Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bernice Bobs Her Hair: Back to the Jazz Age

[Cross-post from Iron as Needed. Full disclosure: this is a post that my sister did at her wonderful blog on clothes making and the history of fashion. Full disclosure part 2: my sister talks a bit about my brother's band. Full disclosure part 3: the post shows pictures of my late granny in flapper gear. Blogging: a family affair? Yes.]

Nicole White

"Let us keep up the rules that flapperism is composed of--bobbed hair, short skirts and low-heeled shoes, giving the body plenty of room to expand itself and that free and easy swing that only a short skirt can afford. What do you say flappers?"

-Excerpt from a letter published in The Flapper magazine (1922) written by a Chicago flapper

Photograph of
my grandma in 1926
Jazz music, dancing, speakeasies, gansters, and, of course, flappers were all part of the twenties underground scene. The flapper emerged as the new, fancy-free woman of the decade with a carefree attitude and flare for style. She didn't care about the societal rules imposed on women and still kept her femininity while keeping up with the men. Flappers became such a sensation that there was even a magazine devoted to them called The Flapper, which embraced the same free spirit outlook as its readers and included the byline, "Not for Old Fogies." When Paris fashion tried to "impose" the long skirt on America in 1922, The Flapper was outraged and included the following at the end of an article titled, "Flappers Protest Dictation From Paris."

Any flapper reader of The Flapper magazine may fill out the following blank and mail it in as a token of her stand on Parisian dictation of styles. No names will be used; our only concern is to arrive at an accurate gauge of flapper opinion. Results of this referendum will be published in the November issue.
The Flapper, 604 Ogden Bldg., Chicago, Ill.
Gentlemen: This is how I stand on continuation of present-day
styles. I am marking my preference with an X.
For Against
Bobbed Hair ____ ____
Rolled Sox ____ ____
Short Skirts ____ ____
Knickers ____ ____
Low-heeled Shoes ____ ____
Corsets ____ ____
Name............................................. Age.............
Street Address............................ City.............

Photograph of
my grandma in the 1920s
By the twenties, women were tired of wearing uncomfortable, stuffy clothing and were ready for a change. The loose fitting, drop-waist dresses became a staple in every flapper's wardrobe. Jeanne Lanvin and Coco Chanel were two influential fashion designers at the time that kept the "new breed" of women happy.

With the Great Gatsby remake to be released in December and Gucci, Marchesa, Ralph Lauren, and Alberta Ferretti, just to name a few, all sending twenties-inspired looks down the runway, this will be the year to celebrate flapper fashion. High-end designer dresses this spring will feature drop-waists, feathers, fringe, pleats, soft silks, and beading. One of the only fashion houses to not partake in this resurgence is Alexander McQueen. When recently asked about the up and coming trend, creative director Sarah Burton commented, "We’re not a house to do a dropped waist."

Fashion designers may be bringing the twenties back to the runway, but the Dave Stephens Band is bringing it to the stage. Kansas City became a famous jazz hub during the Jazz Age and the Dave Stephens Band is keeping it alive today by performing vintage delights such as Alexander's Ragtime Band, Puttin' on the Ritz, and Runnin' Wild. Their energetic, live shows take you back in time to a night in a past decade. The intimate experience feels so authentic that you half expect the police to burst through the doors like a speakeasy raid on the grounds that the crowd is having a little too much fun. The New York Times described Dave Stephens as "a jazz singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles whose perpetual smile, expansive gestures and habit of breaking into song unprovoked make him seem like a Broadway musical character." Cue the curtain!

I made a twenties-inspired dress this week and used a beautiful Marc Jacobs crepe de chine I purchased from Mood. It was my first time to work with a silk/lycra blend and it wasn't easy! It's similar to the dress I made last week . . . just a bit dressier.


Marcos Dinnerstein said...

Very cool dress you made. Congrats! If you and your readers want to get a broader picture of how "flapper fashion" was perceived in the world at the time I recommend this article I found on Udini http://udini.proquest.com?cid=2012hist_blog
(free as one of 5 free article)
The rise and fall of the flapper dress: Nationalism and anti-Semitism in early-twentieth-century discourses on German fashion

It talks about the official party line taken by the Nazis towards women's fashion and what German women heeded and disregarded. (oddly enough German women were opposed to the flapper look) It's very interesting stuff from a fashion/women's history perspective. Hope you enjoy!

Nicole White said...

I just read the article on Udini about flapper fashion and found it fascinating! Thank you for recommending it and for your comment.