Learn about Life in the 1920s

The flapper stereotype is one of short bobbed or shingled hair, straight loose knee-length dresses with a dropped waistline, silk or rayon stockings with garters, heavy makeup, long beaded necklaces, and smoking. Flappers are also associated with Jazz and 1920's dances like the Charleston.

Well Dressed Flapper

Flappers and Sheiks

Up until the early 1900's the pace of change in American lifestyles had been relatively slow with most people experiencing a similar lifestyle to what their preceding generations had also followed. The rate of change started to accelerate in the early 1900's as new influences had an effect that reached even the furtherest parts of the country. This had the effect of creating a new country-wide culture in the early twentieth century.

The movies, radio shows, sophisticated advertising, and popular magazines all had an influence on the lives of 1920's youth who saw themselves as different from the older generation. Young people began to model themselves on movie and sports stars who represented a glamorous new age, but they also took on many of the negative traits of their idols like smoking, bad language, immorality, and selfishness. And so the new youth culture manifested itself as the flapper and sheik.

The flapper stereotype is one of short bobbed or shingled hair, straight loose knee-length dresses with a dropped waistline, silk or rayon stockings with garters, heavy makeup, and long beaded necklaces. Flappers are also associated with Jazz and 1920's dances like the Charleston.

Here are some contemporary descriptions of the flapper!

One Connecticut damsel gives the following recipe for the flapper:—"Take two bare knees, two rolled stockings, two flapping goloshes, one short skirt, one lipstick, one powder puff, 33 cigarettes, and a boy friend with flask. Season with a pinch of salt and dash of pep, and cover all with some spicy sauce, and you have the old-time flapper."

"Then you have the real modern American flapper: Two bare knees, two thinner stockings, one shorter skirt, two lipsticks, three powder puffs, 132 cigarettes, and three boy friends, with eight flasks between them."

A magazine article, written by four members of the Junior League in different parts of the country, says that the flapper was a post-war creation. Her hair overnight resembled that of a Hottentot; her skirts ended about her knees; she sneaked her brother's cigarettes, and swore like a trooper. She chewed gum—great wads of it—vigorously and incessantly. Her make-up was as crude as a clown's.

The flapper started to fade away in 1928 as indicated by the following magazine article published in February of that year.

Gone is the flapper. In her place has come the young woman with poise, of soft-toned and correct speech, soberly dressed, and without closely cropped hair. Such, at all events, are the specifications of Miss 1928 as portrayed in the current number, of the "Junior League Magazine," which is the national organ of the younger social sets of some thirty of the principal American cities.

According to an investigation which has been conducted by members of the Junior League throughout the country it has been revealed that the flapper has sung her swan song in north, south, east, and, west. "Those hard-boiled little things with shaved necks have gone completely out of' style," says one active Chicago member of the Junior League.

Miss 1928 on the other hand, is much more subtle and polished, and she wears black satin instead of cerise. She blends rouge evenly and inhales cigarettes gracefully without puffing furiously and, unlike her predecessor, she drinks her liquor from a teacup rather than from a flask.

"This year's style in young girls is to be quiet, conversational, and terribly in earnest about careers."