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The era of the 1920s brought about a revolution in women’s fashion. Gone were the days of corsets, long dresses, and Victorian ideals. In their place emerged a new breed of stylish women known as Flapper Girls. These young, bohemian fashionistas shattered societal norms and embraced a freer, more independent way of life. With their bold choices and iconic miniskirts, Flapper Girls left an indelible mark on the fashion landscape.
The Call of Freedom
Before the 1920s, women were confined to long, floor-length dresses, tightly cinched waists, and modest attire. The prevailing beauty ideal was the “Gibson girl” – a tall and slender figure with a high bun, accentuating round breasts and curvaceous hips. Victorian women adhered to strict dress codes based on moral values.
But everything changed within a decade. The 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote in 1920, and they started attending college, entering the workforce, and living independently. These newfound freedoms had a profound impact on women’s ideals and way of life. Personal fulfillment became a priority, and the Flapper Girl emerged as the embodiment of a modern and carefree spirit.
A genuine flapper girl with a cigar on her lips
The Rise of the Flapper Girl Trend
Flapper Girls embraced a lifestyle free from the constraints of moral standards and traditional conservatism. Their fashion choices reflected this rebellious spirit. With heavy makeup, short haircuts, small hats, and knee-length or ankle-length skirts, Flapper Girls made comfort and freedom their guiding principles. Dresses were designed to be roomy and comfortable, often with short sleeves and low or absent waists. Shoes had small heels, and leather stockings made of artificial silk became a popular alternative to traditional hosiery. Flapper Girls adorned themselves with long pearl necklaces, T-bars, and feather fans for special occasions.
Gibson women’s understated dresses from the 1910s
The slim figure of Flapper Girls in the 1920s was partly influenced by difficult economic conditions and limited food resources. This was also the era when the concept of “dieting” emerged. Even high-class women, despite their rich diets, embraced the pursuit of a desirable slim body.
Flapper Girls were known for their love of smoking, drinking, and jazz music. Their short hairstyles and liberal attitudes earned them the nickname “garçonne,” meaning “boy” in French.
Flapper fashion is comfortable, free, and reveals more body parts
Flapper: The Bold Makeup Trend
The 1920s marked the rise of the modern cosmetic business, with young women exploring ways to enhance their natural beauty. Flapper Girls embraced distinctive makeup styles that defined the era.
Blush: Rather than applying powder along the cheekbone, Flapper Girls opted for a circular blush pattern in two popular colors: red or orange.
The beautiful Flapper girl with stylish makeup
Lipstick: Flapper Girls outlined their lips in a style reminiscent of Cupid’s bow. Their lipstick was plump, making the lips appear smaller, especially the upper lip, which was carefully shaped into a curved arc.
Sensual lips with intense red color
Mask: To achieve thick, curly lashes, women mixed Vaseline with soot and dabbed it on their lashes. Maybelline’s mascara was introduced later in the decade but lacked the precision of today’s mascara brushes.
Eyebrow: Flapper Girls preferred thin eyebrows, often plucking them for a delicate, willow-leaf shape. Some even shaved off their eyebrows entirely and redrawn them with crayons.
Nail: Thanks to cellulose nitrogen compounds used in the movie industry, the 1920s saw the rise of ladies’ nail polish bottles. Keeping nails pretty became easier, with the French style of painting only half of the nail and leaving the top and bottom white gaining popularity.
Women of the 1920s preferred very thin, drawn brows.
The Shortest Dresses in History (From 1925)
The Flapper Girls completely replaced the corseted Gibson girls of the 1910s. With loosening moral standards came more comfortable and spacious clothing. Dresses were designed with a slightly wider shape, lower waistlines, and raised hems, creating a youthful and figure-flattering look. The ideal Flapper Girl figure featured broad shoulders, a small bust, a medium waist, and small hips.
Flapper girls’ fashion is much more comfortable and roomy
Be Bold With Bob Hair
Flapper Girls embraced a new hairstyle that challenged the long, feminine locks of the 1910s. The flapper bob, popularized by Irene Castle, became the signature hairstyle of the era. Contrary to the belief that women should have long hair, these young women opted for short bobs or slightly longer styles that barely grazed their ears.
In the hairdressing salons of the time, women mostly sported elegant short hairstyles.
The classic bob hairstyle brought about a revolution in women’s lives. It defied society’s expectations and symbolized the freedom that Flapper Girls sought. The invention of the hair dryer during this period revolutionized hairstyling, especially for dynamic curly looks.
Bob hair came in various styles, from finger waves created with fingers and a comb to Marcel waves achieved with the newly invented curling iron. The shingle bob featured a spiky look at the nape of the neck, while the Eton crop, made famous by Josephine Baker, became the most popular and shortest variation.
A collection of bob hairstyles from an American hair fashion magazine in 1920
Accessories played a crucial role in enhancing the beauty of bobbed hair. Elegant ribbons, bows, and close-fitting cloche hats, designed by Caroline Reboux in 1908, became must-have items for Flapper Girls. These accessories perfectly complemented the Eton crop hairstyle.
Headbands or cloche hats became the signature of Flapper Girls.
Who Started this Fashion Revolution?
Flapper Girls owe their existence to European painters and tailors who collaborated to bring about this transformative trend. Paintings by Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, and other cubist artists with their geometric shapes and bold lines served as inspiration for fashion designers in France. They used these artistic elements to create a new fashion movement known as “La garçonne” or Flapper.
Dancer Desiree Lubovska in a dress designed by Jean Patou. Photographer: Adolf de Meyer, 1921
Cartoons of the time featured smoking Flapper Girls with long legs, short bob hair, and a liberal personality gracing the covers of magazines like Life and New Yorker. The vibrant illustrations of artists such as Russell Patterson and Ralph Barton promoted the open-minded lifestyle and fashion sense of the era.
Looking back, we can see the cyclical nature of art and fashion. Fashion trends like Flapper Girls reached their peak, thanks to art, while art simultaneously paved the way for future trends in subsequent decades, gradually extinguishing the styles of the past.
True to the style of a young and beautiful Flapper Girl
Flapper Girls will always be remembered as the trailblazers who defied expectations and brought boldness, freedom, and a whole new style into the world of fashion. Their influence continues to resonate, inspiring generations of fashionistas to embrace their individuality and celebrate the spirit of independence.
Nowadays, we can look back at the Flapper Girls with admiration for their courage to challenge norms and appreciate the enduring legacy they left behind.
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