Thursday, December 22, 2011

Flappers Just Won't 23 Skidoo

Click here for Speakeasy Die Hard, our 1920s weekend gangster melee event in Chicago, or here for our online interactive Charleston class & Flapper workshop

Nearly a century after they burst out of their corsets and into the speakeasies, the Jazz babies of the 1920's are still roaring
by Joie de Vivre

Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco"Chanel

The young women of "the lost generation" who lopped off both their hair and hemlines, and who thumbed their noses and hipflasks at the Victorian mores into which they were born, did far more than create a trendy fad or two. They became icons of the first completely modern era and drew the world's collective gaze toward America.

"The flapper engaged in frivolity and recklessness. She was a rouge wearing rebel- a fast living, rule breaking, beautiful young woman.  Flappers were notorious for smoking, drinking, and dancing. These young girls did what only men had done before them. They drove automobiles and rode bicycles. They snuck alcohol into speakeasies during Prohibition by strapping flasks to their inner thighs... They partied late into the night and danced the Charleston and the Shimmy. 
The new, wild dances of the Jazz Age required women to move more freely. As a result, flappers stopped wearing corsets, and this became a focus of controversy. During the 1920's, corsetlessness was thought to be dangerous and evil. Flappers broke all the rules and started wearing a new type of undergarmet called a "step-in." Without the curve-enhancing corset, the flapper's figure was straight and boyish. 
The corset wasn't the only change in Flapper Fashion. Young women chopped off their traditionally long hair and died it jet black. They wore short, modern "bobs" or "shingle" cuts. Their hem lengths were chopped off too. Flappers wore dresses just below the knee and exposed their legs for the first time ever. These baggy dresses were sleeveless and had modern waist lines that rested on the hips." []

They painted their faces and powdered their knees and went so far as to bind their chests in order to heighten their 'boyish charm'. This gender bending went far beyond fashion, as flappers smoked cigarettes, drank hard liquor, demanded the vote, drove automobiles, and wanted to attend college as well as work outside the confines of the homestead.  In the aftermath of WWI, and with available men in short supply, these young women struck out on their own, impressed with the great war's warning of the fragility of fleetingness of life.  And so they embraced hedonism, consumerism and individualism; they flaunted leisure, sporty fitness and fun... to the degree that one may well wonder if this is the subculture that spawned 'teen angst'.

Scores of decades later, the flappers' style still captivates, their music still gets toes tapping, and their indomitable spirit and spunk still speak to our own, perhaps hinting that there is a litte flapper in us all. And their own siren song still quietly resonates in our ears, "Not much money, Oh, but honey  Ain't we got fun? Night or daytime, it's all playtime - Ain't we got fun?"

by Dorothy Parker
The ever-pithy Dorothy Parker
The Playful flapper here we see,
The fairest of the fair.
She's not what Grandma used to be, --
You might say, au contraire.
Her girlish ways may make a stir,
Her manners cause a scene,
But there is no more harm in her
Than in a submarine. 
She nightly knocks for many a goal
The usual dancing men.
Her speed is great, but her control
Is something else again.
All spotlights focus on her pranks.
All tongues her prowess herald.
For which she well may render thanks
To God and Scott Fitzgerald. 
Her golden rule is plain enough - 
Just get them young and treat them rough.