Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ev'ry morning, ev'ry evening/Ain't we got fun?

Out with the Gibson Girl, In with the Flapper Girl!

With the end of the World War I, brought a new age for women. After gaining the right to vote in 1920, a more modern girl was on the rise. Out with the Gibson Girl and in with the Flapper Girl!

Charles Dana Gibson was an illustrator who became known for his “Gibson Girls” which represented the “The American Girl to all the world.” ("Charles Dana Gibson and the Gibson Girls") But with the end of the war, and the women gaining the right to vote in 1920s, emerged a new era of new women. The Flapper Girl! Gibson was out and John Held Jr. was in with his illustrations representing the flapper lifestyle. John Held Jr. helped epitomize the “jazz age” through his lively illustrations. He also helped describe the generation gap between mothers and daughters by showing some humor in the situation. 

In magazines like Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, and Redbook, images were shown to parents who wanted to see humor in the situations. The skirts were never quite this short but they wanted to believe that they were and Held’s images reassured their delusions. (Vadeboncoeur)

Rise of The Flapper

The 1920s paved the way for the "new" or "modern" woman. The flapper women stopped wearing corsets, bobbed their hair, stopped wearing layers and layers of clothing to be able to move with more ease. They wore make-up, smoked cigarettes, created the concept of dating a became a sexual person.  (Rosenberg) They were the generation that grew up during World War I and the youth claimed "We have been forced to live in an atmosphere of 'to-morrow we die', and so, naturally we drank and we were merry…" ("Becoming Modern: America in the 1920's" 1)

F. Scott Fitzgerald described the ideal flapper as "lovely, expensive, and about nineteen"

But the flappers weren't the only version of the "modern" or "new" woman. “In the 1920s, feminist Lorine Pruette divided them into three generational groups: the old pioneers, who had borne the brunt of the fight and never lost their bitterness toward men; the middle generation who were less bitter because they had borne less of the battle; and the third, younger group who were “frankly amazed at all the feminist pother and likely to be bored when the subject comes up.”(Brown 32-33) “In the October 1927 issue of Harper’s, Dorothy Bromley made a further distinction between “Feminist—New Style” and the feminist old-style. The latter wore flat heels, disliked men, and, accepting that women could not have both a career and marriage opted for the career. The new-style feminist was a “good dresser” and a “pal” to men, and fully expected to have marriage, children, and a career, too. She expected, in brief, to have it all. All these generations of feminists co-existed in the twenties. All joined, as one of the middle generation expressed it, in “consciously experimenting…to find out how women can best live.”(Brown 32-33)

Notable Flappers

Olive Thomas

In 1920, the silent film "The Flapper" premiered as really the first film that portrayed the flapper lifestyle. Olive Thomas starred as a young flapper girl but the film did not become quite mainstream yet.
Unfortunately, Thomas came to an untimely death in 1920 by supposedly accidentally drinking mercury bichloride that had been prescribed to her husband. Her death was the first publicized Hollywood scandal. (Brown)
"I was the spark that lit up Flaming Youth, Colleen Moore was the torch. What little things we are to have caused all that trouble” - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Colleen Moore 

Colleen Moore was said to have single handedly kick off the flapper craze in 1923 with her silent film "Flaming Youth". This film helped bring the flapper lifestyle into the mainstream vocabulary. While she did an excellent job of portraying the flapper lifestyle in films, in real life Colleen Moore was said to be "quiet and subdued, perhaps even boring…preferring a self-described "plain" lifestyle. (Boland) However, despite her real-life personality, Moore may not have been the first woman to bob her hair but she did popularize it and was a superstar of the silver screen during her career. 

Lois "Lipstick" Long aka "Miss Jazz Age" 

Lois Long was the "embodiment of the flapper girl, with her dark bobbed hair, her cigarettes, her whiskey, her flapper dress and her brash attitude. She said what she meant and pulled no punches to save peoples' feelings."(Boland) As well as living the flapper lifestyle, Lois Long was really the epitome of a modern women. She controlled her own finances, had a long and fruitful career at the New Yorker Magazine and still managed to live her own lifestyle of drinking, dancing and sleeping with whomever she pleased. She was "was famous for returning to the New Yorker offices in the wee hours of the morning, drenched in booze and sweat, after a long night of drinking and dancing--stripping down into her slip, and hammering out her column that was due." (Boland)

Clara Bow

Clara Bow was considered the first "It Girl" of the 1920s. At the young age of 16, Bow caught the attention of Hollywood after winning a beauty pageant and went on to being a star on the Silver Screen. In 1927, she starred in the movie "It". The expression "It Girl" reached global attention with the debut of this film. Clara Bow was considered to be one of the first sex symbols of Hollywood as she flaunted her sexuality at an age that was still shocking for such behavior. was perhaps one of the first silver screen sex sirens, flaunting her sexuality in an age when such behaviour was still shocking. ("Clara Bow Biography")

 Clara Bow's hit movie "It" from 1927.

Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda Fitzgerald, as the inspiration for a lot of the women in Scott's novels and short stories, she was considered the flapper of the Roaring Twenties in America's eyes. She was famous for not only being Scott's wife, but also for their notorious lifestyle. She often struggled to find her own identity outside of him but long before she met him she had a reputation for rebelliousness in Montgomery, Alabama. She encompassed what it meant to be a flapper with the bobbed hair, rouged cheeks, and short skirts, she "symbolized the revolution in manners, morals and values of the post-war era. "Her lifestyle made her a celebrity outside the literary world, and her husband called her "the first American Flapper." The two were notorious for public partying, and their drunken antics were a staple of society headlines in the 1920s." (Rikard)

Coco Chanel

In 1920, Coco Chanel introduced the look called "garconne" meaning "little boy". She introduced her simple, short, and loose dress which allowed the flappers to have more freedom to move about as they please and dance all night. Today we know this as the "little black dress". To look more like a little boy, women would tightly wind their chest with strips of cloth to flatten them and achieve this look. Coco Chanel is credited with being one of the first women designers to embrace the masculine look of the period by rejecting the rigid corsetry of the past and celebrating the eras interest in boyish figures. This was the first time in centuries that designers had a different silhouette to work with and Chanel embraced it. (Jurousek)

The Party's Over

By the end of the 1920s, the stock market had crashed and the world was plunged into the Great Depression bringing the end to the decade long party. While this brought the end of the frivolity and carelessness and partying, this also brought a new era for women. The Flapper created an emotional and sexual culture for women and a new foundation for dating. Not only did she shake the social norms and break out of the traditional female role, but she helped create a new youth identity.

Work Cited

Boland, Jesse. "4 Famous Flappers of the 1920s."Flappers of the 1920s. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar 2013. <>.

Brown, Shane. "Jack Pickford: The Man Who Had Everything." Silent and Classic Movies. WordPress, n. d. Web. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. <>.

Brown, Dorothy. Setting a Course. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1987. 32-33. Print.

"Clara Bow Biography." Clara Bow - Biography on Bio.. Bio.. Web. 19 Mar 2013. <>.

"Charles Dana Gibson and the Gibson Girls." Gibson Girl. N.p.. Web. 20 Mar 2013. <>.

Jurousek, Charlotte. "Art, Design, and Visual Thinking."Historic Dress: Early Art Deco (1911-1929). N.p.. Web. 19 Mar 2013. <>.

Rikard, Marlene. "Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald and the Jazz Age." Alabama Moments in American History. N.p.. Web. 20 Mar 2013. <>.

Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Flappers in the Roaring Twenties."Flappers in the Roaring Twenties. Web. 20 Mar 2013. <>.

"The Twenties in Contemporary Commentary."Becoming Modern: America in the 1920's. (2012): 1. Print. <>.

Vadeboncoeur, Jim. "John Jeld, Jr.." Illustrators. JVJ Publishing, n.d. Web. 20 Mar 2013. <>.

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