It’s Halloween and you are all ready to roll. This year you have decided to go as a flapper. You’ve set your hair in tight, neat finger waves, and pulled your garter up your leg, which is still exposed under the extremely short hemline of your boxy, shimmy dress. You take a look at yourself in the full-length mirror and stop to think for a moment. Just a decade before the flapper Charlestoned the night away on the dance floor, women had their knees hidden under layers of material. Arms covered in yards of fabric were certainly not bare and free to move to the jazzy beats to come in the age of the Speakeasy. So how did this most sexy of Halloween costumes come to be? What is behind the shapeless, short, shift dress you see reflected in the mirror before you?
• Accessibility. The information age had officially begun. Vogue and Vanity Fair were in circulation picturing the latest fashion trends. Women found themselves fantasizing about wearing clothes just like they had seen in the magazine. Most wonderful of all was that this clothes was actually accessible. It was the Roaring 20’s. Times were good and fabrics were available. Most convenient of all was that this clothes was extremely easy to make – boxy shapes with very little tailoring. Women found themselves with the necessary skills, funds, and know-how to create a sexy flapper dress in their own home.
• Rebellion. Literally yards upon yards of fabric went into women’s clothing before the turn of the century. On top of all that material, or rather underneath, was a garter, a bust-enhancing device designed to restrict a woman’s breathing to a shallow whisper. But the 1920’s saw important changes that included the woman’s right to vote. That made the ladies stop and breathe… or at least they tried to… and then they untied their garters and took the deepest most freeing breath to date. Dresses lost almost all structure. Gone were cinched waists and in were flat chests. The fellas still got an eyeful with a whole lot of rarely-before-seen skin.
• Sports. You may wonder what sports have to do with the flapper dress. They have everything to do with its freedom of movement. Tennis, golf, swimming… women of the 20’s were expressing their athleticism and needed more comfortable clothing in which to do so. The trends of the decade reflected this trend in women’s sport. You can’t hit a backhand down the line with a garter that physically splits your upper and lower body into two. Those restrictions had to go; and as a result, women became fitter and healthier. An athletic body was in, and the flapper dress was the perfect way to display it.
So on this Halloween, wear that sexy flapper costume proudly. It’s far more than a little dress. It is a socio-economic fashion statement that inspired women to burn their bras and train to become world-class athletes in the decades to follow.