Moment 5: Flappers and Sub-flappers

Flappers embraced a look and a sexual freedom that infiltrated the mainstream, while teens adopted a younger, aspirational version, angering parents.

Flappers and Sub-Flappers

Flappers and Sub-Flappers

Photo By Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 11/01/2010

Rebellious youth has long fueled fashion, none more so than that of the flapper, her nickname solidified by the 1920 film starring Olive Thomas, her entire genre romanticized forever by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This leg-baring, gin-swilling girl—with hair bobbed, dress loose and morals looser—embraced a new, shocking sexual freedom that went hand in hand with her blatant disregard for Prohibition. Her gamine bravado marked the final death knell for corsets, already on the wane in the previous decade, and her style quickly infiltrated the mainstream. "What I really like is a costume of the flapper sort, a trim little suit, a skirt not too long and a soft hat," Broadway star Jeanne Eagels told WWD in November 1922. "One is perfectly comfortable dressed in this fashion and yet it is young and smart, too." A younger, aspirational type emerged, teens whom the paper dubbed "the sub-flapper." "That Brooklyn has taken the wave of 'flapperism' seriously," wrote WWD, "is evidenced by the organization of a Parents' League, made up of 130 mothers whose purpose is to restore the simple life for [the sub-flapper] and prevent [them] from acquiring the taste for extreme forms of amusement. To this end, they have drawn up a list of 'blue laws' touching on parties, 'movies' and dancing."

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