“The Playful flapper here we see,
The fairest of the fair.
She’s not what Grandma used to be…”
From The Flapper, Dorothy Parker
What’s a Flapper?
To get in the mood for the release of my 1920s romantic mystery, It Had to Be You, I’m posting on Tuesdays some facts, trivia, and slang from that fabulous frivolous decade.
If there’s one instantly identifiable word from the Roaring 20s, it’s “Flapper.”
This slang term for “young woman or girl” – some connotations derogatory, some not — was around for a long time before the 20th century, especially in England where the word “flap” (for young prostitute) traces back to the 1600s.
By 1920, the term Flapper had evolved into the youthful female image we know today.
Dictionary.com defines her as a “young woman, especially one who, during the 1920s, behaved and dressed in a boldly unconventional manner.”
Did she ever. Bobbed hair, knee-length skirt, rolled stockings, flapper beads, rouge, cloche hat … And attitude.
She looked like this…
In 1922, the American flapper got her own magazine, The Flapper (Not for old fogies!) In its first issue, The Flapper stated:
“Greetings, flappers! All ye who have faith in this world and its people, who do not think we are going to the eternal bowwows, who love life and joy and laughter and pretty clothes and good times, and who are not afraid of reformers, conformers, or chloroformers—greetings!…Thanks to the flappers the world is going round instead of crooked, and life is still bearable. Long may the tribe wave!”
F. Scott Fitzgerald once described Joan Crawford as the quintessential flapper:
“ … the girl you see at smart nightclubs… toying iced glasses with a remote, faintly bitter expression, dancing deliciously, laughing a great deal with wide, hurt eyes…”
But what did the flapper of the ‘20s think about herself and the radical new world she lived in? Following are quotes from the most famous flappers of the day.
“A kiss on the hand may feel very, very good, but a diamond and sapphire bracelet lasts forever.” –Anita Loos, author, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
“Marriage ain’t a woman’s only job no more. A girl who’s worked hard and earned her place ain’t going to be satisfied as a wife. … I think a modern girl’s capable of keeping a job and a husband.” — Clara Bow, actress
“If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.” –Joan Crawford, actress
“… the Flapper awoke from her lethargy of sub-deb-ism, bobbed her hair, put on her choicest pair of earrings and a great deal of audacity and rouge and went into the battle. She flirted because it was fun to flirt and wore a one-piece bathing suit because she had a good figure, she covered her face with powder and paint because she didn’t need it and she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring.” –From “Eulogy on the Flapper,” 1922, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald
What do you think? Have our young women changed much over the course of nearly a century? Or is that old saying true… there’s nothing new under the sun?
Until next week . . . long may the tribe wave!
The Flapper magazine quote (1922) was discovered at The Ultimate History Project
The Flapper magazine images are from OldMagazineArticles.com
Clara Bow – Nickolas Muray(photographer) (Brewster Magazine) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Zelda Fitzgerald – Metropolitan Magazine (Metropolitan Magazine, 1922) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons