Yesterday, I watched a brilliant musical by Julie Andrews, ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ that aired in 1967. The soundtrack and plot were great, but I was more intrigued with the film’s setting during the age of the ‘flappers’.
What are ‘flappers’? Prior to the 1920s, women were brought up to be gentle and soft-spoken women. During this age, women were characterized by their long locks of hair hidden underneath fancy hats matching with long dresses that required corsets.
After World War I, young women started to break away from that Victorian tradition. They wore makeup, bobbed their hair and tightly wound their chest with strips of cloth to flatten their chest to look more like a boy. They smoked, they drank, they danced, they listened to jazz and they practised casual dating and sex.
Flappers were unconventional women. They were risk-takers. They wanted their liberal rights. They were among the first to advocate for voting and women’s rights. They earned their own keep. They were self-reliant.
Although the flapper lifestyle disappeared from the impact of the Great Depression, the lifestyle that started off as a fad matured into an evolved thinking about the roles of women in society.
Flappers were the tipping point towards the rise of modern women and to what we are today in most developed and developing regions.
For the interested, here are a few highly recommended books about Flappers:
- F.Scott Fitzgerald – Flappers and Philosophers (1920)
- Joshua Zeitz – Flapper: A madcap story of sex, style, celebrity, and the women who made America modern (2007)