of fake hair for support, women weren’t gaining hair – but losing it. With bobbed hair came bobbed hats. Queue the entrance of the cloche hat – perhaps the most notable style for hats of the decade. It was an absolute icon for the time. The cloche was a tightly fitted hat that was worn to just above the eyebrows, decreasing visibility of a woman’s face. (pictured right)
The lifestyle of a flapper only lasted until 1929 when we saw the stock market crash. Frivolous spending was no longer an option during the Great Depression. Despite the sudden end, the era of the flapper had a huge impact on the decades to come. It was not only a shift in style, but a step forward for what women could accomplish. Their roles in WWI, the right to vote, and financial independence made straight preparation for the second world war.