Trends come and go with almost predicatable regularity, so I can count on my favorite eras to return every few seasons as either subtle allusions or obvious inspirations. One of my favorite periods of fashion is the 1920s. With their boyish style and brash attitudes, the young women of the time challenged social norms, flaunting their disdain for acceptable female fashion and behavior.
After the first World War, the U.S. was in a period of celebration. Women emerged as men's equals in society, and the flapper generation was born. Known for their casual attitudes towards drinking, smoking and sex, flappers announced their irreverent, almost hedonistic, lifestyles through fashion. With loose cuts, dropped waists, and raised hemlines, these modern women asserted themselves as independent and care-free.
This drop-waist cocktail dress from Chanel's Spring 2008 Couture Collection alludes to the era, but with a distinctively modern approach (although Sasha Pivovarova would have made an excellent flapper). The clean lines and silver sequins create a futuristic effect, while drawing inspiration from the past. The result is a prime example of how trends of a bygone era can be woven together with modern elements.
Diane Kruger wore this vintage, flapper-influenced Chanel Haute Couture gown to amfAR's Cinema Against AIDS event at Cannes. The gown subtly references a multitide of '20s trends, including a straight cut, bare arms and embellished details. The trends of the era are also present in her heavy eye make-up. Flappers channeled Louise Brooks and Clara Bow (the first "It Girl") with kohl-rimmed eyes. While Kruger went modern with a soft, nude lip, the young women of the '20s were known for layering on dark lipstick to a kiss-proof finish.
Flappers were known for creating a look from head to toe, and in 1925, Max Factor introduced his Supreme Nail Polish. A powder that was sprinkled on and buffed down, the product delivered shiny, tinted nails, another trend for flappers to incorporate into their style. Unfortunately, his pancake make-up was not developed until 1937. The heavy finish would've been a major hit in the early '20s, when fair skin was in demand. It was Coco Chanel, who was instrumental in developing flapper fashion, who shifted the trends toward bronzed skin later in the decade.
Perhaps the most defining feature of a flapper was her short hair. Thousands of women chopped off their curls for sharp, face-framing bobs. Model Alison Nix, already a moderate success on the runway, saw her career take off in 2007, when she traded in her long, straight hair for a Louise Brooks-inspired bob. Not for the meek, sharp, short hair is the best way to draw attention to your facial features. Long hair can feel safe and feminine, but whenever I'm in a crowd, my eyes always drift to the girl with the shortest hair in the room.
There are enough trends from the '20s, that you can easily pick and choose your favorites and incorporate them into a modern wardrobe. The trick is to be selective, otherwise you can look like you're off to a costume party. Try raising your hemlines and dropping your waistlines. Play with embellished details, such as fringe and beading. And accesorize with mary janes, gloves, or a close fitting cloche.
If you're still unsure about how to bring elements of flapper style together, watch this clip of Julie Andrews in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Her struggle as an ample-chested woman in a sea of flat-chested flappers is priceless.
images: style.com, people.com