Tag Archives: flappers

Updates – The Rest of the Story

I never imagined that I’d buy a magazine called Western Horseman, but the price was cheap and there were those magic words: “Western Wear”.  So I picked it up, and when I got home I began to really look through it.  I’ve stated before that I really don’t know much about riding attire, but I am willing to learn, and this magazine from 1966 seemed like a good place to start.

My reward for taking a chance on this magazine was swift.  A while back I asked for opinions about the age of a Miller & Co.  western shirt and Karman pants I had found.  The blouse is very much like the one in the middle in the above photo.  I’m happy to say that several readers identified it as mid 1960s, and they were right.

The copy reads, ” Candy… magic comes to western sportswear in the form of Miller & Co.’s new ice cream colored, matching ladies’ and girls’ sets.”

As for the pants, I did not get an exact match, but there were similar styles all through the magazine.  What looked to be bell-bottom legs, are in fact described in the volume as “the new bell bottom style.”

Some time ago (2010!) I wrote a post about one of the theories of why young women in the 1920s were called flappers.  One of the theories is that the name came from the hair bows that preteens  and younger teens were wearing in the decade of the 1910s, as seen in the girl on the right.


This weekend I came across the above ad from 1915, advertising clothing for the hard-to-fit girl of 12 – 16.  It is obvious that the term “flapper” is describing a girl, not a crazy, Charleston-dancing, cigarette-smoking twenty-something woman.

Last week I heard from a woman who had worked for the Vera Company.

I worked at The Vera Companies, first as an intern starting in 1983 and left in in 1990 …Manhattan Industries was bought by Salant Corp (Perry Ellis International) but The Vera Companies stayed intact until after her death in 1993…it is sometime after that The Tog Shop bought the company.

This information changes the way the Vera story is often told, with the company essentially closing in 1988.  I appreciate this important correction.

And finally, here is my semi-regularly scheduled mention of social media.  Every week I get several invitations to be friends on Linked-in.  I did join Linked-in for a very short time, and then I deleted my registration because I could not see how I could use the network.  For some reason, it still has me a a potential contact for people, but I cannot respond to all the requests because I’m not a member and I cannot log in.  So, the short of it is, if you have contacted me through Linked-in, I’m not ignoring your request; I simply cannot reply to it.

On the other hand, Instagram continues to be a constant source of interesting things and fascinating people.  There is a growing community of fashion history people there, and if you want to join us, I’ll be happy to send you a list of my favorite accounts.  I’m using it more and more as a mini-blog, posting things that are interesting, but don’t somehow deserve a post here.


Filed under Rest of the Story

Why Were They Called Flappers?

The two young women above don’t fit into our modern day idea of the 1920s Flapper, but it is possible that the term has its roots in the appearance of the miss on the right.

In the 30 or so years that I’ve been studying the history of fashion I must have read a dozen or more different explanations of where the word actually originated.  Probably the most common is the galoshes theory.  It was said the the rebellious young things of the early 1920s took to wearing their galoshes unbuckled, and so the rubber shoes flapped back and forth as the girls walked about.

That may be true, but the term was in common use in the USA by 1920, when a film starring Olive Thomas titled The Flapper was released.  And it seems that the word was used even earlier in the UK; originally it was used to mean a young prostitute, but later, by the end of the 19th century, just to mean any high spirited teenage girl.  In particular, a girl young enough that her hair was not yet worn “up.”

One of the many theories is that girls in the 1910s tended to wear big floppy bows in their long hair, and that these bows flapped when the girls walked.  So, they were referred to as flappers.  And these young teens of 1915 grew up to be the wild young things of 1920 – the flappers as we know them.

Just for fun, two more tennis players of the 1910s, Minnie Glass and Ray Yingling:


Posted by becca fritschle:

What excellent theories! This is why I love “knowing you.” You are such a treasure of information both historical and fashionable–two of my loves!

Saturday, February 6th 2010 @ 6:07 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Oh, Becca, you are making me blush. I just love having a place to talk about historical fashion with people who get it. Thanks for reading and posting; it’s greatly appreciated!

Saturday, February 6th 2010 @ 6:20 PM

Posted by Scott:

I like the theory that it was because of the way they danced … “flapping” their arms and legs from side to side. Fun topic, and GREAT photos! Thanks!

Saturday, February 6th 2010 @ 6:48 PM

Posted by Christine H.:

Wow, how fascinating! I’ve heard the galoshes story a dozen times (even told as definitive fact by my costume history teacher), but I really like this theory. I do have a special affinity for those young girls with such large bows. 😀 I love learning little nuggets like this, thanks Lizzie!

Saturday, February 6th 2010 @ 8:22 PM

Posted by Sarah:

This is one of those cases where all kinds of dubious theories emerge and are repeated until they become accepted as fact!

If you search using the term ‘flapper’ at the excellent British Cartoon Archive, you get plenty of results but perhaps the most interesting are the cartoons by W.H. Haselden. Check the first result here:


It is dated 1907! The later ones, from 1915 on, show the pre-1920s flapper who shares a lot of characteristics with the flapper as we know her – feckless, frivolous, flirtatious, fun loving – she just hasn’t bobbed her hair yet!

This one seems typical:


There’s also an excellent book on the subject, which is worth seeking out: “Women and the popular imagination in the twenties: flappers and nymphs” by Billie Melman. I can no longer access our local university library to check it again, but I do remember it having some useful information about the origin of the word.

Sunday, February 7th 2010 @ 12:29 AM

Posted by Inky:

that’s very interesting – a question I never wondered about but now am happy to find the answer to!

Sunday, February 7th 2010 @ 10:29 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

It is really interesting how a theory can become accepted as fact. There is no doubt that the word was used WAY before the 1920s in the UK, but not until later here in the US. The answer is out there!

Sunday, February 7th 2010 @ 5:47 PM


Filed under Vintage Photographs