The Local Flappers

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Perth Courier May 3 1929

The Canadian Freeman and Catholic Observer are not pleased with the Kingston Flappers wearing their skirts above their knees and complaints are falling on deaf ears. Of course the women are not asked to go back to the Victorian styles but the sooner they understand that short skirts are immodest, the better off to all concerned. The editor also asks what is the object of depicting womanhood scantily clad on posters, book covers, and in advertisements? This class of demonstration is demoralizing.

Women were just as anxious as the men to avoid returning to society’s rules and roles after the war. In the age of the Gibson Girl, young women did not date; they waited until a proper young man formally paid her interest with suitable intentions (i.e. marriage). However, nearly a whole generation of young men had died in the war, leaving nearly a whole generation of young women without possible suitors. Young women decided that they were not willing to waste away their young lives waiting idly for spinsterhood; they were going to enjoy life.

 

 

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The “Younger Generation” was breaking away from the old set of values.

The term “flapper” first appeared in Great Britain after World War I, as a term which meant a young girl, still somewhat awkward in movement and who had not yet entered womanhood. In the June 1922 edition of the Atlantic Monthly, G. Stanley Hall described looking in a dictionary to discover what the evasive term “flapper” meant: xxxxxxxxxxx

Authors such F. Scott Fitzgerald and artists such as John Held Jr. first brought the term to the U.S. reading public, half reflecting and half creating the image and style of the flapper. Fitzgerald described the ideal flapper as “lovely, expensive, and about nineteen.” Held accentuated the flapper image by drawing young girls wearing unbuckled galoshes that would make a “flapping” noise when walking.

Many have tried to define flappers. In William and Mary Morris’ Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, they state, “In America, a flapper has always been a giddy, attractive, and slightly unconventional young thing who, in [H. L.] Mencken’s words, ‘was a somewhat foolish girl, full of wild surmises and inclined to revolt against the precepts and admonitions of her elders.'”

 

 

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Flappers had both an image and an attitude.

The Flappers’ image consisted of drastic—to some, shocking—changes in women’s clothing and hair. Nearly every article of clothing was trimmed down and lightened in order to make movement easier. xxxxxxx

It is said that girls “parked” their corsets when they were to go dancing. The new, energetic dances of the Jazz Age, required women to be able to move freely, something the “ironsides” of whalebone didn’t allow. Replacing the pantaloons and corsets were underwear called “step-ins.”

The outer clothing of flappers is even still extremely identifiable. This look, called “garconne” (“little boy”), was popularized by Coco Chanel. To look more like a boy, women tightly wound their chest with strips of cloth in order to flatten it.

The waists of flapper clothes were dropped to the hipline. She wore stockings—made of rayon (“artificial silk”) starting in 1923—which the flapper often wore rolled over a garter belt.10

The hem of the skirts also started to rise in the 1920s. At first, the hem only rose a few inches, but between 1925 and1927 a flapper’s skirt fell just below the knee, as described by Bruce Bliven in his 1925 article “Flapper Jane” in The New Republic:

The skirt comes just an inch below her knees, overlapping by a faint fraction her rolled and twisted stockings. The idea is that when she walks in a bit of a breeze, you shall now and then observe the knee.

 

 

 

relatedreading

 

Canned Heat — On the Road Again– to Poison Booze 1920s

Then and Now Springside Hall 1920s-1930s Photos

Carleton Place Photos 1920s

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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