Most people will picture Charleston & flapper dancers, gangsters and Jazz when thinking of the 1920's. Indeed, it was a vibrant period of time of a flourishing nightlife and a time of a perfect blending of fashion, music and social behavior.
The Charleston dance is said to be originated from the African Ashanti People's culture. It is also said to be very similar to Branle, a Renascence court dance from 1445. Nevertheless, Charleston was established during the Ragtime -Jazz period, and it was named this way because it was very popular in Charleston, South Caroline - USA, a neighborhood where mostly African Americans lived.
In 1923 it was popularized by "The Charleston" composed by James P.Johnson, that later became a Broadway shoe called Runnin' Wild.
Charleston’s primary format consists of a solo step, that is a combination of four moves, arms and legs in a complimentary motion. Taking a step back with the right leg, dancers had to keep their ankles loose and swing the left leg back, in a kicking motion. Than, they brought the left foot forward and return to the start position. Keeping the right foot loose, they would again kick back forward.While swing the feet, they would do with the arms what was called "flappers". A motion just like swinging the arms as we walk, but exaggerated. The hands would also "wave bye bye" in a circular motion, right to the left.
Tricky? Well, the goofier you dance, more fun you will have!
During this period of time, society suffered a major change when women redefined their role. They adopted what was called, the flapper behavior - considered outlandish. Flappers were young women who went to Jazz clubs at night, where they danced provocatively (especially Charleston), smoked cigarettes through long holders, and dated freely, perhaps even indiscriminately. They rode bicycles, drove cars, and openly drank alcohol. Flappers also began working outside the home, challenging women's traditional societal roles. They advocated voting and women's rights.
Charleston and the concept of flapper fashion design:
Flapper dresses were simple and sexy. Straight and tight, the dresses left the arms bare dropping the waistline to the hips, combined with silk or rayon stockings held up by garters. By 1927, skirts rose to just below the knee, allowing flashes of leg to be seen when a girl danced, or walked through a breeze, although the way they danced made any long loose skirt flap up to show their legs.
Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel were the pioneer designers of the Flapper concept.
The corset days were over, as flappers were simple to wear with bust bodices just to hold the chest still when dancing. Softer corsets were designed to reach the rips, giving the women a straight up and down appearance. The lack of curves gave women a boyish look.
Jewelry usually consisted of Art Deco pieces, especially many layers of beaded necklaces. Pins, rings, and brooches came into style. Horn-rimmed glasses were also popular.
The hair & make up
The Bob cut was typically cut straight around the head just below jaw-length, often with bangs at the front. Also from this era was the Eton crop and Shingle bob.
To complete the look women wore hats, such as Clotch.
Art Deco was very much in fashion!
Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby published in 1925, developed a plot during the post WWI and the Prohibition time, when America banned the fabrication of alcohol. It describes an era when smuggling beverages made some millionaires. American society enjoyed the prosperity of the 20's and many danced the Charleston and adopts the flapper style. The book became a very famous film with Red Redford and Mia Farrow. Watching the movie is a great opportunity to understand the lavish style of that time.
The end of an era:
The flapper lifestyle, although high spirited, vibrant and hedonistic did not survive the Wall Street Crash followed by the great Depression.
Charleston Crazy by prettyparisian - youtube
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