During the 1920s, following the end of World War I, a new type of young Western woman emerged: the flapper.
The flapper wore short skirts, bobbed her hair, wore heavy make-up, drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, dated casually, drove automobiles and danced the night away.
But, in a larger sense, the flapper represented a new rise in women’s independence and forward-thinking. They advocated voting and women’s rights. They challenged Victorian gender roles and embraced consumerism and personal choice.
Flappers also quickly became known for their unconventional appearance and outrageous behaviour. Their style emerged out of French fashions, especially those pioneered by Coco Chanel, and the spread of the popularity of jazz music and the dancing that accompanied it. Hemlines rose and waistlines dropped and loosened.
The increased sexual liberation of the flapper generation ushered in new designs in lingerie that was sexy but allowed movement. The garter belt came into use to keep longer stockings from falling. Bra designs were further developed and perfected (in fact, some flapper bras worked to flatten the chest as a gamine, boyish look was all the rage). Corsetry was dispensed with and more functional bras and undergarments were favoured (of course, much of that work was undone in the 1950s, but hey). Flapper style was organised around movement and independence.
And, like all subcultures, flappers had their own lingo for those in-the-know. Part of pulling off true flapper style was knowing the right vocab. Some of it has survived today, but much of it is a delightful window into an era.
These slang terms and many more were compiled in 1922 in a magazine discovered by an antique book seller behind the blog Book Flaps.
Selection from The Flapper’s Dictionary:
Biscuit—A pettable flapper.
Cancelled Stamp—A wallflower.
Corn Shredder—Young man who dances on a girl’s feet.
Duck’s Quack—The best thing ever
Eye Opener—A marriage
Floorflusher—Inveterate dance hound.
Munitions—Face powder and rouge.
Police Dog—Young man to whom one is engaged.
Rug Hopper—Young man who never takes a girl out. A parlor hound.
Sharpshooter—One who spends much and dances well
Tomato—A young woman shy of brains.
Wind Sucker—Any person given to boasting.
Let’s try it out: Say, this party’s the duck’s quack but what’s a bisquit gotta do to ditch her alarm clock, find an embalmer, and engage is some good old-fashioned barneymugging with her goof?
Give us your best flapper-speak!