The New American Woman
The “Roaring Twenties” was a huge decade for the American woman. Women transformed from being completely covered up to wearing only a short skirt and tank top. The “Flapper” style came complete with a bobbed haircut, bound breasts, and short skirt. The flapper was a symbol of women gaining the right to vote, becoming more active in the workforce, and being equivalent to men in the political sense. All of these things led to what people called “The new American Woman.” Margaret Deland, an elder in the twenties, does a great job of describing the new woman as this:
a wholesome loveable creature with surprisingly bad manners. She has gone to college, and when she graduates she is going to earn her own living. She declines to be dependent upon a father and mother amply able to support her. She will do settlement work; she won’t go to church; she has views upon marriage and the birthrate, and she utters them calmly, while her mother blushes with embarrassment; she occupies herself, passionately, with everything, except the things that used to occupy the minds of girls. (Brown 31)
The “New American Woman” consisted of a new fashion or way of portraying herself, a freer sexuality, and equality to men in the political sense. The first thing that made a huge impact on women’s lives in the 1920’s was the new sense of fashion. The magazine Vogue had a huge influence over young women in this decade. All young women wanted to achieve the Vogue look. This is how women got the idea to bind their breasts, because it made them look like the tall, thin, flat chested models. The models had short bobbed hair that was treated with a perm and wore what we would consider today, an ordinary amount of makeup. This led to all women sporting a short, curly bob, and adding a daily makeup ritual to their mornings. Dieting also became very popular around this time because the flapper style required a thin figure. Diet product sales along with cosmetics sales rose through the roof, and the scale became an ordinary bathroom item (Banner 73). Flappers, according to Atlantic Monthly of May 1920, were described while dancing as, “trot like foxes, limp like lame ducks, one- step like cripples, and all to the barbaric yawp of strange instruments which transform the whole scene into a moving- picture of a fancy ball in bedlam” (American Decades 2). Many women argued that a shorter skirt allowed them more room to move around while working, dancing, playing sports, and driving, but that didn’t stop congress from trying to outlaw the flapper numerous times (American Decades 1). Parents and elders were worried and clergymen preached, but all this did was increase the young women’s desires for their lifestyle. After all, rebelling is no fun if no one notices. Flapper Women
Why did women decide to drastically change their style of dress? In an article titled “Flapper Jane,” Bliven describes the flapper’s answer as this, “It’s just honesty. Women have come down off the pedestal lately. They are tired of this mysterious- feminine- charm stuff. Women still want to be loved... but for who they really are and not for some ideal image of womanhood” (Gourley 63). Not all women were ready for marriage and children at the beginning of adulthood. They wanted to live the bachelor life, just like men, until they felt it was time to settle down. Women’s new way of dress reflected this sense of rebellion in their lives. Along with the new sense of style and way of dress, there comes a fashion show. In 1921 Margaret Gorman was crowned and given the nation’s very first title of Miss America (Gourley 72). The New York Times reported on Gorman the next morning. They described Gorman in the article, not as a flapper, but as the country’s “New American Woman” (Gourley72). Over 100,000 people came to this pageant on the beach of Atlantic City, New Jersey to watch these young women model clothes, which were usually...
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