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The Flappers

Posted by: webmaster2 on Monday, November 22, 2004 - 03:24 _PRINTPrinter friendly page  _EMAILFRIENDSend this story to a friend
The Flappers
During the 20's, a group of American women decided to reinvent the female role in society. With the survival of America from World War I and after gaining the right to vote, women started to stage a cultural revolution, focused o­n fashion as challenging the conventional norms of conduct. Customs that today may be considered banal played significantly role in the history of sexuality being still present in our lives. Those women were known as Flappers.

Sometimes pointed as the cornerstone of feminism in the last century, the Flappers dared to break all the rules about what it meant to be a girl at such time marked by many Victorian standards, becoming the very first sign of a real counterculture in America. Society had never presented such yawning gap of ideas between two consecutive generations.

It all started with the economy boom and the rise of the mass culture. Through television, cinema, magazines and radio, women began to realize that they were able to be more than just little girls bounded to marry some guy and then become a housewife. Saying goodbye to all the glamour, the Flappers wanted to achieve a more boyish, androgynously slim look. Instead of wearing corsets and long dresses, they wore hanging chemise dresses leaving the sexy curvy look behind, and raised hemlines below their knees (remember that was a time when showing your ankles would be indecorous), and started to shave, since they were finally exposing shoulders and legs, previously hidden by drapes. They also tapped their breasts down to look even thinner. The long hair was replaced by a short, plain and simple haircut (the "bob" style became practically a symbol of such culture). Those women didn't want to spend hours in front of mirrors styling their hair any longer, since they had other issues o­n mind. Make-up o­n the other hand, which was something restricted to actresses and prostitutes, started to make part of every woman's accessories. Rouge, red lipstick (and the so-called kiss-proof lipstick), eye curling and eyebrow plucking were common ground among the Flappers.

The Flappers really knew how to party, and back then, it was
absolutely outrageous. They went to Jazz Clubs (when Jazz was considered "the Devil's music") to dance provocatively (the garter belt dates from the 20's, and it was created to keep stockings from falling while the Flappers were dancing), to drink and smoke heavily and dating guys. These customs along with the Flappers' desire to simply enjoy life at its best, brought significant changes in the sexual behavior as well.


The Flappers flaunted their sexuality, since now they were free to date whoever they wanted. With cars becoming popular, a woman had the opportunity to go out by herself, and it was also the perfect place for young couples make out. Although the number of girls having sex before marriage and divorces were booming at the time, the majority of girls still virgins until marriage, for no o­ne wanted to be labeled as promiscuous. However, it doesn't mean that they didn't have a ball. Petting parties for kids were common practice. A petting party was simply a gathering of youth couples necking in a dark room, obviously combined with music and alcohol. At this time, movie theaters were very popular, not just because watching movies was fun, but a public dark room where most of the stares were pointing to the screen sounded very inviting for kids interested in petting party.

But the 20's silver line was more than just an excuse for making out. Such movies as "It" (1927) by director Clarence C. Badger portrayed
the role model of the Flappers, inspiring young girls to follow their style and behavior. Every girl wanted to be like Clara Bow, who played main character Betty Lou Spence, which maybe was the most classical model of a Flapper both o­n and off the screen (the "it" of the movie title referred to her strong sex appeal). Nevertheless, there were restrictions to the Flappers even o­n movies. They had to be depicted always as "the bad girls" of the story and as negative role models, and nudity or scenes of a flapper who was evidently drunk were forbidden. Even a kiss between a flapper and some male character was censured if lasting more than 10 seconds. Also in literature, the Flapper way of life was beautifully portrayed in books such The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Ernest Hemingway's works


Alongside with movies, some new magazines such as Vogue, Life or Harper's Bazaar contributed to the Flapper way of life becoming a mass culture. For the first time, women started to be really concerned about their weight and body image under influence of role models taken from pop culture. The sentence "I look to fat", so familiar for us today, was considered a vulgarity until then, and so started to encourage girls in
their search for a slim and non-curvy figure. French stylist Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel filled the young women's aspirations with the comfort and casual elegance of simple suits and dresses, costume jewelry, textiles and perfumes.

The Flapper era has finally ended during the Great Depression, not finding its place among the economical rigorousnesses of the 30's. However, their straight-forward spirit, fashion influence and importance left its influence stamped o­n the history of sexuality and the history of women as the first sign of feminism, and the rise of an actual youth culture.


Recommended movies:
It - Clarence C. Badger (1927)
Parisian Love - Louis J. Gasnier (1925)
The Plastic Age - Wesley Ruggles (1925)

Some of the 20's most common slang terms:
Cake-eater - a sweet talking ladies man.
The Cat's meow - something wonderful, desirable for everyone.
Sheba - A beautiful women.
Struggle buggy - a car used to seduce women.
Applesauce - lies, nonsense.
Baby vamp - An attractive young girl.
Bathtub gin - some alcoholic drink mixed with additives, literally, inside a bathtub.
Daddy - a young girl's older boyfriend, especially if he was rich.
Bamey-mugging - sex.
Snugglepup - a guy who frequented petting parties.
Jack In.- Masturbate, Masturbation.

 

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