Wondering what a flapper is? Need some flapper costume ideas? If you’re in need of a complete guide to 1920s Flapper Style, this is it — you’ve found it.
The 1920s was a pivotal decade in fashion history. If you study the evolution of fashion since then, it doesn’t take you long to arrive at the conclusion that clothing is becoming progressively more androgynous with each passing decade. The 1920s marked the decisive beginning of this trend towards fashion androgyny. At the heart of this trend in the 1920s was the iconic flapper.
What Is a “Flapper”?
A flapper was a youthful woman of the 1920s who rebelled against what had been the cultural norms up until that time.
Women had previously been expected to behave in a ladylike fashion. They did not smoke or drink alcohol in public. The flapper flaunted her rejection of traditional values and took the liberty of indulging in her vices of choice when she liked, whether in public or not.
Flapper Style of Dress
Women had previously dressed in clothing that accented their femininity. Corsets were the foundational garments that defined the trendy silhouettes of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Corsets drew attention to the curves of the female figure, drawing in the waist to make the hips appear fuller and focusing attention on the breasts. The flapper entirely rejected this feminine silhouette, instead favoring a slim, boyish silhouette that de-emphasized curves. Long dresses had previously been trendy. The flapper rejected these in favor of shorter dresses. Some flappers even dared to wear pants in public.
Many flappers cut their hair short. Short bobbed hairstyles became trendy in the 1920s.
How Did the Flapper Fashion Trend Get Started in the 1920s?
Many important lifestyle trends worked together to popularize the flapper image:
- Popular media including movies and magazines fueled the rise of the flapper.
- The public adored cinema celebrities such Joan Crawford. Women copied Crawford’s flapper-style clothing, hairstyle and makeup.
- Consumers were bombarded with advertisements that reinforced the flapper image. For example, cigarette companies’ ads presented compelling portrayals of women smoking. The ads made smoking in public seem like a fun, daring adventure and even a healthy thing to do.
- Fashion designers such as Paul Poiret created vivid clothing that resonated with women who embraced the flapper aesthetic. Poiret’s most popular silhouette was a hobble skirt silhouette topped with a wide tunic. A famous Paul Poiret quotation:
“I freed the bosom, shackled the legs, but gave liberty to the body.”
- Artists and illustrators like Erte and Gordon Conway created compelling imagery that women wanted to emulate.
- Sports such as skiing and tennis were influential on the fashions of the 1920s. It was this time period when “sportswear” became established as its own distinct category of clothing as styles evolved to become more practical than they had previously been.
Influential Fashion Designers and Illustrators Whose Imagery Was Influential in Shaping the 1920s Flapper Style
Coco Chanel — Chanel’s iconic fashions were trendy in the 1920s and remain popular today.
Coles Phillips — In 1920, Coles Phillips created a compelling image for the Saturday Evening Post that accompanied a story called Bernice Bobs Her Hair by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Erte — Erte was an artist and costume designer who at one point in his career worked for couturier Paul Poiret. Several prominent magazines published Erte’s illustrations including Harper’s Bazaar in America and La Gazette du Bon Ton in France. Erte is famous for his imaginative theatre, ballet and opera costumes.
Flapper Style Beaded Bags
Beaded bags and beaded jewelry were trendy in the 1920s. If you want to put together a flapper costume for Halloween or any other occasion, a beaded bag can help you complete the look.
If you know how to crochet or knit, you can make your own flapper style beaded bag using vintage crochet purse patterns. If you aren’t an experienced crafter, you can learn how to crochet or knit using free instructions at knittingandcrochet.net.
- At the Library of Congress Website: Joan Crawford