Grown-ups get chance at dress-up

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Remember playing dress-up, little girls in mother’s high-heeled shoes and boys in daddy’s big shirt with a tie hanging at the collar? What fun it was to pretend to be grown up.

Hey, just because we get older doesn’t mean we can’t play dress-up sometimes. It’s fun and who doesn’t enjoy a little fun? Well, this weekend, the Covington Arts Council and Act I are giving folks an opportunity to play dress-up when they present a mystery dinner theatre, “Murdered by the Mob,” Fri. and Sat., Aug. 10 and 11, at 6:30 p.m. and Sun., Aug. 12, at 12:30.

The play is set in the 1920s, which were the days of gangsters and flappers. So, the groups producing the play invite everyone to come dressed as gangsters and flappers. (You don’t have to come in costume to enjoy the evening).

Being drawn to the 1920s, both the feel of the time and its fashions, this sounded to me like a chance for some grown-up make-believe. However, I wanted to know more about flappers before I turned myself into one.

One article said flappers gave birth to a new woman. It described her as someone who was giddy and took risks. Flappers wanted to enjoy life and the way they dressed reflected a shift in thinking about how a woman should live. (I don’t know about taking risks, but it might be fun to dress giddy for one night.)

In William and Mary Morris’ Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, it says this about flappers. “In America, a flapper has always been a giddy, attractive and slightly unconventional young thing who, in [H. L.] Mencken’s words, ‘was a somewhat foolish girl, full of wild surmises and inclined to revolt against the precepts and admonitions of her elders.’”

In other words, flappers were rebels. Many of them worked outside the home, something new in post World War I society. They partied at clubs exhibiting behavior once reserved for their male counterparts. (Sounds like a more fun way to rebel than marching on hot pavement).

How they choose to dress expressed their change in attitude. Flappers wore make-up, lots of make-up, and shortened dresses. (So I have flappers to thank for my love of eyeliner).

I’ve seen pictures from that time and I loved the flirty-fringed look. However, one thing I didn’t know was that not only did women want to be independent like men, but they also wanted their fashions to look a little more like them.

Here is a description of flapper attire.

“This flapper look, called “garconne” (little boy)… To look more like a boy, women tightly wound their chest with strips of cloth in order to flatten it. The waists of flapper clothes dropped to the hipline. She wore stockings – made of rayon (artificial silk) … which the flapper often wore rolled over a garter belt.

The skirt came just an inch below her knees, overlapping by a faint fraction her rolled and twisted stockings. The idea is that when she walks in a bit of a breeze, you shall now and then observe the knee (which is not rouged – that’s just newspaper talk) but always in an accidental, Venus-surprised-at-the-bath sort of way.”

(I don’t know about the Venus surprised thing, but I’ve got the flatten chest without any strips of cloth.)

I loved this quote, “Flappers had both an image and attitude.”

And while they didn’t go as far as younger women, a less extreme version of the flapper became respectable among older women as well. (See even us older girls have image and attitude).

The age of the flappers ended with the Great Depression, but what they started ushered in what historians call the “new” or modern” woman.

So, this weekend I’m going to dress-up in something with fringe and have myself a little flapper fun Andalusia style. See you at the speakeasy.