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The Flapper

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Yes, we're dancing on the ledge of a roof, in heels.
Ain't we got fun?

The quintessential modern, emancipated Western woman of The Roaring '20s. A young lady even more spirited than the Spirited Young Lady, coming of age in an era when Victorian morals were loosened at the same time that restrictive corsets were, thanks to newfound liberty, rising feminist movements, and (in the U.S.) the 19th Amendment.note  She listened to jazz, smoked cigarettes, danced the Foxtrot, the Tango, the Shimmy, the Peabody, the Black Bottom, the Baltimore Buzz, and the Charleston, wore make-up for the first time since the 18th century, drank with the boys (in America, she was as much an opponent of the 18th Amendmentnote  as she was a fan of the 19th), peppered her speech with slang and cusses, and enjoyed the various other delights that the '20s had to offer. Aesthetically, short hair, short skirts, short, loose & low-waisted evening gowns, turned-up silk stockings, boyish figures, and swanky cloche hats were a must.

The flapper's social and sexual liberty was a result of such feminist developments as women entering the workforce and gaining the right to vote, and of women's growing hatred of the classic notion that promiscuous men were "studs," while promiscuous women were "whores". In the flappers' eyes, "sheiks" and "shebas" were equal, so they could be just as sexually free. Needless to say, this stance contrasted rather starkly with the more conventional view of women as housewives and mothers who should be subordinate to their men and preferably not leave the house.

The popular image of the flapper we know of actually dates back to at least the 1910s. While the word flapper appeared in dictionaries as early as The Gay '90s, the flapper girl started to evolve during World War I and the Prohibition era. As the decade progressed, and with the help of prominent women like Coco Chanel, hats became tighter and narrower, skirts became shorter, and the silhouette more streamlined, like the image you see above. Contrary to popular contemporary imagery, flappers did not always wear sleek bobs, fringed dresses, feathered headbands, nylon fishnets stockings, and open-toed stiletto heels. These were an invention of filmmakers in The '50s, who tried to evoke the era fit for Technicolor cameras. Brief details  In fact, the fringe dress and fishnet stockings were only worn by showgirls, and the popular (mis)conception was only made possible by the invention of nylon.

The concept also spread east to Japan and China, where it spawned the "modern girl" (モダンガール modan gaaru, or モガ moga for short) and "modern Miss" (摩登小姐 modeng xiaojie) cultures respectively. The modeng xiaojie would likely wear high heels and high-slit, figure-hugging dresses called "cheongsams" in reaction to the painful foot binding and the antiquated loose robes of the Qing dynasty.

The look, high-spirited attitude, and hedonism of the flapper became less acceptable after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and disappeared following the economic hardships of The Great Depression.

Compare and contrast The Suffragette, her predecessor, and The Lad-ette, her direct descendant and Spiritual Successor.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Gina in Porco Rosso, as befits the early depression setting. Especially apparent in comparison to the Edwardian dress she wears in her flashback.
  • Keiko from In This Corner of the World was a "modern girl" when she was young, which was the Japanese equivalent of the flapper.

    Comic Strips 
  • While protagonist Prudence of the 1925-1926 comic The Adventures of Prudence Prim doesn't consider herself to be a flapper, she does make an effort to hang out with the popular crowd of modern gentlemen and stylish women her own age — who are referred to as flappers in the comic's captioning verses.
    ...and Prudy dared to stray
    Off with a jolly flapper crowd, quite up to date and gay.
    And all the young men smiled at her, and all the girls turned green
    With jealousy and envy of this budding social queen.
  • Blondie (1930): The titular character started out as this until she married Dagwood Bumstead. Her maiden name was even "Boopadoop", a play on the then popular expression "Boop-oop-a-doop".
  • Nancy's aunt Fritzi Ritz was the stereotypical flapper, and was even originally the main character of the strip. Then Nancy was introduced and gradually took over the spot as the main character, and Fritzi's flapperdom was toned down as her role more and more became "Nancy's parental figure."
  • Olive Oyl from Popeye.

  • Our Dancing Daughters (1928) could have been called Flapper: The Movie, as it offers archetypal examples of the trope. All the women in the movie are stereotypical flappers—hard-drinking, sexually liberated young party girls with short haircuts.
  • The Great Gatsby (1974) and The Great Gatsby (2013), naturally.
  • Evie in High Road To China.
  • Almost all the women in The Cat's Meow. As a bonus all the costumes are black, white, and gray so they look like Edward Gorey characters.
  • Peppy Miller and every woman in The Artist.
  • Most of the women in Singin' in the Rain, with the notable exception of Lina.
  • Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
  • Pandora's Box is a fairly dark take on The Flapper. Lulu definitely qualifies, with the slinky dresses, short bob haircut (which became quite famous for a while thanks to this film), dancing, and sexual liberation. But when The Flapper gets involved in prostitution and murder, it's not so fun.
  • The Princess and the Frog: Tiana in her white dress and Lottie at the beginning of the movie.
  • Girl Shy features Harold Lloyd imagining seducing a flapper. She is smoking and dancing to jazz, of course.
  • In Maxie, the ghost of a 1920s flapper possesses the body of a 1980s yuppie housewife. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Blot features several at the parties and fancy dinners that Phil attends, most notably his hard-drinking, hard-partying, cloche hat-wearing girlfriend Juanita. Flappers in general and Juanita in particular are presented unfavorably, contrasted with Phil's new girlfriend, demure Amelia. A disgruntled Phil noting that Juanita is "rather loud".
  • Why Be Good? has Colleen Moore as Pert Kelly; short dresses, cloche hats, a Charleston dancing pro, and a healthy respect for drinking equals absolute flapper.
  • 1927's Get Your Man is about a man in an Arranged Marriage who falls for a flapper (played by the quintessential flapper actress Clara Bow).
  • Sappho: Although they don't indulge in the stereotypical dancing, listening to jazz or illicit alcohol, Sappho and Helene otherwise fit into this. Both have the bob hairstyles (Helene from the beginning, Sappho a bit later) and the dress style. The pair are also sexually liberated, unapologetically having an affair together and sharing Sappho's husband, with the setting during the late '20s. It ends badly however as Sappho kills herself when their affair collapses.
  • Head in the Clouds: Though she's introduced in 1933, Gilda has a bob haircut, flapper style dress and hedonistic lifestyle. She definitely enjoys drinking, dancing, listening to jazz and casual sex.

  • The Great Gatsby: Most of the females in the novel, both played straight or played with.
    • Jordan Baker, a fashionable and gorgeous golf player who dates Nick Carraway.
    • Mrs Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan's lively mistress.
    • Subverted by Daisy, who isn't spirited and actually dislikes Gatsby's lavish, chaotic parties, and would prefer to stay in her calm world of Old Money.
  • Isobel "Izzie" Todd, from Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, is Ursula's non-conforming aunt who wears short dresses, makeup, and Chanel No. 5.
  • Murder for the Modern Girl: Ruby Newhouse is an 18-year-old girl who lives in 1928 Chicago and is an independent, confident woman who is against the mistreatment of women in her era. She also has her hair bobbed and wears sleek, elegant dresses from her time.
  • The Sun Also Rises: Brett.
  • In another F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, Gloria in The Beautiful and Damned. Since the novel is set in the 1910s, she is explicitly said to be an early proponent of the fashion.
  • Naomi in Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's novel Naomi.
  • Sadie, from Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl.
  • Agatha Christie's Tuppence was a flapper in her first appearance (then she marries Tommy and becomes more respectable but no less adventurous) as was Bundle in The Secret of Chimneys and The Seven Dials Mystery.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe short story "Ode to Joy" by Jonathan Clements in Short Trips: The History of Christmas, features a Kitsune in the Emperor's Gardens who takes the form of a moga. The Doctor has to break it to her that it's 1990, and "modern girls" in Tokyo are wearing tracksuits.
  • A book called Moonshine takes place in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to America in the 1920s. Naturally, the main character, Daisy Dell, is depicted as being a flapper as are a lot of other female characters in the novel.
  • Laura's rebellious, wacky Granny in If I Go It Will Be Double used to be this.
  • Creature Court by Tansy Rayner Roberts is a Culture Chop Suey of 1920s America and Ancient Rome, and contains a fair few of these. Notable examples include Hard-Drinking Party Girl Delphine, who turns out to be a deconstruction as the novel works into the insecurities her lifestyle is hiding, and Livilla for a more murderous variation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Boardwalk Empire premieres with the onset of Prohibition, but it isn't until the third season (when the show's timeline has advanced to the early 1920s) that we get an honest-to-gosh flapper in the character of Broadway chorine Billie Kent.
  • Downton Abbey:
    • Lady Rose MacClare, the Crawley sisters' rebellious younger cousin. After Rose begs Robert to let her go out to a club or some such, Lady Mary says:
      Lady Mary: Your niece is a flapper—accept it.
    • Lady Edith is arguably a subversion: she adopts a flapperish hairstyle, is more than a bit of a tomboy, and fully embraces women's rights—but being who she is (very much a country girl, albeit one who likes to see London from time to time), it's hard to call her a true flapper.
    • Though she'd never admit it, Lady Mary isn't so different from Lady Edith. She loves the flapperish fashions (to the point of going full bob, unlike Edith), can see the point of flapper thinking on sex, and runs her own business affairs (she runs Downton and is a shrewd businesswoman in her own right), but is even more of a countrywoman than her sister, and is a widow and mother of the heir to the Earldom of Grantham to boot.
  • First Day: In the series finale, the girls all dress up with flapper styles for a student party (boys also wear retro outfits from the '20s era).
  • The First Lady: Hick and other women are still wearing flapper-style garb in the early 30s.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Trouble with Templeton", Booth Templeton's late wife Laura was one during the 1920s.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Convict's Piano", the gangster Mickey Shaughnessy's girlfriend Ellen is a flapper who is seen on his arm at a party in 1928.



    Professional Wrestling 
  • Olde Wrestling, which has a 1920s theme, turned Kimber Lee/Princess Kimberleenote  into "Kickin'" Kimber Lee, a wrestling Flapper. She was a Face and had a match against Working Class Heel Heidi the Riveter.note  In this promo, Heidi gets a telegram (complete with Telegraph Gag STOP) expresses her disapproval of Kimber Lee's lifestyle.


    Video Games 
  • Lulu Milton from Gardens of Time is a flapper in all but name: she's implied to be from the USA of The Roaring '20s, dresses like a flapper save for the lack of a cloche hat, and is the most bubbly and cheerful of the girls in the game.

    Visual Novels 
  • Speakeasy Tonight begins when the protagonist's forays into the flapper scene cause her parents to ship her off to live with her Uncle Charlie, supposedly a pillar of moral character who will be better able to keep her in line. Turns out Uncle Charlie is secretly a bootlegger, and after he's injured in a shooting his niece takes over managing his speakeasy.

    Web Animation 
  • The "old-timey" Homestar Runner video "It's the Sneak!" mentions flappers and features Marzipan dressed as one.
  • Lulu from the short Juiced And Jazzed becomes one after drinking some alcohol during prohibition.


    Western Animation 
  • Betty Boop: None other than the Boop herself.
  • This was the original characterization for Minnie Mouse. However, times faded and she lost her flapper look. Though the recent Mickey Mouse shorts had her return to her old look.
  • Bugs Bunny dressed up as one in "The Unmentionables" to sneak into Rocky and Mugsy's party, using a flapper dance as a means to repeatedly kick the stuffing out of Rocky.
  • Harley Quinn is depicted as a flapper in Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
  • Earthworm Jim does this as a gag in one of the animated series episodes.
  • Not an actual flapper, Korra from The Legend of Korra wears the hat of a flapper with her disguise.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: Vexus used this in order to blend in with teenagers, only for Jenny to find out because her apparel was obviously outdated for about a century or so.
  • The Simpsons:
    • There is a photo of Marge's mother in her flapper days, one of which has her being arrested for wearing an Old-Timey Bathing Suit that "showed too much gam".
    • There is also a photo of Marge's grandmother Bambi as a flapper girl with the trademark Bouvier cigarette.
    • Agnes Skinner in her younger years was a flapper and a unicycle-riding wing walker. Though she did dress like one for her date with Comic Book Guy.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls (2016) episode Rainy Day, Blossom is seen dancing while dressed as a flapper.

    Real Life 
  • Adele Astaire (sister of Fred Astaire and a huge Broadway star in her own right) was said to have "put all the flap in flapperdom."
  • Clara Bow, the original IT girl, was Hollywood's foremost flapper in the 20s. She may have inspired the creation of Betty Boop along with Helen Kane.
  • Louise Brooks and her iconic bobbed hair.
  • Coco Chanel, the Trope Codifier who adapted the loose silhouette, wearing jersey cardigans and tweed pants, donning tan skin, creating the No. 5 and the Little Black Dress, engaging in affairs with several men, and every little detail about her.
  • When Joan Crawford came to Hollywood in 1925, she promoted herself by entering and winning dance contests doing the Charleston and other routines of that era. Her early roles often featured her dancing skills.
  • Elinor Smith, known as the Flying Flapper of Freeport.
  • Anna May Wong in the 1920s deliberately cultivated a flapper image in order to show that she was both American and Chinese. She's credited with helping de-mystify Chinese-Americans to the general public. While it didn't do her much favors in terms of what roles she got - Hollywood being reluctant to cast an Asian actress in anything other than Dragon Lady parts - she did become a fashion icon.
  • Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, was dubbed "the first American flapper" by her husband. She freely drank and danced her way through the most exclusive social circles of New York and Paris. She's portrayed as such by Christina Ricci in Z: The Beginning of Everything.

Alternative Title(s): Flapper