Essay: Flapper Movement the Effect

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[. . .] The creation of a specific "hip" and special language is often been observed as a sign of a particular generation or ostracized group searching for its own values and definitions. A sign of a behavioral shift in a group is often associated with that group developing its own lingo or jargon to differentiate itself from the majority (Isaacs, 1975). Nonetheless, despite the use of the new lingo by the Flappers many of the sayings and slang terms that originated during this time continue remain popular and in use even today.

A Shift in Gender Roles.

The Flappers certainly challenged traditional roles expected of women. Traditionally women stayed home and men worked outside the home; however, the Flapper movement saw women more and more working outside the home and challenging the traditional Victorian societal roles for both men and women (Baughm, 1996). As the movement grew in popularity women became more embraced in personal choice, relevance, and consumerism. This movement is consistent with the origins of the Flapper movement in the right to vote issue for women. The Flappers fueled a sort of cultural battle between old standards and new standards. However, despite all the talk about moving away from traditional roles many Flappers did not become directly engaged in politics themselves and it has been noted that many of the extant Suffragettes of the time found them as rather insipid and a direct opposite of the rights and entitlements that they had worked so hard to achieve (Zeitz, 2006). However, it is quite clear that the liberation endorsed by the Flappers was part of a natural progression from more traditional, Victorian limitations assigned to women to more free expression and a movement towards full equality for women.

Traditionally the habits of consumption of many types of goods were considered to be more appropriate for men than women. While drinking and smoking were not the exclusive purview of men, in proper society it was considered "unladylike" to drink excessively or to smoke in public (Zeitz, 2006). The Flappers embraced these activities and in their drive for freedom of expression allow themselves to engage in the same type of indulgences traditionally reserved for men. As we will see later the result of this is an overall movement towards women's liberation and equality.

Shocking Sexuality.

Drinking and smoking were not the only shocking activities the Flappers engaged in as they expressed their freedoms. This movement towards liberation is also evident in the popularity of "petting parties" where sexual foreplay or "making out" was the common activity. The popularity of these activities by younger women indicated a move towards sexual liberation and freedom from all the restrictions (Zeitz, 2006). While "petting" was not unheard of in the Victoria area it certainly was not nearly as common and is accepted as it became with the Flappers and subsequent generations of women. The more relaxed and uninhibited sexual attitudes of the Flappers represent a forerunner of the sexual revolution that occurred in the 1960's.

Influencing Music.

In addition, one of the most popular activities for the Flappers was dancing and the music of the day was jazz. This resulted in the creation of a number of new dance styles that were considered quite untraditional, revolutionary, and even shocking and immoral to traditionalists.

During the so-called "Jazz Age" that took place during the 1920s and the influence of jazz and jazz -- like music became widely popular, at least in part due to the Flappers' penchant for dancing the night away and jazz clubs. Dance clubs became very popular and even old folk music, operas, and classical music where transformed into popular dance melodies in order to satisfy this new craze for dancing. Clubs also began sponsoring dancing contests across America and new and non-traditional styles of dance were developed. The favorite dances of the Flapper lifestyle such as the Charleston and other dances eventually evolved into Swing.

The Flapper's Specific and Identifying Appearance.

A fashionable Flapper presented with short sleek hair, a shorter than conventional straight shift dress, a flat chest, wore heavy makeup (and even applied it in public), smoked (often using a long cigarette holder), drank alcohol in public, exposed her limbs (a woman's arms and legs were traditionally covered in public so this was quite radical for the time), and embodied the spirit of a reckless revolutionary who danced away the nights in seedy clubs associated with the Jazz Age. This certainly represented quite a departure from the behavior expected for a "proper woman" at this time. It was considered immoral for women to attend events like petting parties and jazz clubs and the Flappers engaged in these activities as if they were normal, everyday, and routine.

Of course one of the most defining aspects of a social movement is the dress associated with a new movement. By engaging in a certain type of dress code or radically changing traditional dress codes and adopting a specific lingo a group can readily identify itself from the conventional and established groups it attempts to separate itself from as well as create its own identity (Polletta & Jasper, 2001). With respect to fashion, World War I had accelerated the trends that made the fashion style of the Flappers appealing. The American, British, and other European women entering the workforce needed more practical styles of clothes. Moreover, wartime rationing facilitated a movement towards simplicity and minimalism resulting in a more slender outline. The garconne look (French for "boy" with a feminine suffix) or the "Flapper Look" as it was called in America and England became a mainstream of women's fashion for over a decade. Pioneered by Coco Chanel it highlighted tubular dresses with dropped waistlines, high hemlines, straight vertical lines, tank tops, decorative beading, all topped off with the bell-shaped hats the Flapper style remained constant during the 1920s.

Coco Chanel, the Epitome of the Flapper.

Coco Chanel's was the innovative fashion stylist in the 1920s and many fashion historians believe that Chanel's designs determined the style of women's fashion in those times (Latham, 2000). Chanel was considered to be the innovator in fashion and many found that other fashion designers styles were old-fashioned compared to Chanel's ideas. Chanel is often credited for defining the fashion style of the Flappers (Latham, 2000; Zeitz, 2006). Chanel primarily worked in neutral tones such as cream, sand, beige, navy, and black. She also opted to use embroidery and beads to decorate her styles and creations rather than just adding more fabric decorations to them. Chanel created her styles for comfort and ease of wear as opposed to the stiff, traditional, Victorian style of feminine dress or the extravagant evening gowns of the rich. This made it Chanel's ideas quite revolutionary and very "modern." Chanel's innovations in fashion caught on quickly in both the U.S. And the UK. Her Flapper look was defined by a masculine influence and it is said that Chanel used several different male motifs such as dungarees that mechanical or the outfits that sailors wore while on deck as inspirations to create her Flapper style. Chanel's influence is forever linked to the style of the Flappers (Latham, 2000).

An additional departure from the Victorian ideals of fashion was Chanel's introduction of costume (fake) jewelry into her designs. Chanel made it trendy to where such accompaniments as fake pearls and she also made it acceptable to admit that these accompaniments were not the real thing (Latham, 2000).

Merging Fashion with Practicality

In addition to Chanel's influence there were other reasons the fashion of the Flappers caught on. Until the 1920s high fashion had been the purview of the richer women of society. However, the construction of the Flapper's dress style was far less complicated than traditional woman's fashions and this allowed women to be much more successful at the home dressmaking of a Flapper dress because of its straight shift and its minimalist approach (e.g., no sleeves, shorter skirts, etc.). Women found it easier to produce and to keep up-to-date the Flapper fashions quickly using simple Flapper fashion dress patterns (Latham, 2000). The Flapper fashion style flourished among the middle classes contrasting the differences between the Flappers and those truly rich women, but continued to highlight differences between the middle classes and the poor. The super rich still continued to wear their embellished silk evening garments when they went out on the town, but the middle class women were able to revel in their newfound sophistication of highly trendy Flapper clothing. Middle class women were now able to dictate trends in fashion, something that they had not done previously.

The Rise of Androgyny

The Flapper style resulted in women looking a bit younger and quite a bit more boyish, with their short hair and straight waistlines. The androgyny in style redefined sexuality reflecting that the roles of men and women were blending (Zeitz, 2006). Pantaloons and corsets with the traditional lingerie of women but the Flappers… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Flapper Movement the Effect.  (2013, October 30).  Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/flapper-movement-effect/4518904

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"Flapper Movement the Effect."  Essaytown.com.  October 30, 2013.  Accessed May 20, 2019.
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