The Era of Art Deco and the Flappers


The Blue Mountains prospered during this decadent era and there is a plethora of  guesthouses, still resplendent in their design and  fittings. During the month of February in the Blue Mountains, this decadent era is celebrated and the Roaring Twenties Festival is held



Typical of the liberated women of  her time - the Flappers


The Era of the Suffragettes

.Clara Bow in 1921, before she became a star

Known as  Flappers, they  were a "new breed" of young  women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then 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. One cause of the change in young women's behavior was World War I which ended in November 1918. The death of large numbers of young men in the war, and the Spanish flu epidemic which struck in 1918 killing between 20–40 million people, re-inforced  a concept in young people a feeling that life is short and could end at any moment. Therefore, young women wanted to spend their youth enjoying their life and freedom rather than just staying at home and waiting for a man to marry them. Flappers had their origins in such a liberal period which became known as  the Roaring Twenties..

They were criticized  as "the social butterfly type… the frivolous, scantily-clad, jazzing flapper, irresponsible and undisciplined, to whom a dance, a new hat, or a man with a car, were of more importance than the fate of nations.

In the United States, popular contempt for Prohibition was a factor in the rise of the flapper. With legal saloons and cabarets closed, back alley speakeasies became prolific and popular. This discrepancy between the law-abiding, religion-based temperance movement and the actual ubiquitous consumption of alcohol led to widespread disdain for authority.   Writers  furthers popularized the flapper look and lifestyle through their works, and flappers came to be seen as attractive, reckless, and independent. The secretary of labor denounced the "flippancy of the cigarette smoking, cocktail-drinking flapper.

Overturning of Victorian roles

Victorian attitudes toward dress and etiquette created a strict moral climate. War and morality were not compatible.

Flappers also began working outside the home and challenging women's traditional societal roles. They were considered a significant challenge to traditional Victorian gender roles, devotion to plain-living, hard work and religion. Increasingly, women discarded old, rigid ideas about roles and embraced consumerism and personal choice, and were often described in terms of representing a "culture war" of old versus new. Flappers also advocated voting and women's rights.  Prosperity abounded when women entered the workforce during the war.  There was no turning back.

Flappers also used the word "jazz", though not specifically in the sense of a form of music, but more generally of anything exciting or fun. Also reflective of their preoccupations were phrases to express approval, such as  "That's the bee's knees," and the popular "the cat's meow" or "cat's pyjamas".

The sedate conventional dressing  of 1910. Victorian 1910 neck to knee fashion on the tennis court

The flappers fashion was represented a "culture war" of old versus new. Flappers also advocated voting and women's rights.   The compliant image  of women as being wholesome,  virtuous and  espousing morality  was  rapidly expelled.

Although the appearance typically associated now with flappers (straight waists, short hair and a hemline above the knee) did not fully emerge until about 1926,  there was an early association in the public mind between unconventional appearance, outrageous behaviour, and the word "flapper".

Significantly, the flappers removed the corset from female fashion, raised skirt and gown hemlines, and popularized short hair for women. Flapper dresses were straight and loose, leaving the arms bare (sometimes no straps at all) and dropping the waistline to the hips. Silk or rayon stockings were held up by garters. Skirts rose to just below the knee by 1927, allowing flashes of leg to be seen when a girl danced or walked through a breeze, although the way they danced made any long loose skirt flap up to show their legs. To enhance the view, some flappers applied rouge to their knees.  High heels also came into vogue at the time, reaching 2–3 inches (5–8 cm) high.

Boyish cuts were in vogue, especially the Bob cut, wavy hair was made with a crimping iron. Bangs on the forehead were made with bobby pins.

The Flapper Dress had its origins as early as 1915 when a young Coco Chanel,   dropped her designs to below the waist and tied with a loose belt and  created the drop waist look.  Steel boned corsets were discarded

Jewelry usually consisted of art deco pieces, especially many layers of beaded necklaces. Pins, rings, and brooches came into style. Horn-rimmed glasses were also popular.


The evolving flapper look required "heavy makeup" in comparison to what had previously been acceptable outside of professional usage in the theatre. With the invention of the metal lipstick container as well as compact mirrors bee stung lips came into vogue. Dark eyes, especially kohl-rimmed, were the style. Blush came into vogue now that it was no longer a messy application process.

The short skirt and bobbed hair were likely to be used as a symbol of emancipation.  Signs of the moral revolution consisted of premarital sex, birth control, drinking, and contempt for older values. Before the war, a lady did not set foot in a saloon; after the war she entered a speakeasy as thoughtlessly as she would go into a railroad station.

Women had taken to swearing and smoking, using contraceptives, raising their skirts above the knee and rolling their hose below it. Women were now competing with men in the business world and obtaining financial independence and, therefore, other kinds of independence from men.

The modern woman of the 1920s was an independent thinker, who no longer followed the ordinances of those before her.  The flapper epitomized the prevailing conceptions of women and her role during the Roaring 1920s

The flapper lifestyle and look could not survive the Wall Street Crash and then the  following Great Depression. The high-spirited attitude and hedonism  simply could not find a place amid the economic hardships of the 1930s.