We’ve asked four of the country’s most popular men.
This is part one in a two-part series on the clothing of 1920s flappers.
“Sunglasses in the street,” said Mrs. Fred H. Stebbins, a flapper from Stowe, Conn., who wore a red straw boa. “But I know what you need. If I want my eyes to be red, I don’t need red shoes.”
The 1920s saw a sharp rise in interest among American women in style and beauty—the movement of the ’90s, with its wide-eyed ’80s cheerleaders, flared skirts, and skinny jeans, has done it some lasting damage—particularly after the fashion police and the beauty industry had some fun with the fashions they saw as sexist. Yet most of Stowe’s flappers wore traditional styles, even if, as many did, they could not wear the proper clothes, or a flapper’s costume, without exposing all five of their legs. Most wore short-shorts and flak jackets, although some preferred short skirts, even though many of them lived on the fringes, in the dark and dirt.
The flapper costume was a simple dress, which had no neck, or lace, or ruffles on the skirt’s hem. It was made of bright yellow silk. In addition to a wide, pale white band across the chest, most flappers wore an embroidered ribbon. Many had flowers on their heads or in their hair. Flapper costumes varied widely in size and style. The most elaborate were made of black tulle and sometimes silk, and some had floral lace appliques as well. Others had no floral lace. In 1920, there were flapper and fanny stores in Stowe, among the more elaborate were the “Clothes and Beauty” and “Dressers” shops, but neither had any permanent presence. It seems reasonable that they had started out as a novelty shop before their more traditional fashion-forward competitors took an interest.
This is a 1920s photo of the Fashion Show St. Claire at the St. George Theater. (Photo courtesy of the Charles A. Coss. History of the Fashion Show, p. 12)
“In the first year, every one of the women started to wear a flower in their hair, as long and as pretty as possible,” said Nancy Burchill, who wrote the popular book on 19th-century flappers,