The image of the flapper was a modern expression of Victorian women’s sexual freedom.
Flappers wore revealing dresses, long black hair loose and free, and loose skirts. They often kept their hair up in long braids and wore high-heeled shoes to emphasize their femininity – a fashion of the period that was completely unfamiliar in the United States, and that is often cited as contributing to the demise of the flapper.
As with other “feminine” fashion movements, flappers were often the object of suspicion, scorn, and even sexual abuse.
In 1876, Charles W. Burt ran a bookshop in Boston, Mass., known at the time as the Burt’s Books for the Modern Ladies. He was a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement. He had a copy of Harper’s Monthly that reported about the revival of a flapper movement in America.
Burt described his bookshop as “a club” or “shady affair” and included several flappers in his photographs, but the majority of the photos he photographed were of flappers he knew.
Flapper-watchers now believe that the rise of the feminist movement led to further cultural exploration for the young at the time. The advent of the automobile changed the social scene for a while, but by the early 1900s, it seemed clear that the “woman’s wheel” was coming to an end. With that in mind, flappers in particular became a “sexual liberation” movement for women.
How did flappers compare with other modern women’s movements?
Flappers were associated with Victorian gender role rigidities, such as the “masculine” roles of breadwinner, housekeeper, and the wife.
Flappers used their sexuality to protest their sexist societies. For example, the term flapper made a few appearances in American newspapers, and as early as 1905, a flapper with dyed hair was featured in a New York Times newspaper caption. Flappers wanted the social status associated with being a male flapper. At the time, many girls were not allowed to attend college, and these women were able to escape social and educational stigmas associated with being a girl.
Women Flappers circa 1900 with a flapper-inspired dress, hairstyle and accessories.
Flappers also protested their sex roles by taking and wearing clothes of other genders as costumes.
In the late 1870s, the fashion world began to take note of the
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