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Blithely flinging aside the Victorian manners that kept her disapproving mother corseted, the New Woman of the 1920s puffed cigarettes, snuck gin, hiked her hemlines, danced the Charleston, and necked in roadsters. More important, she earned her own keep, controlled her own destiny, and secured liberties that modern women take for granted. Her newfound freedom heralded a r Blithely flinging aside the Victorian manners that kept her disapproving mother corseted, the New Woman of the 1920s puffed cigarettes, snuck gin, hiked her hemlines, danced the Charleston, and necked in roadsters. More important, she earned her own keep, controlled her own destiny, and secured liberties that modern women take for granted. Her newfound freedom heralded a radical change in American culture. Whisking us from the Alabama country club where Zelda Sayre first caught the eye of F. Scott Fitzgerald to Muncie, Indiana, where would-be flappers begged their mothers for silk stockings, to the Manhattan speakeasies where patrons partied till daybreak, historian Joshua Zeitz brings the era to exhilarating life. This is the story of America’s first sexual revolution, its first merchants of cool, its first celebrities, and its most sparkling advertisement for the right to pursue happiness. The men and women who made the flapper were a diverse lot. There was Coco Chanel, the French orphan who redefined the feminine form and silhouette, helping to free women from the torturous corsets and crinolines that had served as tools of social control. Three thousand miles away, Lois Long, the daughter of a Connecticut clergyman, christened herself “Lipstick” and gave New Yorker readers a thrilling entrée into Manhattan’s extravagant Jazz Age nightlife. In California, where orange groves gave way to studio lots and fairytale mansions, three of America’s first celebrities—Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, and Louise Brooks, Hollywood’s great flapper triumvirate—fired the imaginations of millions of filmgoers. Dallas-born fashion artist Gordon Conway and Utah-born cartoonist John Held crafted magazine covers that captured the electricity of the social revolution sweeping the United States. Bruce Barton and Edward Bernays, pioneers of advertising and public relations, taught big business how to harness the dreams and anxieties of a newly industrial America—and a nation of consumers was born. Towering above all were Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, whose swift ascent and spectacular fall embodied the glamour and excess of the era that would come to an abrupt end on Black Tuesday, when the stock market collapsed and rendered the age of abundance and frivolity instantly obsolete. With its heady cocktail of storytelling and big ideas, Flapper is a dazzling look at the women who launched the first truly modern decade.


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Blithely flinging aside the Victorian manners that kept her disapproving mother corseted, the New Woman of the 1920s puffed cigarettes, snuck gin, hiked her hemlines, danced the Charleston, and necked in roadsters. More important, she earned her own keep, controlled her own destiny, and secured liberties that modern women take for granted. Her newfound freedom heralded a r Blithely flinging aside the Victorian manners that kept her disapproving mother corseted, the New Woman of the 1920s puffed cigarettes, snuck gin, hiked her hemlines, danced the Charleston, and necked in roadsters. More important, she earned her own keep, controlled her own destiny, and secured liberties that modern women take for granted. Her newfound freedom heralded a radical change in American culture. Whisking us from the Alabama country club where Zelda Sayre first caught the eye of F. Scott Fitzgerald to Muncie, Indiana, where would-be flappers begged their mothers for silk stockings, to the Manhattan speakeasies where patrons partied till daybreak, historian Joshua Zeitz brings the era to exhilarating life. This is the story of America’s first sexual revolution, its first merchants of cool, its first celebrities, and its most sparkling advertisement for the right to pursue happiness. The men and women who made the flapper were a diverse lot. There was Coco Chanel, the French orphan who redefined the feminine form and silhouette, helping to free women from the torturous corsets and crinolines that had served as tools of social control. Three thousand miles away, Lois Long, the daughter of a Connecticut clergyman, christened herself “Lipstick” and gave New Yorker readers a thrilling entrée into Manhattan’s extravagant Jazz Age nightlife. In California, where orange groves gave way to studio lots and fairytale mansions, three of America’s first celebrities—Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, and Louise Brooks, Hollywood’s great flapper triumvirate—fired the imaginations of millions of filmgoers. Dallas-born fashion artist Gordon Conway and Utah-born cartoonist John Held crafted magazine covers that captured the electricity of the social revolution sweeping the United States. Bruce Barton and Edward Bernays, pioneers of advertising and public relations, taught big business how to harness the dreams and anxieties of a newly industrial America—and a nation of consumers was born. Towering above all were Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, whose swift ascent and spectacular fall embodied the glamour and excess of the era that would come to an abrupt end on Black Tuesday, when the stock market collapsed and rendered the age of abundance and frivolity instantly obsolete. With its heady cocktail of storytelling and big ideas, Flapper is a dazzling look at the women who launched the first truly modern decade.

30 review for Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern

  1. 4 out of 5

    El

    Learn how to do the Charleston in just a few easy steps. This book wasn't especially on my radar except a coworker brought it for me to read because I had previously brought her Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America, and sharing books might just be something we're doing now. She said she had a little difficulty reading this one because it's not in an especially linear fashion, which I understood what she meant while I read it. But it didn't bother me so much. It's hard to be entirely linear about a Learn how to do the Charleston in just a few easy steps. This book wasn't especially on my radar except a coworker brought it for me to read because I had previously brought her Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America, and sharing books might just be something we're doing now. She said she had a little difficulty reading this one because it's not in an especially linear fashion, which I understood what she meant while I read it. But it didn't bother me so much. It's hard to be entirely linear about a topic like flappers - it was a frenetic time in society, so writing about it would be hard to pin down as well. Additionally, and this will make me pretty unpopular, there's not a lot of depth to the Jazz Age or flappers in general. Just like any other fashion blip in history, it means more to the people in the moment who are participating than it does for everyone else. It was a time of superficiality, not particularly based on anything terribly important - no politics behind the movement, nothing really solid to grasp onto. It was what it was. And that's okay. Zeitz did a perfectly fine at both delving beneath the surface as much as possible, but really the "era" was a gossip magazine come to life; and that's how Zeitz's book came across as well. It was a gossip mag about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald; it was a gossip mag about Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, and my beloved Louise Brooks; it was a gossip mag about Lois "Lipstick" Long; it was a gossip mag about Coco Chanel. All of these people played a large part in the flapper movement, there is no denying that. Whether Zelda was the "first" flapper or not probably leads to more questions than answers, but Zeitz used her for his purpose. That's socially acceptable, that's what people expect to read. But the individual chapters on each of the participants left me feeling a tad cold - on their own, they're all interesting topics, I love them all (Lulu! Swoon!), but there are biographies out the wazoo on every single one of them. Zeitz was able to put together mini-biographies of individuals, and then throw in the flapper context to tie it all together, but in the end I don't feel like I particularly learned anything new. For what it was, this is fine. It's a fun read, which is what it should be because despite any real depth, the Jazz Age was certainly fun (at least it looked that way to outsiders like myself) while it lasted. It was fun until it wasn't anymore, I think that's what most of the participants in the public eye during that time have said. I share other reviewer's disappointments in how little information there was about anyone not white. Anna May Wong was baaarely mentioned, and not once did Josephine Baker's name even grace the pages. Also women, also celebrities living in America, also important players in the same time period Zeitz discussed. The author briefly commented on the fact that black Americans didn't really have a lot going on during the period. Usually any references to non-whites included in Zeitz's book involved someone else being totally racist and inappropriate - there was a chapter about the Ku Klux Klan and there was a bit about reporter Lipstick writing about how black women can't dance the Charleston and essentially they need to stop trying to be flappers. Um. Not sure if Zeitz was trying to bring to light just how white-washed flapperdom was, or if he was trying to remind his readers just how racist society was in the 1920s in America, but it wound up coming across like he was excluding large demographics in his book; the random statements he did include felt sort of like an afterthought, like "I better mention Anna May Wong or people will be pissed. Hey, guys, look, I did it! Now back to the white girls..." Or maybe I was just reading too much into a not-deep book on a not-deep topic. This almost sounds like I didn't enjoy the book. But I did! Truly. There's nothing particularly new here, but it's a nice addition to anyone's shelf who is fascinated by the 20s. Note: I included this on my "hear-me-roar" shelf with a bit of hesitation. One of my favorite parts of this book was Zeitz's detail of how the feminist movement felt about the flappers. While the flappers were largely women, and people looked at them then (and now) and saw freedom from the confines of the Victorian period before flappers exploded which translates into "free women!", the feminists at the time felt differently. They saw crass, smoking, hypersexualized, misguided women that were actually a danger to their motives. And, as previously stated, the women who were part of the flapper movement were not doing anything for politic reasons, they brought nothing to the table about women's liberation, or equality, or anything else. It's easy for me to look back now, since I wasn't a part of it at the time, and see something more to it than that, so on the shelf it goes. They might not have wanted anything to do with the women's movement of the early 20th-century, but they were there and had more to do with it than they probably expected. So there.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dixie Diamond

    I thought this was a load of fun, and I thought it brought up some interesting points that don't always come up when reading about life in the Twenties (such as the question of miserable wages for women and minorities even as ready-made clothes became available and standards of living improved), but from the perspective of the Twenties aficionado and armchair historian, I would have liked more depth. My two minor complaints were that--and this is mostly a matter of taste--I wanted a little more i I thought this was a load of fun, and I thought it brought up some interesting points that don't always come up when reading about life in the Twenties (such as the question of miserable wages for women and minorities even as ready-made clothes became available and standards of living improved), but from the perspective of the Twenties aficionado and armchair historian, I would have liked more depth. My two minor complaints were that--and this is mostly a matter of taste--I wanted a little more in-depth information, and I was disappointed that the section describing women's clothing of the preceding century was either carelessly researched or carelessly generalized. The description of the layers was inaccurate and, at best, reflected only that of the closing decades of the century. There was quite a lot of variation in dress between 1800 and 1910 and it was both unfair and misleading to lump the relatively comfortable clothing of the Regency era in with the extremely restrictive clothing of the second half of the century and the early 20th century. Regency women did wear corsets but they were not the waist-crushing monstrosities to which later generations were subjected; many were not even boned and served to smooth out the body beneath the dress rather than torque it into an entirely new shape, not unlike the Spandex foundation garments many women wear today. Regency clothing and undergarments in many respects had more in common with 1920's clothing than with that of any other era in recent history.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Books Ring Mah Bell

    Quick read on an amazing era... What an effect these rebel women had on things! Advertisements, movies, music, sports and women's rights were all touched by the "Flapper Age." Thank you, ballsy women, for getting us out of corsets and allowing us to enjoy a drink if we choose. Damn you, Flappers, for putting the focus on appearances. This book had too much information on Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was interesting, but I won't be revisiting The Great Gatsby anytime soon. The book also gave Quick read on an amazing era... What an effect these rebel women had on things! Advertisements, movies, music, sports and women's rights were all touched by the "Flapper Age." Thank you, ballsy women, for getting us out of corsets and allowing us to enjoy a drink if we choose. Damn you, Flappers, for putting the focus on appearances. This book had too much information on Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was interesting, but I won't be revisiting The Great Gatsby anytime soon. The book also gave me an inside look at Coco Chanel. Normally, I'd see the name and go into "I don't care" mode, but I was oddly fascinated. A decent read if you have an interest in that time period.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    This book may be a good introduction to the Jazz Age for someone who has never read anything about Zelda Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, or Clara Bow, but readers already familiar with these figures or the period will find little new information. With the disparate subjects covered--fashion, propaganda/advertising, film, etc., the book would have leant itself to some analysis about flapperdom and its development from a sociological perspective. Unfortunately, the book simply succeeds in piecing togethe This book may be a good introduction to the Jazz Age for someone who has never read anything about Zelda Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, or Clara Bow, but readers already familiar with these figures or the period will find little new information. With the disparate subjects covered--fashion, propaganda/advertising, film, etc., the book would have leant itself to some analysis about flapperdom and its development from a sociological perspective. Unfortunately, the book simply succeeds in piecing together scraps--some that aren't even relevant. The book begins by spending a lot of time on Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, regurgitating the notion that they "invented" the flapper (later the book indicates that advertisers did it), which buys into the marketing of the day rather than challenges it or examining it. It also spends a lot of time on figures who weren't flappers and whose only relevance was that they happened to live contemporaneously. For example, what does Ernest Hemingway have to do with flappers? The book doesn't deign to explain, and yet we are told about his lack of fashion, incredible jealousy, and other winning traits of this literary "hero." Overall, this book is a facile treatment of a significant historical phenomenon in the form of rejection of a prior generation's norms. If the book really wanted to invest in the thesis about "women who made America modern," it would have taken a more critical look at the trends and women of the time and taken less information for granted.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kristi

    A fairly informative read and a pretty good view of the big societal shake-up that happened from the late 1800's to the late 1920's. I've always had a huge crush on the Jazz Age anyway, from Dorothy Parker to F. Scott Fitgerald and all the shenanigans and acerbic wit (would that I could have eavesdropped on the Algonquin Round Table), from fashions to music to design, but it was interesting to read how the monumental cultural changes actually came about. Perhaps it's just me, but I found the sec A fairly informative read and a pretty good view of the big societal shake-up that happened from the late 1800's to the late 1920's. I've always had a huge crush on the Jazz Age anyway, from Dorothy Parker to F. Scott Fitgerald and all the shenanigans and acerbic wit (would that I could have eavesdropped on the Algonquin Round Table), from fashions to music to design, but it was interesting to read how the monumental cultural changes actually came about. Perhaps it's just me, but I found the section on the birth of modern marketing and advertising to be surprisingly interesting and some of the contemporary issues, especially the thin ideal that was/is portrayed by the media and pushed in fashion and advertising, to be much too familiar. While I wished at times that the writing had been a bit tighter and a bit more organized, I found it to be quite entertaining anyway. If you're curious about the 1920's, you might want to pick it up.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Davonna Juroe

    Sex, booze, and jazz. For those of you who are fans of the new “Z: The Beginning of Everything” Amazon show with Christina Ricci, I want to highly recommend Joshua Zeitz’s non-fiction book, “Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern”. Zeitz is an historian and has taught American history and politics at Cambridge, Harvard, and Princeton. He is also the author of several books on American political and social history. "Flapper" spotlights the history Sex, booze, and jazz. For those of you who are fans of the new “Z: The Beginning of Everything” Amazon show with Christina Ricci, I want to highly recommend Joshua Zeitz’s non-fiction book, “Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern”. Zeitz is an historian and has taught American history and politics at Cambridge, Harvard, and Princeton. He is also the author of several books on American political and social history. "Flapper" spotlights the history of the Jazz Age while zeroing in on the conception of the ever-alluring flapper subculture. The book includes a look into Coco Channel’s rise to fame through her fashion empire, the Hollywood flapper starlets of the era, and the formation of the infamous Madison Avenue, whose executives helped propel the flappers' glamorous look. One of my favorite parts of the book is the interweaving of F. Scott Fitzgerald ("The Great Gatsby") and Zelda Fitzgerald's lives. They truly were the wild "it" couple of the Jazz Age and Zeitz partially credits the couple with birthing the flapper persona. I'd expect that many Americans probably would guess that the first counter-culture movement wasn’t until the 1960s. Zeitz however, pinpoints an earlier revolution in the response from Jazz-Age youth who were fed up with imposed Victorian ideals. Flappers bucked that system and were the female rebels of their time. However, the flapper subculture was short-lived and ultimately collapsed under the onset of the Depression. In conclusion, there are many non-fiction books that can become repetitive and bogged down with vocabulary. Zeitz’s work is fresh and his information and ability to weave a storylined plot through an historical narrative – which I don’t see often – kept me turning the pages. Definitely a great read, and if you haven’t seen "Z: The Beginning of Everything", I highly recommend it. Christina Ricci has literally become Zelda Fitzgerald's reincarnate. Fantastic acting. Have any of you watched it already or read this book? And, Joshua Zeitz, if you are reading this, when is your next book coming out? Please say it's about the history of Victorian America.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paolina

    The 20s are endlessly fascinating, especially looking back with the particular hindsight of Right Now. So I'm not entirely certain if I loved this book, or just love reading about history. It was incredibly readable with a nice cadence and topics that flowed well into each other. I am struck by the coincidences and ironies here. Examples being: -Zeitz is a male author profiting off telling the story of women, much like Fitzgerald and Hollywood did. -This book was published in 2006. A book about a The 20s are endlessly fascinating, especially looking back with the particular hindsight of Right Now. So I'm not entirely certain if I loved this book, or just love reading about history. It was incredibly readable with a nice cadence and topics that flowed well into each other. I am struck by the coincidences and ironies here. Examples being: -Zeitz is a male author profiting off telling the story of women, much like Fitzgerald and Hollywood did. -This book was published in 2006. A book about a period of excess and revolution before an economic downturn was written during a period of excess and revolution before an economic downturn. -The trajectory of Zelda and F Scott Fitzgerald eerily mirrors the events of the decade itself. -The same issues regarding women's bodies have come around again (or never really went away). We are STILL arguing and fighting about autonomy and self expression. -Women come up with a radical idea of self expression and advertisers figure out a way to exploit it sell it right back to them as a social necessity. -How the actions of a few can change society forever and have lasting impact 100 years later. There were a few blind spots that got some major side-eye from me. Zeitz falls for the hyperbolic drama surrounding corsets and women's clothing up to the Victorian period (no, most women were not passing out and dislodging organs on the regular). He also only barely touches on POCs and LGBTQ+ during the 20s, and makes some big assumptions when he does bring them up. Overall, a pretty good look into the history of flappers and the wild decade they ushered in.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    "Like so many successor movements in the twentieth century, the flapper phenomenon emphasized individuality, even as it expressed itself in conformity." The book is divided into 3 main sections -- each one has a central character around which all the other anecdotes revolve. The first section features Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and tells the story of the general social changes which were occurring almost overnight. But of course, the spotlight is on the chronicling of the period. The second section "Like so many successor movements in the twentieth century, the flapper phenomenon emphasized individuality, even as it expressed itself in conformity." The book is divided into 3 main sections -- each one has a central character around which all the other anecdotes revolve. The first section features Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and tells the story of the general social changes which were occurring almost overnight. But of course, the spotlight is on the chronicling of the period. The second section features Coco Chanel and the concrete changes wrought by the fashion industry with its apparent egalitarianism, creating the New Woman. The last part focuses on the American cinema and the magic influence of Hollywood. The central figure for this part is Coleen Moore who was the first to star as a flapper in a successful movie. Although a little late to the party, movies amplified the image with Clara Bow and Louise Brooks. Not too long ago I was watching a documentary series about the Prohibition. One of the women interviewed said something very intriguing about the media incorrectly giving credit for the great social and sexual revolutions in the 20th century to the movements of 60's and 70's. The real revolution came during WWI and gained its apex during the Jazz Age. This is a pretty good book, but many times it feels like a research paper run amuck. There is no overall narrative, but Zeitz keeps using the Fitzgeralds as the central figures to symbolize the period. This makes it a little disorganized -- it ends up being a series of biographies and anecdotes in no particular order -- but he credits Scott Fitzgerald with creating or discovering the Flapper, then becoming the lauded celebrity chronicler of the phenomenon. I also missed the "madcap" promised by the title. It's an interesting overview, but there must be better books about the era.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kirk

    An enjoyable though not necessarily deep book. I came to it looking for something new about Zelda Fitzgerald and really found nothing I hadn't already heard a dozen times before. In fact, it says something about Zeitz's awareness of critical histories of the 20s that he cites Sara Mayfield's EXILES FROM PARADISE, a book generally viewed as a hatchet job on Scott Fitzgerald. That said, FLAPPER has some good pictures and interesting factoids. Ultimately, it's an example of how nonfiction books aim An enjoyable though not necessarily deep book. I came to it looking for something new about Zelda Fitzgerald and really found nothing I hadn't already heard a dozen times before. In fact, it says something about Zeitz's awareness of critical histories of the 20s that he cites Sara Mayfield's EXILES FROM PARADISE, a book generally viewed as a hatchet job on Scott Fitzgerald. That said, FLAPPER has some good pictures and interesting factoids. Ultimately, it's an example of how nonfiction books aimed at general readers are afraid to insist upon a thesis or offer a critical interpretation of sex, style, or celebrity. A light read with some good primary sources from old mags, but not as invigorating as one might like.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I listened to this on audiobook, and the narrator is unbelievably annoying. I ended up speeding up the recording more than usual just to get through it faster because of how irritating the narrator's choices were. I think that maybe she was trying to indicate punctuation - like quotes - but it all just came off bizarrely stilted and her tone of voice was just ABSURD most of the time. She sounded like she was trying to flirt with you through the recording, but she was talking about like, insidiou I listened to this on audiobook, and the narrator is unbelievably annoying. I ended up speeding up the recording more than usual just to get through it faster because of how irritating the narrator's choices were. I think that maybe she was trying to indicate punctuation - like quotes - but it all just came off bizarrely stilted and her tone of voice was just ABSURD most of the time. She sounded like she was trying to flirt with you through the recording, but she was talking about like, insidious racism. It was absolutely baffling and was EASILY my least favorite thing about this book. I should've just gotten it in print. Anyway, other than that irritating detail, I really enjoyed the book! As usual, I find I must take male historians' interpretations with a grain of salt, especially when they're writing about women. There were pretty big generalizing statements made about women and some details stated that seemed pretty unlikely, but hey, it's a man. In general, I just plan on looking more into the things stated here that seem to be a bit out of whack with my understanding of the 1920's. Zeitz does a few profiles of relevant people (mostly women) throughout this book: Coco Chanel, Clara Bow, Lois Long, Colleen Moore, Louise Brooks, and then always circles back to the Fitzgeralds as the sort of central celebrity figures of the '20s and the flapper aesthetic. He also discusses the changes in economy, technology, shifting social values, and post-war culture, and how all these things influenced and shaped the flapper into something that people were interested in. I particularly enjoyed the chapters about 1920's Hollywood. I felt like this was a very good overview of the concept of the flapper - which is exactly what this book aims to do. It seems like a good first step for someone interested in learning more about the 1920's and flapper culture. It offers up the major players who brought the flapper into being and made her an icon of the era. And if you are still interested in learning more about the details - which I am - it gives you a good set of people and topics to look for in other, more niche and specific areas. Happy to have read it. :)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Rakita

    I liked being immersed in the world of the 1920s flapper, because going in I didn’t know much about that decade of American history beyond reading The Great Gatsby. I liked some parts, but the organization (or lack thereof) was sporadic, and Zeitz glazed over lots of subtopics that would have added more depth to the book (for example, the stories of people of color and immigrants who took on the flapper style and persona). It contained lots of historical facts that I never knew, and profiled som I liked being immersed in the world of the 1920s flapper, because going in I didn’t know much about that decade of American history beyond reading The Great Gatsby. I liked some parts, but the organization (or lack thereof) was sporadic, and Zeitz glazed over lots of subtopics that would have added more depth to the book (for example, the stories of people of color and immigrants who took on the flapper style and persona). It contained lots of historical facts that I never knew, and profiled some pretty interesting, though often unlikable, characters. I didn’t love the writing style, though, and he’s a man writing about the “New Woman,” so there’s that.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    The 'Roaring Twenties' was such a wild, fascinating decade in American history: the Jazz Age, the Harlem Renaissance, the emergence of the 'talkies', Art Deco, Prohibition, gangsters, 'It' girls, the latter exemplified, of course, by the 'flapper'. We all know what we picture when we hear the word 'flapper' - tall, willowy women, with knife-edge cheekbones, rouged lips and cheeks, a black bob, in loose-fitting tube dresses, dropped waists, low backs. She smoked, she drank, she slept around, and The 'Roaring Twenties' was such a wild, fascinating decade in American history: the Jazz Age, the Harlem Renaissance, the emergence of the 'talkies', Art Deco, Prohibition, gangsters, 'It' girls, the latter exemplified, of course, by the 'flapper'. We all know what we picture when we hear the word 'flapper' - tall, willowy women, with knife-edge cheekbones, rouged lips and cheeks, a black bob, in loose-fitting tube dresses, dropped waists, low backs. She smoked, she drank, she slept around, and she didn't care. Zeitz's book is a fascinating look at a figure that really paved the way for modern American women, the flapper who shed the last of the Victorian strictures and moved into a more modern conception of womanhood. He looks at some of the key figures who most seemed to embody the concept of the flapper, those who helped to create and shape it - women like Zelda Fitzgerald, who more than anyone was probably the first flapper, Coco Chanel, Louise Brooks, Clara Bow. Along the way the book looks at the relationship of the suffrage and feminist to the flappers, the former thoroughly disapproving of the latter as vapid, empty-headed and utterly unconcerned with politics and propriety, the evolution of dating, the movement of women into the workforce, the influence of the media on the image and conception of women, the rise of consumer culture. I could have done with a little more of a psychological insight into the flapper, why she evolved the way she did, why she behaved the way she did. And there is very little look at anything other than white flappers; the odd aside concerning Chinese-American and African-American flappers is little more than throwaway detail. But it's a fascinating book nonetheless, a real page-turner.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ally

    For me Zeitz has managed to strike the right balance between academic history and journalistic style making this a very entertaining read with just the right amount of substance. The main 'characters' - The Fitzgeralds, Lois Long, Clara Bow etc - were brought to life again and act as a focus to tell the story of a new 'modern' generation. I was disappointed however that the story did not play out as I had imagined it to. These were not pioneers of feminism but very confused women. The hedonism a For me Zeitz has managed to strike the right balance between academic history and journalistic style making this a very entertaining read with just the right amount of substance. The main 'characters' - The Fitzgeralds, Lois Long, Clara Bow etc - were brought to life again and act as a focus to tell the story of a new 'modern' generation. I was disappointed however that the story did not play out as I had imagined it to. These were not pioneers of feminism but very confused women. The hedonism and frivolity the fashions, the morals and the extreme behaviours were largely limited to a small section of 'monied' women. These women were financed by men - fathers, husbands and boyfriends (who traded meals and fancy clothes for company and perhaps more). The advertising men, the film makers, the marketing departments, the authors and journalists defined 'the flapper' not the women themselves who got hooked onto an illusion of freedom that turned out to be disappointing. Patriarchal control was still alive and strong - most of these women married in the conventional way or struggled dishearteningly towards sad ends. I can see why the suffragettes found the flapper vapid and detrimental to their cause - true equality was not 'real' for the flapper. The fun had a high price. I was sad while reading this book but it was overall a very engaging way to learn about this part of women's history and how it has developed and fuelled modern consumerism ever since. Interesting characters and interesting times.

  14. 5 out of 5

    George

    INTERESTING, INFORMATIVE AND ENTERTAINING. “It was never clear whether Scott Fitzgerald ‘invented’ the flapper, ‘discovered’ her, or exploited her.” From the untenable mores of the Victorian-Era to the ‘Unaffordable Excess’ of the Jazz Age; the opening decades of the twentieth century saw western culture turned on its head. Style, celebrity, journalism, fashion, consumerism, entertainment, and most especially, attitudes all underwent radical changes in a very short span of time. And aren’t we the INTERESTING, INFORMATIVE AND ENTERTAINING. “It was never clear whether Scott Fitzgerald ‘invented’ the flapper, ‘discovered’ her, or exploited her.” From the untenable mores of the Victorian-Era to the ‘Unaffordable Excess’ of the Jazz Age; the opening decades of the twentieth century saw western culture turned on its head. Style, celebrity, journalism, fashion, consumerism, entertainment, and most especially, attitudes all underwent radical changes in a very short span of time. And aren’t we the lucky ones for it. Joshua Seitz offers up many interesting and entertaining perspectives on the cultural and sociological causes and effects of the ‘Roaring 20s’ in his enjoyable book: FLAPPER: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern. From F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre; to the girl with “a mind full of fabulations,” Coco Chanel; to screen idol, Clara Bow—the ‘It’ girl, who never really got what ‘It’ was—this book is jammed packed with exciting times, places and people. Recommendation: Of course you should read this one. And recommend it to you book club, too. “The flapper was, in effect, the first thoroughly modern American.”—page 301 NOOKbook edition, 338 pages

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mitch

    I have been really into reading historical non-fiction books as of late. I am sort of making my way into the early 20th century. I started with "Devil in the White City" which takes place at and before the Chicago World's Fair in the 1890's, moved to "Sin in the Second City" about turn of the century prostitution, and now here comes the Jazz Age in full swing in the 1920's with Joshua Zeitz's "Flapper". And of all three of these historical books, "Flapper" is by FAR the best. I love the roaring 2 I have been really into reading historical non-fiction books as of late. I am sort of making my way into the early 20th century. I started with "Devil in the White City" which takes place at and before the Chicago World's Fair in the 1890's, moved to "Sin in the Second City" about turn of the century prostitution, and now here comes the Jazz Age in full swing in the 1920's with Joshua Zeitz's "Flapper". And of all three of these historical books, "Flapper" is by FAR the best. I love the roaring 20's and it's crazy madcap cast of zany characters and the start of maintream pop-culture. The fashion, the atittutes, and the way America was changing during hte 1920's makes for great reading. This promarily focuses on women in America at this time and the leading people in the Flapper movement: my favourite author F Scott Fitzgerald, his crazy wife Zelda, newspaper honey "Lipstick", actresses Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, and Louise Brooks, and who can forget fashion icon CoCo Chanel! I was enthralled and fascinated by every page of this book. If you are interested in the wacky ways of the 20's, than this book is a real swell gem!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Debra Pawlak

    This book was extremely thorough. So thorough in fact, it could have been several books (i.e., advertising, evolution of fashion, literature, etc.). I think the title was a bit misleading because the author really dissected the 1920s to include many things besides flappers. I found it a very useful research tool of the era as I am currently writing an article on one of Hollywood's most famous flappers--Colleen Moore. If you are looking for entertainment, you may not find it here, but if you need This book was extremely thorough. So thorough in fact, it could have been several books (i.e., advertising, evolution of fashion, literature, etc.). I think the title was a bit misleading because the author really dissected the 1920s to include many things besides flappers. I found it a very useful research tool of the era as I am currently writing an article on one of Hollywood's most famous flappers--Colleen Moore. If you are looking for entertainment, you may not find it here, but if you need a bit of research on the Roaring Twenties, by all means, read the book!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cassi

    I finally finished trudging my way through this book club read. The historical content itself was interesting. I learned some new things, and I was also reminded of many things I learned about our nation’s history in the Consumerism class I took in college. I just wish it had been written by someone else; it was really hard for me to get over the choppy writing, vague structure, and some general cluelessness bordering on insensitivity. At least it was redeemed for me by our book club’s highly en I finally finished trudging my way through this book club read. The historical content itself was interesting. I learned some new things, and I was also reminded of many things I learned about our nation’s history in the Consumerism class I took in college. I just wish it had been written by someone else; it was really hard for me to get over the choppy writing, vague structure, and some general cluelessness bordering on insensitivity. At least it was redeemed for me by our book club’s highly engaging and thoughtful conversation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “To be sure, there was something special about Hollywood. It was young: 2/3 of silent screen performers were under the age of 35 (and ¾ of its female players were under 25). It was exotic: all of the moguls were Jewish and many of the crew were foreign-born. It was emancipated: somewhere between 1/3 and ½ of the early screen writers were women (the kind of women who didn’t mind moving 3,000 miles from home to start over). And it was urbane. The silent screen artists were usually city folks who h “To be sure, there was something special about Hollywood. It was young: 2/3 of silent screen performers were under the age of 35 (and ¾ of its female players were under 25). It was exotic: all of the moguls were Jewish and many of the crew were foreign-born. It was emancipated: somewhere between 1/3 and ½ of the early screen writers were women (the kind of women who didn’t mind moving 3,000 miles from home to start over). And it was urbane. The silent screen artists were usually city folks who had already cast off the shackles of small-town life.”

  19. 5 out of 5

    JM

    A social, cultural and biographical history of the flapper phenomenon in 1920s America. That is, the rise of the Jazz Age's New Woman: cigarette smoking, car driving, nightclub hopping, sexually promiscuous and frequently wage-earning; lipstick-wearing, slender, sleekly bobbed and dressed in Chanel. This is a marvellous book. It's divided into three broadly thematic parts, which can be summarised more or less as The Flapper Lifestyle, The Flapper Look, and The Flapper in Hollywood. But it really A social, cultural and biographical history of the flapper phenomenon in 1920s America. That is, the rise of the Jazz Age's New Woman: cigarette smoking, car driving, nightclub hopping, sexually promiscuous and frequently wage-earning; lipstick-wearing, slender, sleekly bobbed and dressed in Chanel. This is a marvellous book. It's divided into three broadly thematic parts, which can be summarised more or less as The Flapper Lifestyle, The Flapper Look, and The Flapper in Hollywood. But it really gets its coherence from a focus on a handful of individuals who created or embodied flapperdom: the Jazz Age writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre who married him, the flapper journalist Lois Long, the fashion designer Coco Chanel, and the Hollywood actresses Colleen Moore, Clara Bow and Louise Brooks. There are other figures, movers and shakers and image makers, but those seven are the ones who get real pagetime, the ones who stay with you. Lois Long probably caught my imagination most, with the way she took the irreverent crazy fun style of the New Woman and she made it a career, she lived it and she lived off it (also she used to come into the office in the early hours of the morning after a night on the town, climb in stockinged feet over the walls of her cubicle because she'd left her key at home, and write up her stories, laughing at her own jokes as she typed). Coco Chanel was fascinating, I never realised how revolutionary her designs were, or how far she climbed. Colleen Moore was rather darling, from her career begun as a child charging other children for tickets to her backyard circus, to her break from wide-eyed-innocent of the screen to flapper icon. Clara Bow was rather tragic, but almost unbearably likeable, with her underprivileged and abusive background and her huge dreams. Louise Brooks, with her extensive sexual freedom, was really interesting, and I would have liked more of her - she got less pagetime than any of the others. I would have happily sacrificed some of the endless pages devoted to the Fitzgeralds to get more of Brooks. I did think there was a slight overkill on the Fitzgeralds. They're fascinating, this crazy reckless fragile genius destructive romping sort of duo, but it began to feel like a biography of the Fitzgeralds with some other bits to the side at times, especially in the first third of the book. And they're also rather aggravating after a while, in the way that that particular selfish kind of bohemian living always aggravates me. I was also a little dubious about the rationale for giving Scott such a large voice in the book. His time credited him with either creating the Flapper or being the greatest authority on her, but then his time was probably scrambling for a male voice to contain and explain the New Woman, even as irreverent and encouraging a one as F. Scott Fitzgerald. Which is itself an important and interesting historical thread, well worth exploring, but I did feel a bit that by privileging Scott's voice so much in this book, Zeitz was giving him the authority to define the Flapper all over again. Interspersed with the biographical history - every other chapter, more or less, although the division isn't as sharp as that - is social history. Zeitz has an irritating habit of vagueing out on his sources in-text - he's constantly saying things like "As one commentator put it", and then not telling you who the commentator was. But he does use (un-numbered) endnotes, so you can look up who it was if you're dedicated enough. He does seem to have relied a good deal on secondary sources - most of his primary source quotes are cadged from other books - and there are a few sources that feel overused and give some of his arguments a thin feeling (there was a contemporary survey in Muncie, Indiana that was forced to stand in for the opinions of ordinary Americans in almost every situation). He also has a practice of whimsically naming his chapters with quotes from the text, which produces fun chapter names but no indication of what the chapter is actually about, and a difficulty in structuring things in your own head as you read. So for example, 'Will She Throw Her Arms Around Your Neck and Yell?' is about the revolutionary effect of automobiles on personal freedom and youth courting rituals and friendships; 'Papa, What Is Beer?' is the Colleen Moore chapter; 'Without Imagination, No Wants' is the chapter about the rise of the ad man and creating a consumer culture. The whimsical chapter titles are fun, and I wouldn't lose them, but it would have felt like a more coherent read if they could have had, say, actually-informative subtitles as well. With those reservations (and they're not especially major), the social history is intelligent and thoughtful and rather elegantly written, and definitely engaging. Zeitz both celebrates and marvels at the revolutionary and liberating aspects of the flapper phenomenon and the Jazz Age in general, but also explores the ways in which it was undermined or deceptive. The discussion of the conservative and racial backlash of the era (thing I did not know: apparently Hollywood's very first full-length motion picture, which was a major commercial success, had a climactic final scene in which the Ku Klux Klan rode in to save the day I'm not kidding) highlighted the fact that the Flapper was, almost by definition, a white woman, even as she danced the Charleston in Harlem. He explores the way that the greater freedom between the sexes led to a serious curtailing of the intimacy between women, and in particular the end of the Victorian ideas about intensely romantic female friendships, particularly between girls at school or college (which I would read so many books about, I just have to find them). He examines the shifting power dynamics between the sexes: how even as women seemed to be getting much more power and freedom, earning wages, frequently living away from home, and getting out on the town, the discrepancy in male and female wages and the cost of living meant that in order to actually take part in the new lifestyle on offer, you had to have a boyfriend who would treat you to dinners and movies and fair ground rides. (Which, honest to god, made me understand how the whole 'the guy pays' thing could be such a crucial element of dating for the first fucking time: it was, actually, the backbone of the whole concept of dating, when dating was being invented.) Where before courting happened in the home, in a space controlled by women, now it happened in a space that depended on money, meaning that men, who had more, also had more power. The section that really caught my imagination, though, was the fashion - the idea of dress reform. I'm used to the idea of the corset as a massively constricting thing and symbolic of oppression etc etc, but the way that Zeitz laid it out made me appreciate for the first time the scale of the oppression visited on middle- and upper-class Victorian women by their clothes. As a non-working class Victorian woman you wore layers upon layers of constricting and stifling cloth, even in summer. You couldn't even get dressed on your own, but needed to be laced in. The corset constricted your breathing and acted in a practical sense as a constant weight pressing in from all sides. Your sleeves were designed so that you couldn't lift your arms above shoulder height. Your skirts were either so wide you had difficulty with doorways, steps and getting into carriages, or they came in at the ankle so that you could only take tiny steps, or you had a bustle that meant you couldn't sit any further back than the edge of any chair or couch, and couldn't ever relax your spine to lean back. If hoop skirts were in fashion, you couldn't stand too close to a fire or stove or you might go up in flames when the hoops overheated. There was literally no way for you to do a man's work, because your clothes wouldn't let you. And you couldn't choose not to. If you went out on the streets in, say, bloomers, as a small group of dress reformers did, you became a spectacle and an object of vicious scorn in the press and elsewhere. And these fashions weren't accidental - it didn't happen by accident that feminine fashion for centuries involved constricting, binding, physically controlling and weakening women. It was a fundamental form of social control. The issue wasn't about fashion, or aesthetics. It was possibly the most important, because all-pervasive and fundamental-to-daily-life, manifestation of women's oppression, and that is not a melodramatic statement. So you look at the fashions of the 1920s, and with various exceptions they look so incredibly unflattering and uncool, all shapeless dresses and dropped waists and factory patterns and tweed, but they are the most staggering departure from what was considered acceptable and beautiful for the feminine form a couple of decades before. Most discussion of radical twentieth century fashions seems somehow to focus on hemlines, but a million times more important than the fact that these clothes showed your calves is the fact that you could move in them. The dominant motif of the flapper dress is free and easy lines. They're astonishing. Amelia Bloomer did something very important in her time, but god knows so did Coco Chanel.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Flapper is a really interesting book that reads a little like a textbook, but a textbook about celebrities, feminism, identity, capitalism, and history. The first section is about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (let's talk how much we didn't learn about them while reading The Great Gatsby in high school) and the creation of the flapper. The last section focuses on Hollywood and the great flapper actresses of the silent films. Hollywood sounds like it hasn't changed a bit,except for the silent film b Flapper is a really interesting book that reads a little like a textbook, but a textbook about celebrities, feminism, identity, capitalism, and history. The first section is about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (let's talk how much we didn't learn about them while reading The Great Gatsby in high school) and the creation of the flapper. The last section focuses on Hollywood and the great flapper actresses of the silent films. Hollywood sounds like it hasn't changed a bit,except for the silent film bit. The middle of the book was my favorite. There were so many fascinating things that I finally carried around a pack of those mini post-it flags and marked the pages I wanted to remember. The middle of the book is just a blur of neon. Some of the most interesting topics to me: In Victorian days (a lot of the book compares the flappers to the Victorians) men and women lived their lives largely segregated. They married, but the men worked, women stayed at home; men socialized outside the home with other men, women visited each other in their homes. Women had very close bonds and relationships with each other and no one had any problem with it until "the age of eugenics, social Darwinism, scientific management, and taxonomy" when everyone became a little obsessed with classification. The books starts an interesting conversation on sexuality that could continue on for quite some time. The clothes women used to wear, the layers and corsets, the crinoline as an actual cage- it's hard to think about and no one ever really talks about how horrible it was and how men were truly -and admittedly- using clothes as social control for women. There is a photo in the book from 1924 of three women running on a track wearing what looks like the clothes any woman might wear to run today, short shorts and t-shirts. After reading in detail about corsets and health problems and women forced into weakness, I stare at that photo and see freedom. Coco Chanel, who knew? I mean, obviously lots of people, but not me. Wow. Her life was wild and so much more influential than I realized. The manipulative creation of a consumer society and its creation of needs is disturbing at best. The more I read about it and the more I think about it, it just gets worse and worse. Overall I was amazed by how similar the 20's are to today. There was a pause during the recession, WWI, the 50's, but then we picked right back up where the flappers left off. Like the best nonfiction, I learned things that will keep me thinking.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Veronica Peña

    This godforsaken book. It took everything in me to finish this book. I had to read it for a class - Intro to American Studies: The 1920s and I thought it was going to be great. I was really looking forward to it. And then I started. The first couple of chapters are great. The introduction? Amazing! And then it just takes a turn for the worse. I think this was the most poorly constructed book I've read in a long time. The chapters didn't have any sort of fluidity whatsoever and it felt like it was This godforsaken book. It took everything in me to finish this book. I had to read it for a class - Intro to American Studies: The 1920s and I thought it was going to be great. I was really looking forward to it. And then I started. The first couple of chapters are great. The introduction? Amazing! And then it just takes a turn for the worse. I think this was the most poorly constructed book I've read in a long time. The chapters didn't have any sort of fluidity whatsoever and it felt like it was all over the place. I was reading about so many different people in really different orders and then 3 chapters later, we'd find ourselves back to those people and it just made no sense. Literally none. I am almost proud of myself for finishing this book. It really was that hard. I had such high hopes and it just flopped. If my reviews mean anything to anyone, please don't read this book. Don't waste time.

  22. 4 out of 5

    LeahBethany

    3.5 stars rounding up. Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern was a fascinating read. It struck me that times haven't changed that much in 100 years. In the book the author writes that a lot of the older generation was alarmed and had serious reservations against the flapper culture. Their arguments are the exact same we hear against the youth culture of today. I think every generation tends to see the upcoming generation as heading to wrack and t 3.5 stars rounding up. Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern was a fascinating read. It struck me that times haven't changed that much in 100 years. In the book the author writes that a lot of the older generation was alarmed and had serious reservations against the flapper culture. Their arguments are the exact same we hear against the youth culture of today. I think every generation tends to see the upcoming generation as heading to wrack and to ruin (that phrase makes me think of the musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie"!). The author did a great job in bringing that period of history to life through the lens of advertising, books, movies, celebrities and fashion.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sydney

    I read this for school, and I'm sure that I would have rated this higher if I had actually cared about the subject matter. A few years ago, when I was in high school, The Great Gatsby movie with DiCaprio came out and everyone fell in love with the 20's again. I was into it just like everyone else. If I had read this then, I would have loved it. But now, just a few years later, I'm much more cynical, and it doesn't really seem that the flappers were trying to make a point of any kind. I think they I read this for school, and I'm sure that I would have rated this higher if I had actually cared about the subject matter. A few years ago, when I was in high school, The Great Gatsby movie with DiCaprio came out and everyone fell in love with the 20's again. I was into it just like everyone else. If I had read this then, I would have loved it. But now, just a few years later, I'm much more cynical, and it doesn't really seem that the flappers were trying to make a point of any kind. I think they were mostly a group of shallow young people who just wanted validation.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Harris

    I bought this book after reading a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald. Good analysis of American consumer culture and changing attitudes towards women during the 1920s. The illustrations, including photographs of actresses and advertisements from the times, capture the aesthetic of the era. The focus is on the United States and it would have been interesting to read about how the Flapper phenomenon was viewed in other regions of the world. An enjoyable read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Mcbroom

    I am a bit biased in this review. My favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald and my favorite Classic is The Great Gatsby. Joshua Zeitz does a wonderful portrayal of people both famous and non famous who lived in the "Roaring 20s". From the Fitzgeralds, Clara Bow, The Hemingways, Coleen Moore , Louise Brooks, Coco Chanel and a bevy of illustrators prove that the 1920's were revolutionary. Also in one way I consider it a memoir of a time in America. I am a bit biased in this review. My favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald and my favorite Classic is The Great Gatsby. Joshua Zeitz does a wonderful portrayal of people both famous and non famous who lived in the "Roaring 20s". From the Fitzgeralds, Clara Bow, The Hemingways, Coleen Moore , Louise Brooks, Coco Chanel and a bevy of illustrators prove that the 1920's were revolutionary. Also in one way I consider it a memoir of a time in America.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Corinna Bechko

    Nicely rounded and full of context, this zippy read doesn't shy away from hard truths about the history of women (and men) during the first truly modern era. Nicely rounded and full of context, this zippy read doesn't shy away from hard truths about the history of women (and men) during the first truly modern era.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Chock full of info.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Branden William

    'Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern' is a brief encounter with the symbolic representation of the Roaring Twenties. The flapper-- "the notorious female character type who bobbed her hair, smoked cigarettes, drank gin, sported short skirts, and passed her evenings in steamy jazz clubs, dancing in a shockingly inmodest fashion with a revolving cast of male suitors." She became the female archetype and stood for everything immoral during a period 'Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern' is a brief encounter with the symbolic representation of the Roaring Twenties. The flapper-- "the notorious female character type who bobbed her hair, smoked cigarettes, drank gin, sported short skirts, and passed her evenings in steamy jazz clubs, dancing in a shockingly inmodest fashion with a revolving cast of male suitors." She became the female archetype and stood for everything immoral during a period of luxury and unapologetic glamour. If Oscar Wilde's famous paradox that life imitates art and not the other way around is true, then the self-indulgent flapper is its living proof. Joshua Zeitz analyzes the history of the flapper by discussing the people who made and embodied its image. From French designer Coco Chanel, to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, writer Lois Long (aka Lipstick) and the three great flapper actresses that graced the silver screen in the 1920s: Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, and Louis Brooks, artists Gordon Conway and John Held, to other lesser mentioned but equally significant players that came together to create a passing phase in history. The actual originator of the flapper will forever remain under historical scrutiny, though less mysterious is the anointing of F. Scott Fitzgerald as the "king of the flappers and spokesperson of the so-called "Lost generation." Ironically however, Fitzgerald never even used the term 'flapper' in the whole of the text. Zelda soon became the prototype of the American flapper, bringing chaos and excitement with them wherever they went, leaving behind a trail of broken champagne bottles and fantastic stories. Zelda was a product of this new culture, with the New Woman as its role model. She belonged to the first generation of Americans who were raised on advertisements, amusements, and self-indulgent glory that was a staple of flapperdom and a central feature of 1920s culture, rather than religion and restraint. These women rejected many-- if not all--Victorian-era values and redefined the pursuit of pleasure as a noble goal unto itself. There were several early varieties on the femme fatale, none of which could be properly termed "flapper." The "vamp," commonly associated with actress Theda Bera, was an exotic sexually charged creature who left behind a trail of ruined lives and craven men. Bera and other played this role expertly, and to wide acclaim, between 1914 and 1920. If Colleen Moore was Hollywood's archetype of the safe flapper-- unthreatening, endearing, hapless, more bark than bite-- and if Clara Bow represented the naughty flapper who flirted and smoked a lot but could always be counted on to see the error of her fast-living ways, Louis Brooks was the real deal. "I like to drink and fuck," she would tell friends. She lived the life of the New Woman in ways which made Zelda Fitzgerald seem like a conservative schoolgirl. Every woman of the generation, no matter what her background or means, wanted to be a flapper. With the passing of the jazz age however, came the passing of the flapper. For the Hollywood flappers, it wasn't so much that the talkies killed them, more likely, the 1930s killed the public's taste for actresses typecast as flappers. And it's no wonder too. Experts agreed that it would cost the average working girl at least $117 -- more than $1,200 of to-day's money-- to affect the flapper look with a passing success. Even then, "she must have good taste, practice self denial and steer away from the impractical garments." The author goes on to analyze the nationwide criticism that the flapper received, concluding with the flapper's unraveling during America's descent into the Great Depression. The flapper was, however, in effect, the first thoroughly modern American. To-day, as Americans debate same-sex marriage, they are picking up where the flapper left off. In the same way, contemporary consumerism hearkens back to the flapper and her era, as the mass purchasing power that came under public scrutiny in the 1920s, Americans to-day are living among rising economic inequality. So many people purchase things for reasons of entitlement. People believe that consumption-- purchasing a bigger car or fancier suit, even at cost of an eternal debt-- is the great social leveler. It was never clear whether Scott Fitzgerald created the flapper, discovered her, or exploited her. However, as ordinary people struggle to identify themselves in an increasingly impersonal, prefabricated world, millions o flappers embraced a controversial lifestyle in a bold attempt at self-definition. The flapper surely embraced Oscar Wilde's paradox. On all accounts, this is a well-documented piece of history. My only complaint is the limitation of flapper influence, and direct artistic involvements during the Roaring Twenties, such as: Erté, art deco, and Absinthe. All three of which contributed gracefully to the flapper lifestyle of the 1920s...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    Joshua Zeitz has the reader walk a mile in the satin dancing slippers of these revolutionaries. Zelda Fitzgerald disobeyed her Lie-Still-and-Think-of-the-Empire Victorian mother, and her husband Scott made her a trend-setter. Lois Long (a.k.a. “Lipstick”) held New Yorkers in thrall. Coco Chanel made clothes that made women stronger. Clara Bow and Louise Brooks cast a spell on the country’s new crop of working women with their own money to spend. Zeitz paints a picture as compelling as a cupid’s b Joshua Zeitz has the reader walk a mile in the satin dancing slippers of these revolutionaries. Zelda Fitzgerald disobeyed her Lie-Still-and-Think-of-the-Empire Victorian mother, and her husband Scott made her a trend-setter. Lois Long (a.k.a. “Lipstick”) held New Yorkers in thrall. Coco Chanel made clothes that made women stronger. Clara Bow and Louise Brooks cast a spell on the country’s new crop of working women with their own money to spend. Zeitz paints a picture as compelling as a cupid’s bow of the cultural tensions these women embodied-—and the reactions of those who frowned on their free thinking and excessive drinking. Learn how Christian fundamentalists began their crusades, and what the KKK did to flappers. Read what long-suffering suffragettes had to say about this new generation who took their “sex rights” too far. Admire the energy of the era’s movers and shakers, and ride the shock waves sent forth by music, science research, technology and cinema. Appreciate these fun-loving girls (who became the sassy wives of the 1930s and strong matrons of the 1940s) for knowingly and unknowingly pioneering the privileges we all now take completely for granted. (The Sophisticate, 2007)

  30. 5 out of 5

    LillyBooks

    I liked this book in a breezy sort of way, but I feel it didn't live up to its potential. It improved as it progressed, mainly because the first section was practically a biography of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Not that the Fitzgeralds weren't interesting people or that I expected a book about the flapper not to mention them, it's just that it seemed like too much attention on just two people. Later, after the Fitzgeralds moved to France, the author leaves them alone and actually gets into the I liked this book in a breezy sort of way, but I feel it didn't live up to its potential. It improved as it progressed, mainly because the first section was practically a biography of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Not that the Fitzgeralds weren't interesting people or that I expected a book about the flapper not to mention them, it's just that it seemed like too much attention on just two people. Later, after the Fitzgeralds moved to France, the author leaves them alone and actually gets into the promised meat of the story, which is a study of the sociological factors that created the flapper. This is were the book rises to its peak, although it's more a hill than a mountain. I was looking for some deeper insights than this book gave me. Things are mentioned briefly, like birth control and speakeasies, but the author never really breaks down what had happened to make these things socially acceptable or controversial. Also, the books ends too suddenly with "and then the Depression hit and flapper went away." Yes, but where? And why? And what effects did the flapper have on later decades and generations of women?

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