Thursday, February 15, 2007 02/15/07-Flappers!

In today's encore excerpt, the 1920s and the new moral dilemma of flappers:

"In late 1924 the husband-and-wife sociologist team of Robert and Helen Lynd embarked for Muncie, Indiana, where they began a year-long study of a 'typical' American city. What they found could easily describe the typical American suburb in 2006. Teenagers were in the thrall of fashion and celebrity. Young girls fought with their mothers over the length of their skirts and the amount of make-up applied to their faces. Boys argued with their fathers over the use of the family car. ...

"A news item dated August 1923 brilliantly captured the tensions that the country's new consumer dogma could inspire. 'This little city of Somerset (Pennsylvania) has been somersaulted into a style class war,' reported The New York Times, 'with the bobbed hair, lip-stick flappers arrayed on one side and their sisters of long tresses and silkless stockings on the other.' When the local high school PTA convened to endorse a new dress code that would bar silk stockings, short skirts, bobbed hair, and sleeveless dresses, the flapper contingent defiantly broke into the meeting and chanted:

I can show my shoulders,

I can show my knees,

I'm a free-born American

I can show what I please. ...

" 'She disports herself flagrantly in the public eye, and there is no keeping her out of grown-up company or conversation.' "

Review of Joshua Zeitz's Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern, American Heritage, March 2006, pp. 15-16.


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