The History of the Flapper

Looking Back to Move Forward: The 1920s Flappers on American Magazine Covers

Ng Lay Sion

Many of us are familiar with the image of the 1920s Flapper and yet not many of us actually understand the ambivalent meaning—social, cultural and political ideas—that lies beneath this symbol. On one hand, the image of the New Woman or Flapper is viewed as a representation of feminism as “American women had just gained the right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution” (Liming 137). Also, the less form-fitting styles of the 1920s that gave way to exposed arms, legs, and necklines are perceived as representing women’s sexual freedom and a trend toward androgyny. However, some claim that the flapper style—boyishly cropped hair, dramatic “vamp” makeup, loose, amorphous frocks and so forth—is in fact less representative of a move toward androgyny than a move “towards a distant and hazy ideal of pre-pubescent female youth” (Liming 109). In other words, instead of moving toward a gender-neutral condition, the youthful flappers were actually moving away from adult female bodies so that women remained “non-threatening to the continued operation of patriarchal norms” (Addison 8).

It is claimed that Oliver Thomas (original name, Oliveretta R. Duffy) was the first flapper in American history. Thomas was born…The whole article is available on Slutty Girl Problems



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