Unveiling the Unexhibited: Flapper Dresses
Unveiling the Unexhibited, a new blog from the Edmonds Historical Museum, will delve into the depths of EHM’s artifact collection to those objects rarely seen. Most museums showcase less than 5% of their collection at any one time. Our goal is to share items that have never been on display or those that may not have been recently shown. All items are truly a unique part of our collection, but because of size, weight and/or fragility some may never be viewed – until now!
Flapper women of the 1920s were known for their energetic freedom who embraced a lifestyle viewed by many, at the time, as outrageous, immoral, or even dangerous. The classic image of a flapper is that of a stylish young party girl who smoked in public, drank alcohol, and danced at jazz clubs all of which shocked the Edwardian and Victorian morality of their parents.
Flappers are known mainly for their iconic look. The Flapper dress may have been started by Coco Chanel when she put on a man’s shirt and wrapped a belt around her waist. Coco Chanel also encouraged young women to pile on layers of pearl jewelry, ropes, chains, and beads regardless of it being fine jewelry or fabulous fakes.
The ideal Flapper figure was slender with a straight waist and a flat chest. They showed their sensuality by revealing their arms and legs rather than emphasizing the curves of the female form – an act never done before by “proper ladies.” In the Edwardian period, corsets remolded women into an S shape by pushing the bust forward and the bottom back. The corset was so extreme that it could actually force organs to shift within the abdomen. During WWI, women started to abandon these impractical corsets as they left their homes to work in the war effort; rejecting corsets in favor of bras and lingerie afforded a freedom never experienced before. They often bound their chest to achieve the ideal flat chest look.
The hemlines of the Flapper dresses rose steadily over the decade from the mid-calf and reaching the knee by about 1925. The hemline was mid-calf by the end of the 1910s and remained there until 1922. Surprisingly, the hemline dropped in 1923 and 24 but in 1925 it, rose all the way to the knee. The waistline began dropping in the late 1910s and kept dropping to just below the bust-line in 1920. In 1921, the hemline dropped to between the breasts and natural waist and in 1922, dropped all the way to the hips. Soft pastel colors were the most popular colors of the 1920s for women’s fashion. Flappers wore high heel shoes, threw away their corsets in favor of bras and lingerie, applied rouge, lipstick, mascara and other cosmetics, and favored shorter hairstyles like the bob.
These Flapper dresses are on display now at the Museum. Come visit Prohibited Sips and Dash-In Diners: Changing Tastes in Post War America to learn even more about Flappers, from their iconic looks to their infamous activities.