“I think a woman gets more happiness out of being gay, light-hearted, unconventional, mistress of her own fate…. I want [my daughter] to be a flapper, because flappers are brave and gay and beautiful.”
– Zelda Fitzgerald
So, little secret confession: I’ve always wanted to be a flapper.
I know what you’re going to say. Yes, I know that the unchecked hedonism, substance abuse, and promiscuous sex doesn’t exactly jive with my personal values. Yes, I know that I have never and will never have the ideal body type to pull off any of those straight-cut, low waistband numbers. And yes, I know that I don’t smoke, much less through a cigarette holder. But there is something about the gaiety and liberation of flappers that has always held me transfixed.
The uptight neurotic in me looks at them and says, “Those girls knew how to let loose!”
The fashion lover in me looks at them and says, “Those girls knew how to put an outfit together!”
The conflict hater in me looks at them and says, “Those girls knew how to rebel!”
And maybe that last one is the biggest reason of all. You see, I grew up on the cusp of the 21st century. In New Orleans. There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot for me to rebel with, fashion-wise. My parents signed for me to get my nose pierced at age seventeen, and on the way from the shop to the car we passed three people with facial tattoos and giant septum rings. What’s so daring about getting a tattoo when there are people with ink covering 90% of their body, or of chopping off your hair when mohawks are passe? Congratulations to us–we’ve broken all the rules–but now all we’re left with are the misshapen, boring pieces.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way ungrateful to the people who blazed trails for my generation, whose efforts and sacrifices enabled me to grow up in an environment where I face practically no opposition or ridicule for whatever crazy things I wish to do to my appearance. I get that my complaint is a privileged one. But isn’t that part of so many people’s fascination with history and vintage fashion? In our postmodern world where we’ve done it all and bought the t-shirt, don’t we look back with longing at a time with things were new? A time where literally no Western woman, be she of sound mind and without gum stuck to her scalp, would ever consider bobbing their hair to their chin? Where skirts ending at the knees were the stuff of lingerie closets only? Where a woman could be a riot grrrl just by the length of her dress and her hair as she walked out of the door, no bumper stickers or jacket patches necessary?
I know I do.
Which is why I have a flapper dress hung in the back of my closet, waiting for the day when I can shed enough pounds to don it and go lindy-hopping on Frenchman St. And, today, it’s why I got this tribute haircut to my bobbed, rouged, garter flask wielding heroines:
I know it’s not very shocking to the general public, but I hope that somewhere out there Louise Brooks is giving me a “you go girl” wink.