Flapper Fever!

by Susie Hodgson

Okay – tell the truth. Have you been to our wonderful museum? If you haven’t, you’re missing a real gem! But if you have, do you remember the display room called The Salon? It’s one of my favorites. It is filled with “old-time” dresses, as well as a wedding gown, various kinds of jewelry, hats, handwritten love letters (you better know cursive!) and so much more.

The dresses represent the various eras that make up the City of Burbank. Legend has it that as the economy goes up, so do hemlines. So when a certain decade was roaring, dresses crept up, too. Have you guessed the time period yet?

Yes, it was the Roaring 20s, as in 1920s. Young women’s fashions and overall looks changed dramatically. There are many theories why, but first let us list some of these drastic changes: make-up, including plucked, thin, straight eyebrows; lips that were shaped into bows; hair that was bobbed; short, often sleeveless sheaths that were very popular as were cloche-style hats. These young ladies, known as Flappers, bucked tradition and chewed gum, danced without chaperones (remember the Charleston?), smoked cigarettes and drank liquor all quite openly in spite – or arguably because of -- Prohibition. (Think Forbidden Fruit!)

How did these severe changes in women’s style and demeanor come about? There were several contributing factors: World War I, which caused people to face mortality. Women went to work to substitute for the men who went to war, and many of these females started liking their new-found independence. The Spanish Flu pandemic finally faded away and again there was that now-familiar fear of dying. Meanwhile, automobiles became more common – and affordable – and women drove them, too! The 18th Amendment passed, giving women the vote. The theme here is independence with a heaping spoonful of YOLO (You Only Live Once) – so live it up!

Flappers began popping up in the media of its time. The first film to showcase a Flapper was not surprisingly called The Flapper starring Olive Thomas. Soon thereafter, Olive was joined by even more famous Flappers including Clara Bow and Joan Crawford. And who can forget The Great Gatsby’s Daisy? Everybody seemed to be carefree and prosperous in the Roaring Twenties; many more people took vacations even, until… it all fell apart in 1929.

Hemlines dropped, people went broke, but, alas, that’s another story. Come to the museum and check out all our exhibits, including the one featuring the Flapper!

Want to learn more about Burbank? Come visit us!

The Burbank Historical Society/Gordon R. Howard Museum
Located in George Izay Park, right next to the Creative Arts Center
Phone: (818) 841-6333
Web site: www.burbankhistoricalsoc.org
Email: ghowardmuseum@sbcglobal.net

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