Sunday, June 3, 2012

Of the Roaring Twenties

Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris
Since I saw Midnight in Paris, I have been obsessed with the Roaring Twenties. Women were acquiring the right to vote around the globe. A growing number of women were working and becoming able to support their family by themselves. It was the beginning of a female revolution and it materialized itself in the garments and the changing customs of the days. The flapper was born.

Being a flapper was about becoming someone and starting a fresh new life different from the one of your predecessors. To celebrate that philosophy I chose to wear a 20s inspired dress for my graduation in few days. I bought this lovely Alice & Olivia  fringe dress during Boxing Day sales for almost nothing. It was on my wish list since last summer and I cannot wait to wear it next weekend!

Alice & Olivia dress and Miss Sixty shoes.

The term flapper originates from Great Britain where it became fashionable among young women to wear rubber galoshes left open to flap when they walked. The nickname stayed and became the synonym of  young liberated women who were sexy, bold and confident, defying the rules of the time concerning how a woman should carry herself. They were smoking, wearing their hair short, putting makeup in public, going out unchaperoned. They were dancing on jazz music, showing off their legs and having sex before marriage!


Coco Chanel helped popularized the look with her "garçonne" look through  simple garments that took over the fashion industry putting the emphasis on practicality adapting the garment to the female body instead of the opposite. Actresses and public figures like Clara Bow and Josephine Baker epitomized the style and the philosophy of the flapper through their carefree lifestyle and fashion sense. Middle class young women started walking into their footsteps.

High fashion until the 1920s has been a privilege of the rich. The dresses of the era were easier to make at home. So less fortunate people were able to reproduce these fashionable dresses unlike the more complex ones made in the previous eras - blurring the fashion lines between the upper class and the middle class.

Clara Bow. The 1920s It-girl.
Josephine Baker. Another prominent figure of the 1920s.

The typical flapper dress was boxy and it hung straight from the shoulders to the knee without a waistline leaving women free to move as they wished unlike the corset that the more conservative women were still wearing. Unlike most of us might think, that typical dress wasn't really in fashion until 1926. However, the media was so drenched with its images they it became the image of an whole decade. There were several other models but that will be the object of another post...

Flappers wear the reflection of an era of change, but they were only that - an image. They weren't challenging the traditional model of womanhood in the society. For most of them, getting married and having kids was their main goal in life like it was of their older counterparts, reproducing the conservative ultimate values and behavior. Behind the liberating images many women were imposing themselves diets and wearing restraining bras to have that lean hipless and breastless figure, which is not exactly my interpretation of a liberating lifestyle. Despite its superficiality, that new trend was threatened for many. Although harmless in facts, it was still challenging the social role of women. Thus, many states in the United States banned hemlines that wear shorter than 3 inches above the ankle and companies wear firing women who were wearing bobbed hair, which is a sufficient reason to sport the style according to me - as a form of protestation against the minified role of women in the society.

Unfortunately, the Roaring Twenties drastically ended with the depression of 1929. These were short lived but intense years.

There have been a recurred revival of the 1920s since. The 1970s were a form of revival themselves. Weren't women liberating themselves again, burning their bras and wearing boxy short dresses again? Plus the twiggy -  the sister silhouette of the flapper -  was in style.  Another revival started in 2007  in the fashion industry which extended to the film industry with popular series like Boardwalk Empire and the upcoming release of the remake of the Great Gatsby by the end of the year.  

Alberta Ferretti, Etro, Roberto Cavalli, Gucci (Source)


Being a fan of Coco Chanel, I think the 1920s form an era that will always have an important place in my closet. I have to find the perfect lipstick and hairstyle to complement my look for next Saturday though...


  1. I always think of flappers when I put on my cloche hats.

  2. Those are definitely a symbol of the era. I wish I could wear them, but I don't have a hat head! lol