The 1920s were a thrilling and enjoyable era full of cultural and fashion transformations thanks to music, especially jazz music. Without a doubt, this is a period in American history that will not be forgotten. This was the age of flappers, a 1920s generation of women who wore bobbed hair, wore short skirts and were fascinated with jazz music (Hatton 1). The women became bold and participated in events in which women historically would not have dared to join. Jazz music had a huge impact on these young women’s lives, influencing their attitudes and society. As such, this paper attempts to establish how jazz music influenced the culture and taste of fashion of the flappers.
The end of the First World War resulted in a surge of creativity and more passion in arts that was spearheaded by the youthful women. The youths had enough money to spend on entertainment joints. However, the underlying driving force was the jazz music. As Marilyn Manson states, “music is the strongest form of magic.” Jazz music changed the culture of doing things in the 1920s as far as women were concerned. It changed like magic. This is evident by how the young American women transformed their habbits as a result of the driving power of the new jazz music encompassed with a lot of vigour. Their activities shook away the social repression of the previous years and centuries (Parker 1).
The jazz music had a significant implication on the culture. The massive impact caused by jazz music, perhaps, can be termed as women liberation. Jazz music had a charming power that lured women to clubs. It resulted into explosion of clubs for jazz music. Prior to the 1920s, women were confined in the precincts of their household as housewives. They were limited to doing house chores. However, the flappers were born, and trends changed, and There was an increase in the number of women being educated and secured jobs in customer service and also as performers so as to be financially independent and sustain their clubbing addiction. The increaese in the number of employed women and their desire for jazz music is directly linked to the mushrooming of clubs in he 1920s.
It was a revolution of youth culture into partying culture lured by the jazz music in clubs. As a result, this category of individuals while enjoying jazz music resorted to drinking, smoking and engaging in sexual activities defying their parents and traditions (Hatton 2) They also wore excessive makeup. Sexual excapeds were so rampnat that the term flap was used to refer to a prostitute. Worthwhile mentioning is that these sexual escapedes were aggravated by clubing trend due to the attaraction to jazz music (Hirshbein 115).
Dancing style too had to change. The jazz was characterized by a lively and chest binding style dance, Charleston. The women had to learn this style of dance to participate in the fully in the dance crew in clubs. Given its dynamic, certain aspects of dress code had to change. Besides, women became somewhat androdygous. Women tried their best to conceal much of their feminity aspects such as binding their bossoms so as to fit to the Charleston dancing technique. This, therefore, set the stage for change in fashion. The change in fashion and clamor to be fashionable can be well illustrated by the outburst of fashion magazines sold in that period. Three major magazines were established within the jazz period. These were the Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and The Queen. The evolution of jazz fashion happened in stages. The first stage was signified by the introduction of “Drop-waist” dresses in 1921. Additionally, as a result of the Coco Channel, long strings of beads made of glasses and pearls were introduced and became very fashionable in the market (Nolan 1).
The popularity of jazz music began its peak in 1923 when the mass marketing of jazz recordings was first made. As a result, the dressing mode of women also changed thanks to the jazz dancing style. The dance needed a lot of freedom and space. Women had to adopt clothing that could give them enough freedom. This prompted the modification of their dresses to reflect the need for free dancing. What was a woman’s normal look changed. Normally, a woman was expectted to dress in a sleevless mesh dress that facilited easy breathing and comfortability. But this changed when the dress had to be fixed with accessories that could capture people’s attention in the nightclubs (Peacock 58).
New York Times published on March 21, 1926, the sentiments of one man who saw the mannish style women strived to be as ridiculous. By “mannish” style, the man meant the style women had adopted of cutting their hairs short and binding the torso. However, this outlook had a purpose. It was strived for because of jazz style of dancing. The women did not want anything that could interfere with their movements. Worth pointing out is that their pre-war styles of keeping hair was not suitable for jazz dancing. This bobbed hairstyle was somewhat signifying rebellion though it was a practical style for jazz dancing. The hair was treated with additives so that it could be soft and slick back to the head (Nolan 3).
To fit well to jazz music, fashion also had to be tailored to correctly reflect Charleston, the dancing style. From 1925, dresses were loose and no longer having waistlines. They resembled “shifts.” This style allowed for complete utiliztion of the freedom of movement while dancing the jazz dance. The arms were loosely cut along with short skirts that were knee-length (Peacock 58).
To sum up, the jazz music in 1920s arguably created a society of empowered women. The music brought out something that had not been discovered before in women. This is the rebellion towards the norms of the society. This argument is supported by the shift in habit and culture experienced during those times that undoubtedly had been the case prior to the 1920s and the entrance of jazz music in America. Change in fashion too was influenced by jazz music. Fashion changed dramatically over a span of ten years when the jazz music had got it roots in America. It should be noted that while jazz music had a bang impact on culture and fashion within a span of ten years, the impact is still felt in the modern society living within the women of today.
Hatton, Jackie. “Flappers.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture 2 (2000).
Hirshbein, Laura Davidow. “The Flapper and the Fogy: Representations of Gender and Age in the 1920s.” Journal of Family History 26.1 (2001): 112-137.
Nolan, K. Vintage Fashions, New York: Harper, 1968.
Parker, Dorothy. “The Flapper”. Youtube, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2eaA-o6Lrs.
Peacock, John. Fashion Source book: 1920s. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997.