Flapper Essay Topics

Flappers first came to being in United States and later in Great Britain after the World War I. The flappers represent a new feminism in 1920s; these types of females had different types of goals than the traditional woman. After the World War, everyone wanted to go back to normalcy and as everyone settled, the women were not ready to go back to the rules of the society. Previously, the young girls were not allowed to date and waited for an interested suitor to propose marriage. Though, as the young men died in the war, the women decided that they will not waste away their lives waiting for men who did not exist in the first place to court them hence the birth of the flapper girl. These types of female were more concerned of social equality rather than political equality. In the traditional sense, American womanhood had for a long time been viewed as the conservative type. The flappers redefined womanhood and wanted to enjoy themselves as men did in terms of night clubbing, sex and in indulging in drinking. These women redefined how females dresses, had a great fascination on public drinking and they changed the rules of courting. The flappers went ahead in shortening their hemlines, bobbed hair became very popular in their time and make up became a day to day requirement for the then modern woman.

Attitude of the Flapper

The flappers’ attitude can be described as radical; most flapper girls wanted to live in the moment and not think at all of what tomorrow held for them and made sure she had fun and enjoyed herself as much as possible.

The flappers worshipped her physical appearance very much and they loved material objects especially jewelry and any earthly possessions. Magazines and videos idolized this woman and she was most sought after in the front covers. Image was everything for the flappers, most people learned about them through films, videos and radio which were a rapidly growing culture in the 1920s. There was an expanding consumer culture in the 1920s, and this made it easy for more women to adopt the flapper style across the United States of America. It was the growing consumer culture that made most women to buy the flapper dresses, make up, stockings and most of the jewelry since it was advertised in magazines all over and showcased in the showing movies.

In the 19th century, the women were more domesticated and had a traditional role, the flapper’s attitude towards this traditional role of domesticity changed, they shunned this role vehemently and took to the workforce and use of new technologies.

Life of the Flappers

Flappers were mostly middle class women who were young, single, working class and fashionable. Most of them held the clerking jobs that were on the rise in the 20th century. The flappers were not all work and no play, at night; they danced away in clubs to jazz music dancing suggestively with short skirts. With the advent of the 19th amendment in the constitution, these women were set to corrode all the social double standards that were in place. Additionally, they were not hesitant to experiment and enjoy sex openly. Their look was also part of the way they lived, they resorted to shorter skirts, lighter fabrics for their dresses as well as brighter, make up, jewelry and short hair was part of the cultural change (Jacquelyn, 1989)

How a Broader Section of Women Experienced the 1920s

After experiencing man shortage due to the World War I, the females decided not to abide by the society rules and therefore reinvented themselves overtime. They changed the kind of clothing they wore; their hair and they also changed their socializing habits like drinking out in the public and late night clubbing. Initially the Gibson girl was very conservative; they did not date when young, wore long skirts and high collared shirts and held their hair backwards with the advent of the flappers, the changes to some were very shocking. The 1920s woman was very rebellious and was trying new freedoms

During the initiation to the flappers, the girls who used to wear corsets and pantaloons replaced them with step-ins that allowed for easy movement during dancing and was at least lighter.

Workforce Experience

The women ceased from being home bound and onto both political and social reformers, more women took up office jobs as they changed their roles in society. The World War I made way for more employment opportunities for the women and by 1920s the women comprised of 23.6% of the workforce and the percentage kept rising in the 1930s. some of the women went for office jobs and they constituted of about 25%, the manufacturing industry also had about 18% of its workforce being women, 18% were in domestic work force while 12.9% were allocated in the agriculture sector. The 1920s saw women with an education background get employed though they still got jobs that involved nurturing such as nursing, social work, teaching, and pediatrics.

Political Experience

It was in the 1920s that saw the advent of women in the political arena; female politicians sought audience and were now well-known. Ms Preston Stanley was one of the politicians to come to being, she even openly wrote an article “a woman to women” citing how men were so arrogant and egocentric fellows especially in the political arena where she was quoted saying how men looked upon women and saw them as a species of lower destiny, she encouraged more women top write openly and to feel independent. Even though the women were paid less than their male counterparts, their work still gave them financial independence, hence, they became confident both in their personal and public relationships.

New Set of Social Values and Norms

The flappers set out for new values and norms in society, since the workforce was widely dominated by the make counterparts, they moved to fashion to express themselves hence the flappers, they cut their hair short, made their skirts were now knee length from the long skirts they used to wear, their dresses were more brighter and lighter and in most of the instances backless. As if their dress code was not enough controversy, women resorted to make up, they drank and smoked in public, they expressed their opinions on matters various topics without being objected by the men.

Use of Modern Technologies

After the World War, there was advent of new technologies such as the electronic iron, hot water taps and such like appliances. Advertisements idolized the flappers as they were able to use these appliances in their homes.

Education Experience

Even if it was in the domestic arts that led to jobs such as teaching and nursing, the women had a chance to go to school and get education which made the flappers more rebellious and assertive.

Did all Women Embrace the Flapper Age in Some Way? How so?

Not all the women embraced the flapper age as some resorted to getting married and taking care of their families. Some women did not see it fit to drink and smoke like the men did and instead resorted to staying indoors. Other women in the flapper age did not take to just having fun but rather concentrated on their careers and education. However, very few women chose not to engage in the flapper age. Most of the women took the chance and participated in the modern woman who worked, went to school and wore lighter clothes as opposed as previous age of women.

Most of the women adopted the flapper style though not in entirety; most of them adopted the bobbed hair, short skirts and their burning desire for personal liberty however, the fun habits of drinking and smoking in public were refrained by many, they still adhered to some of the old societal norms that deemed some activities as immoral and therefore avoided in whatever cost, any activities that would be deemed immoral by society at large.

Some of the women were very religious and deemed the flapper age immoral and degrading and therefore not all the young women indulged in the flapper age. The religious women kept to the traditional role of women as being domestic, composed and very shy. They questioned the integrity of the flapper age and did not want to be associated with the flapper style.

Could all Women Access These New Social Moves Associated with Flappers and Did They Want to?

Some women could not access the new social moves that were associated with flappers. Due to the World War I, it dawned on many people that they will not live forever hence a sense for mortality and this too accelerated the flapper age which was mostly all about fun, money and youth. Therefore, flapper age was mostly money indulgent. Some of the farm girls desired such a life that the girls in magazines had but most of them could not have it since they were faced with abject poverty. The nation was already facing agricultural depression and therefore such girls could not enjoy such luxuries. Most of these teenage girls saw the flappers as their role models even though society saw them as moral degradation of the girl child. Most of the flappers were daughters of the middle class families who had the middle class style of living and approach in life.

If Sex, Style, and Celebrity Were not the Most Important Issues for Women, What Were They in Fact?

The more important issues for women in the flapper age were having suffrage, this meant that they had a part to play in the current government and that at least gave them the powered to choose good leaders whom they saw fit. Additionally getting more employment opportunities was another important opportunity in the flapper age, through this, some of the women were able to work and become financially independence hence confident in both the public and private relationships.

Lastly, education opportunities mostly all the way to college was also an important issue in the flapper age; in the previous age, most young girls studied up to the fifth grade and this was a very sad moment for these girls, but with the advent of the flappers, most girls were able to go back to school and complete their college studies and even go ahead in building a career.


The woman before the 1920s were very quiet modest and polite, but came the World War I and their men went out to fight the war, the women came out to take the place of the men in the work place though for half the pay. The flappers were a symbol of the cultural change that took [place in the 1920s in the United States of America. The flappers’ clothing changed, the skirt became shorter, so was the hair, they began enjoying themselves just as the men did, smoking, drinking in public as well as going out clubbing at night. In addition, the flappers drove a car, danced to jazz music enjoyed sex openly voted and flirted. They were not left behind when it came to work and most of the flappers went into workforce therefore constituting of almost 27% of the workforce, this woman was rebellious and unstoppable. However, the flapper was just idolized, but in the real sense, there was still a challenge women faced in the society being discriminated by men. Even though there were changes in societal norm and view of women, the women were still paid less money in the workforce, some women were expected to give up their jobs after they got married so that they could take care of their family. With time, in the late 1920s, the men started accepting the changing role of women in the society and started to embrace the change. The flapper even though irked the society in which they lived in, most of them were seen as a bright future since the flappers were more educated, more experienced in the workforce and more importantly they had personal liberty and could vote on major issues that were affecting the women in general. Therefore, the flappers earned their symbols of individualism, materialism, and personal liberty.

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The flapper era was the time of the worship of youth (pandorasbox/flapper). Flappers were women of the Jazz Age. They had measurements of pre-adolescent boys, with no waistline, no bust, and no butt. Flappers had short hair worn no longer than chin length, called bobs. Their hair was often dyed and waved into flat, head-hugging curls and accessorized with wide, soft headbands. It was a new and most original style for women. A lot of make-up was worn by flappers that they even put on in public which was once unheard of and considered something done only by actresses and whores. Flappers wore short, straight dresses often covered with beads and fringes, and they were usually worn without pantyhose. Young flappers were known to be very rebellious against their parents, and society blamed their waywardness partially on the media, movies, and film stars like Louise Brooks (Szabo).

Louise Brooks was a big part of the Jazz Age and had a lot of influence on the women of the 1920s. Being a film star with a great, original personality she is known for being one of the most extraordinary women to set forth the Flapper era. Her sleek and smooth looks with her signature bob helped define the flapper look (pandorasbox/flapper).

On November 14, 1906, in Cherryvale, Kansas, Mary Louise Brooks was born. She had two brothers, one sister, and parents, Leonard and Myra Brooks, who was a costume maker and pianist. In 1910, Brooks performed in her first stage role as Tom Thumbs bride in a Cherryvale church benefit. Over the next few years she danced at mens and womens clubs, fairs, and various other gatherings in southeastern Kansas.

At ten years old she was already a serious dancer and very much interested in it. In 1920, Brooks family moved to Wichita, Kansas, and at 13 years old she began studying dance (pandorasbox/chron).

Louise Brooks had a typical education and family life. She was very interested in reading and the arts, so in 1922 she traveled to New York City and joined the Denishawn Dance Company. This was the leading modern dance company in America at the time. In 1923, Brooks toured the United States and Canada with Denishawn by train and played a different town nearly every night, but one year later she leaves Denishawn and moves back to New York City. Not too long after her return, she gets a job as a chorus girl in the George White Scandals. Following this she and a good friend of hers sailed to Europe. At 17 years old she gained employment at a leading London nightclub. She became famous in Europe as the first person to dance the Charleston in London, and her performances were great successes (pandorasbox/chron).

In 1925, Louise Brooks returned to New York and joins Ziegfeld Follier, and performed in the Ziegfeld production, Louie the 14th. That summer she had an affair with Charlie Chaplin. At the same time, Brooks also appeared in her first film, The Streets of Forgotten Men, and signed a five year contract with Paramount. This same year, she had her first appearance on a magazine cover. In 1926, she featured as a flapper in A Social Celebrity which launched her film career and introduced the flapper era (pandorasbox/chron).

In 1933 Brooks married wealthy Chicago playboy Deering Davis, but within six months they were separated. In 1956, she met James Card, the legendary film creator at George Eastman House, and moved to Rochester, NY. Here she studied film and continued to write at the House. Throughout her life she finds employment on the radio, as a model, and stared in many more films in which many of them she portrayed the rapidly spreading style of a flapper. She is a miraculous woman who helped to unfold and expand the flapper era throughout the world (pandorasbox/chron).

Not only did Louise Brooks have a great impact on the culture revitalization of the 1920s, but she also left contributions that are still evident today. The year is 2000, and everywhere we look this so-called “new fashion” is becoming popular, but look again. Dresses just above knee length with fringes and frills being worn by teenage girls and women, are the same style as those worn in the 1920s. The flappers of the 1920s also started a new phase of rebellion that would be passed on for decades. Before the 1920s, girls and women were always refined, reserved, “daddies girls”. This new era brought more unrefined, unpolished, and more rebellious girls. It brought women with attitude and youth, which can be seen in todays society. Teenage girls today are constantly disobeying their parents and staying out past curfew. They are said to have a mind of their own. And of course, they are wearing things of which their parents disapprove, just as flappers like Louise Brooks wore clothing that would have been deemed whorish and vulgar if it was not for her stardom and acting success. She gave life to a new style would influence women for years to come.


“Flapper Culture and Style: Louise Brooks and the Jazz Age.” The Louise Brooks Society. http://pandorabox.com/flapper.html. 3/22/00.

“Louise Brooks Chronology.” The Louise Brooks Society. http:// pandorasbox.com/chron.html. 3/23/00.

Szabo, Julia. “Oh, Those Flabbergasting Flappers!” Long Island Our Story. Http://www.lihistory.com/7/hs715c.htm. 3/22/00.

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