Flappers: Colorful Female Characters of the 1920's
As men left to fight in the Great War in the late 1910's, women in the U.S. and all over Europe found themselves necessary to make the homefront function, i.e. women had to fill the holes in industry and social life that the absence of men created for them. It is at this time that the flapper appears; a new kind of woman with short, bobbed hair, shorter skirts and freer clothes to match her new, freer lifestyle. It is no wonder that the vote was given to women during this time, as the idea of gender equality became a reality in its necessity.
It is a bit difficult to say where the term "flapper" came from. It was used in Britain to mean "a young girl", mostly in the sense that a young girl resembles a baby bird leaving the nest, flapping its wings and unable to really fly yet. F. Scott Fitzgerald used this term back in the States to define the new young women who had emerged after the war. John Held, Jr., a leading cartoonist of the time who drew the covers of many magazines, perpetuated the idea by drawing young women wearing floppy shoes that flapped when they walked.
A flapper was supposed to be a young woman, not yet mature in herself, but with a rather brazen attitude towards life. These new teenaged women drank, smoke, and drove cars. F. Scott Fitzgerald said a good flapper would be "lovely, expensive, and about nineteen." They were often criticized for their lack of clothing - women of earlier times wore layers upon layers of skirts that went down to their ankles, while flappers were suddenly wearing short, open dresses with a new scandalous pair of "step-ins" as their only form of underwear. They refused to wear garter belts to hold up their stockings, and instead rolled these down under their skirts. Flappers also openly wore make-up, something that had been restricted to prostitutes in the past. It was as if girls were smashing the old conceptions of womanhood to the ground, flaunting both their newfound freedom as equal to men and reveling in their absolute womanhood.
There were, of course, many different degrees of "flapperhood", and certainly your average suburban girl was not nearly as wild as the stars of Hollywood or the infamous Zelda Fitzgerald. Older generations criticized the younger for stepping too far over the boundaries of what was socially acceptable; but eventually all women bought into this new movement in some form or another. While grandma might not go so far...