I used to think that flappers (or, more accurately, the flapper’s “cotton-picker”) wore tights, because they had to, to stay warm as they danced, and even when they didn’t want to. But that’s not exactly that; they would also use a skirt to change into in the late 1800s. Their skirts did differ, though: some were short, some were longer, and some had sleeves which could be rolled over them.
Flapper dance: how to find out about your costume
It seems like a lot of information is missing, so here’s an easy way to find out more.
1. Visit the costume department at the Museum of Natural History. You can get detailed information by visiting on a Monday from 9am to 4pm. They’ll show you everything from basic clothes such as pants and dresses up to elaborate costume pieces like skirts and hats – not to mention the “sporting” dresses.
2. Ask at least a dozen people about what they think they know of the costume – don’t worry if every one of them says, “The ones with the feathers in the sides don’t have the right to be called flappers.” They’ll explain that you’re not being entirely fair, as the “flapper” title is a particular costume design. And if they do get it wrong, they’ll let you know why not – you don’t want to give another flapper the name of someone who’s been in another costume for 100 years, for instance.
3. If you can’t find anything that you think fits, ask at a local costume store or costume art gallery. If any of the people tell you that the fabric you should buy is missing, ask for a picture of it so you can check.
If you know the answer to question 1, go back and ask some others – if you can’t find anyone who would know, then try again later.
What you’ll find out:
1. The costume style was named after another American.
2. The style has more in common with French and British designs than with European ones.
3. The designs are quite popular among the American middle class.
4. There were different kinds of tights.
5. Some flappers wore them on the back.
Who were flappers?
In 1872, the American historian George J. Oakes examined flappers’ origins, and wrote
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