The dictionary defines a flapper as – “A young woman, especially one in the 1920s, who showed disdain for conventional dress and behavior.” That is, conventional in the 1920s.
The style came around after the first world war, and women were tired of trying to conform to society’s idea of normal – women were gaining more independence (e.g. being given the vote), and the face of America was changing! Flappers were most commonly known for their dancing, drinking, smoking, wearing a lot of makeup, and a love of films. Almost all flappers had bobbed hair, dated frequently, and stopped wearing their corsets (which were social norms in the 1910s.) If you want more information, try going down to your local library, or try using resources such as Wikipedia. There are also several websites with information on Flappers.
2. Research some famous Flappers
What better way to learn than by example? Here are some women you may want to look up –
* Anita Loos (Author of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)
* Clara Bow (Actress in film It)
* Josephine Baker (Performer in the Folies Bergere)
* Helen Kane (Singer of I Want To Be Loved By You)
* Zelda Fitzgerald (Socialite, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald)
3. Live like a Flapper
Now that you know exactly ‘what’ a Flapper is, and know you wish to be one, you’ll need to start acting like one!
Here is a list of things Flappers would commonly do->
* Watch a lot of films (specifically Flapper ones)
* Instead of watching TV when bored, do crosswords. Try and do them every day.
* If possible, get a driver’s license and a nice car (if you really want to go all out, one circa 1920s) and drive it. Lots. Really fast.
* Instead of sitting at home, or going to dance clubs, find a Jazz club to frequent, and dance the night away.
* Pout. Constantly. Make it a habit, because it will come in handy later. And if you must smile, don’t do a big grin, just a small polite one will do.
* Keep your hair perfectly styled and frizz free.
* ALWAYS wear makeup. Even to go grocery shopping or walk the dog. Keep your makeup with you in a purse or bag and apply it often, in public places. In the 1920s, this was very unconventional and all Flappers did this.
* Be very flirtatious, but remain classy. You should practice being sexy, sophisticated and care-free, and try to go out on plenty of dates and to parties – looking fabulous, of course.
* Enjoy alcohol. During the 1920s, when America was going through prohibition, all Flappers would frequent Speakeasies. For a bit of fun, carry a hip or garder flask. But remember to drink alcohol responsibly – you don’t want to be seen losing your cool.
* If you’re staying home with your friends (who are preferably Flappers), play games of Mah-Jongg.
4. Talk like a Flapper
Now that you’re acting like a Flapper (and I’m sure your friends will have noticed the change), you should start talking like one, too! Here is some common Flapper slang. You’ll probably recognize some of the words that have lasted through the ages! (Note: Use in moderation to begin with.)
* Good – Bee’s knees, berries, cat’s meow, cat’s pajamas, copacetic, ducky, hep (wise), hotsy-totsy, It, jake, kippy, nifty, ritzy, spiffy, swanky, swell.
* Bad – Applesauce, baloney, banana oil, bunk, flat tire (a boring person), hokum, hooey, horse feathers, lousy.
* Body parts – Feet = Dogs, Legs = Gams, Mouth = Kisser, Nose = Smeller, Legs = Stilts
* Money – Sugar
* Dud – A wall flower
* Sweetie – Anybody you hate
* Butt me – Give me a cigarette
* You can find much more in the link to the “Flapper’s Dictionary” in the Sources and Citations area at the bottom of this page!
5. Dress like a Flapper
So, you know how to act, how to talk…
but how do you dress?
Well, Flapper’s had a very distinctive dress sense – it was like nothing else around in the 1920s. Go out to your local clothes shops, boutiques, thrift stores and vintage stores, or click on eBay or a specialist vintage retailer, and try to find these items.
* Dresses. When buying dresses, look out for – dropped waistlines (VERY important to the Flapper style), plunging necklines, plunging backs, and sleeveless dresses. Material wise, go for beaded material, sequined material, and flowery material.
* Stockings. When wearing your stockings, roll them down to either above your knee or directly below, and wear chains instead of garters. If you are wearing silk stockings, try and find them with embroidered icons on them.
* Cloche hats, peekaboo hats and feathered hats
* Headbands, particularly feathered headbands
* Things with feathers and fringes
* Knee-length skirts, or those slightly below the knee
* Knit suits (skirt sets)
* Knitted sweaters
* Long strands of pearls (Imitation so you are not wearing crab ulcers & hurting industrially bred clams)
* Raccoon coats (Imitation so you are not being disgusting or hurting any animals).
* Sleeveless shirts
6. Get some Flapper Glamour
You could easily be regarded as a Flapper now! Your wardrobe is the bee’s knees, but what about your makeup? Well, don’t worry about it, we’ll sort that out next. You might be surprised to hear that many brands popular in the 1920s are available today – Avon, Max Factor Elizabeth Arden were all popular among flappers.
* Before you begin applying your makeup, wash your face well. You’ll need a good canvas to work on. Also, remember to take all your makeup of at night, and cleanse and moisturize daily. Who ever heard of a flapper with bad skin?
* Cover your face and your lips with a thin layer of foundation that matches your skin tone (your lip colour should be the same as your skin colour, now), and top it off with some powder on your t-zone. Apply blusher at your own discretion – if you do choose to, keep it up at your cheekbones.
* Pluck your eyebrows. Flappers were known for having tiny eyebrows. They should be very thin, and either straight or slightly turned down. Highlight your lovely brows by going through them with a dark brown eyebrow pencil.
* Flapper’s wished to achieve the large, doe-eyed look. Wear smudgy, smokey eye-makeup. Finish with some dark mascara and false eyelashes, to really make a statement.
* This is possibly the most important part of the Flapper look – the lips! You’ll want to have cupid-bow lips. Before you begin, make sure your lips are properly coated in foundation. There are two ways to create this look. The first is to take a red lip liner and draw two dramatic peaks on your top lip – don’t fill these peaks in, however, nor the rest of your lips. Or, if your prefer, you could take a jar of lipstick, dip your thumb in, and rub it twice over each of your peaks (a lot of girls did this.) This is where your pouting practice will become useful – you’ll look very silly with a big grin and cupid bow lips!
7. Get Flapper hair
Your flapper look will not be complete with out Flapper hair. A Flapper’s hair was extremely important. Ridiculously important. Flapper’s wore their hair in bobs. If you have straight hair, or hair straighteners, have a sleek and smooth bob. If you have curly hair, have a wild and unruly one! The choice of having a fringe, or “bangs”, is completely up to you. Some people find comfort hiding behind long hair. Well, that’s gotta change. Be loud and proud! NOBODY doesn’t suit short hair – there are many different styles of bob to suit different face shapes. Ask a professional hairstylist about what will suit you best. You could also try “finger rolls” in your short hair (Putting finger rolls in long hair isn’t an alternative.)
8. Wow. You now have the knowledge, the personality, the hobbies, the lingo, the looks and the dress sense of a true Flapper girl! Have fun with it, and remember to stay true to yourself!
* A few famous actresses of the Jazz Age you may wish to look in to:
o Louise Brooks
o Clara Bow
o Alice Brady
o Barbara La Marr
o Carmel Myers
o Dolores Costello
o Eleanor Boardman
o Fay Wray
o Gladys Brockwell
o Helene Costello
o Jacqueline Gadsden
o Kathylyn Williams
o Laura La Plante
o Mae Busch
o Nancy Carroll
o Olive Borden
o Patsy Ruth Miller
o Renee Adoree
o Sally O’Neil
o Theda Bara
o Viola Dana
o Zasu Pitts
* Start listening to Jazz music!