The Jazz Age

Granted, the flapper was something of a caricature promoted by the mass media, and scholars tend to be critical of that archetype. Breward points out that the flapper was more of an icon in the United States than in Britain, where “the impact of modernity on anything more than surface appearances was more limited. ” Nonetheless, even more conventional dresses were markedly shorter, much straighter, and less curve-enhancing (and presumably more comfortable) than Victorian dresses. This fact owes something to women’s social conditions; no longer

Examples of 1920s women’s dresses. (Left) Found at http://www. museumofcostume. co. uk; (Right) Found at http://www. fashion-era. com. (Left) Figure 7: Picture of Clara Bow in flapper dress, circa 1927. Found at http://www. ustrek. org. (Right) Figure 8: Magazine illustration of stereotypical flapper. Found at http://www. geocities. com/flapper_culture. confined to a small range of roles, young women, says Ewing, “sought to disguise their femininity as fervently as, a generation ago, they had tried to exaggerate it.

” Social conditions clearly shaped the fashions of both eras. In the Victorian Era, women’s roles were circumscribed and generally limited to dutiful marriage and motherhood, and the common styles of women’s dresses reflected this, though they offered some degree of liberation in terms of comfort and choice. In the Jazz Age, women had achieved considerable social gains, and the styles of dress reflected a model of womanhood that was not confined to the home.

Both eras manifested aspects of modernity; while the former represented commercial modernity and reflected it in superficial variations in style, the latter represented a wider, freer kind of modernity that showed in the freer fashions. REFLECTIVE DISCUSSION I chose this topic for the essay because I wanted to make comparisons between two distinct periods in Western style’s history, and I believe that comparisons would make for a stronger essay.

It fits in with my other learning to date because it combines fashion history with aspects of social and cultural history and includes American history, with which I grew more familiar while writing this essay. I have developed an interest in shared traits in international fashions and hope to explore this further. Also, in the course of completing this assignment, I discovered that the stereotypes often used to characterize each era overlook their true complexity.

Having discovered this, I plan to seek the truth behind historical stereotypes in future research. In this project, I believe my strengths include my prose structure and style, as well as my ability to find sources relevant to the periods the essay covers. Working within the compare-contrast structure I chose, I found it easy to construct my arguments and compare the two periods’ approaches to female dress. Also, the sources I found were helpful and fairly recent, reflecting the most recent scholarship in both fashion history and social and cultural history.

In terms of flaws, I believe that I could have consulted a wider array of historical sources, though at the same time I think that my arguments and conclusions would have been fundamentally the same. In addition, I may have focused more on the history than on the fashions themselves, especially from an American standpoint. However, I found that Victorian cultural ideals were strongly shared by both the British and Americans. The Victorian era made the most sense to me, largely because it is a familiar period for me and part of my own national and cultural history.

I had previous exposure to it in my previous schooling, but I knew little about how Americans shared these assumptions prior to this assignment. Conversely, I was not very familiar with American cultural history prior to this project, and specifically I knew little how about America’s Jazz Age manifested modernity to a much greater degree that Britain did at the same time. I also knew little about the definition of modernity before this, and I was surprised to find how many changes in American society had evolved and converged in the years after World War I.

In the future, I will likely consult a wider range of historical sources and filter the information more closely in order to produce a clearer, more concise, less general account of the historical periods I plan to study. I will rely less on generalizations and include more specific historical facts and phenomena, which will allow me to make stronger arguments. This approach will help me form a more balanced picture of the periods I plan to study and depict them in a more accurate and sophisticated manner.

For Level 3, I plan to produce more balanced and in-depth scholarship and will adjust my methods according to the guidelines I have explained.


Anonymous, Corset, retrieved 8 June 2006, Anonymous, The Jazz Age: Flapper Culture & Style, retrieved 8 June 2006, <http://www. geocities. com/flapper_culture>. Anonymous, US Trek, retrieved 8 June 2006, <http://www. ustrek. org/index. html>. Boyer P et al, The Enduring Vision, 2nd edn, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1998.