The flapper of the 1920s flouted conventional ideals about female propriety and enjoyed a level of freedom unknown to women in previous eras. She drank, smoked, danced and socialized in mixed company, scandalizing older generations and stirring up endless debates over her provocative behavior. The looser, more comfortable fashions of the flapper era reflected the new-found freedoms and active lifestyles of many young women in the 1920s.
Flappers of the 1920s rejected the rounded, matronly shapes popular in the previous decade and instead idealized a slim, boyish silhouette. The loose fitting, drop-waist shift dress, typical of flapper fashion, gave the wearer the desired sleek and linear look. The style also allowed a freedom of movement not permitted by the laced up, cinched in fashions of previous eras. Undergarments of the flapper era further exaggerated the boyish ideal by minimizing the abdomen and bust line. The French referred to flapper style as "la garconne" -- a feminine version of the French word for "boy".
Rising Hemlines and Bare Arms
Hemlines fluctuated significantly throughout the 1920s. In the first few years of the decade, skirt lengths typically fell near the calf, but by 1925, fashionable hemlines hovered approximately 14 to 16 inches from the ground. In 1926, skirt lengths receded yet again to just above the kneecap. This length remained fashionable until 1928. Flapper hemlines gradually dropped in the final years of the decade and were several inches below the knee by 1930. Additionally, baring one's slender, toned arms in a sleeveless look was trendy for both day and night.
A Glimpse of Stocking
Flappers traded in the black, wool stockings worn by women during World War I for nude or pastel colored stockings made of silk or rayon. Some stocking fashions also featured patterns or embroidery up to the knee. Also, the higher hemlines meant that a young woman's feet would definitely be on display, so flappers paid careful attention to footwear fashion as well. Mary Janes and T-bar shoes were popular options. Heel heights were typically over two inches and many shoe styles were embellished with rhinestones or sequins.
Hair and Makeup Trends
Women in the 1920s typically wore their hair cut in a short bob and frequently wore a barrette, headband or feather as an accessory. The Eton Crop, in which the short, cropped hair is dramatically slicked back with gel, became a popular hairstyle toward the end of the decade. A close-fitting, bowl-shaped cloche hat was pulled down over the forehead to complete the look. The trendy flapper sported a powdered face, dark red lips and a small touch of rouge. She also considered it fashionable to conspicuously apply makeup in public using a small, engraved compact.
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