Flappers and Pin-Ups – Girls Who Changed Nations

1920artdecoExcessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, cursing, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms…

In the early 1900’s, Burlesque performers and actresses used photographic advertisements as business cards to promote themselves.  Understanding the power of photographic advertisements to promote their shows, the girls of yesteryear relied on the power of their sexuality to become recognized.  

Being fantasized about in the early 20th Century through film (photography as well as movies) created the term “sex symbol”,  and one of the first female sex symbols of that era was the one and only Betty Grable.  You could have found her pin-up girl photos in every locker during World World II.

Pin-up artwork depicted idealized versions of what a woman should look like.  Nudity was common in photos as well as illustrations.  As early as 1869, women have been supporters and protesters of the pin-up.  Women supporters of early pin-up content considered these to be a “positive” post-Victorian rejection of bodily shame and a healthy respect for female beauty.

Pin-up models pictures were mass produced and were literally, “pinned-up” on a wall.  They were also called cheesecake photos.  Pin-up refers to illustrations as well as paintings and photographs.  The pin-ups were found in magazines, newspapers, postcards, chromo-lithographs and calendars.

Flappers were a “new breed” of young Western women in the 1920’s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was considered acceptable behavior.  Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms.  Flappers had their origins in the liberal period of the Roaring Twenties, which brought about transatlantic exchanges that followed the end of World War I.   This was also the time the American jazz scene was exported to
Europe.

Prohibition had a lot to do with the emergence of a new view of the world as back alley speakeasies became popular.  Flappers eventually came to be seen as attractive, reckless, and independent.

Flappers’ behavior was considered outlandish and at the time redefined women’s roles.  They were the social butterfly type…the frivolous, scantily-clad, jazzing flapper, irresponsible and undisciplined.  They wore their hair up or short, played sports, were assertive,  and got to vote.  They used slang words, including “junk”, “heavy-necker” and “jazz”.  She refused the traditional moral code.

Despite the scandal flappers generated, their look became fashionable in a toned-down form. Skirts rose to just below the knee by 1927, allowing flashes of leg to be seen when a girl danced or walked through the breeze.  High heels became vogue at this time, reaching 2-3 inches high.  The look was almost boyish when corsets were replaced with bodices that restrained their chest when dancing.  Art deco jewelry including layers of necklaces, pins, rings, brooches all came into style.

Heavy makeup included emphatic mouths and huge eyes heavily outlined in kohl.  The invention of lipstick containers and compact mirrors, blush and bee stung lips were totally vogue.  Tanned skin became popular after Coco Chanel showed off a tan after a holiday!

Being liberated from restrictive dresses, laces that interfered with breathing, and dress hoops that needed managing suggested, a freedom to walk and breathe and the modern girl took full advantage of movement.  The flapper was an extreme manifestation of changes in the lifestyle of the American woman, and helped to bring about the emancipation of woman.

pinup1920The New Woman was pushing the boundaries of gender identity, representing sexual and economic freedom.  She cut her hair short and took to loose-fitting clothes and low cut dresses.

The flapper lifestyle and look disappeared in America after the Wall Street Crash and the following Great Depression.  The high-spirited attitude and hedonism were less acceptable during the economic hardships of the 1930’s.

Pin-up girls are still popular till this day.

boop1932My favorite flapper, Betty Boop.

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