Tag Archives: Colleen Moore

Florrie Was a Flapper, in 1914

The Vintage Traveler, writing   “Why Were They Called Flappers?” , supplied more evidence that young women were called “flappers” well before the 1920’s.

I once mentioned the oft-repeated theory that 1920’s “flappers” got that name from the unbuckled galoshes they wore, when I was writing about rubber rain boots called “Zippers.” (click here.) Yesterday I found this illustration in a lovely book that was new to me:

Illustration by John Held from Roaring '20s Fashions: Jazz, by Susan Langley.

Illustration by John Held from Roaring ’20s Fashions: Jazz, by Susan Langley.

At the library, I discovered two well-illustrated books by Susan Langley, published by Schiffer publishing: The first, Roaring ’20s Fashions: Jazz, covers 1920 to 1924; the second, Roaring ’20s Fashions: Deco, covers 1925 to 1929. In addition to period illustrations, many vintage fashions  — presumably in private collections, since Schiffer books are aimed at collectors — are beautifully photographed in color, and with close-ups, by John Dowling. Published a few years ago, the prices given may have changed, but these books are packed with illustrations that I have never seen before, like that John Held flapper-in-galoshes, above. Langley has done a wonderful job of connecting vintage fashion plates with real garments. The plates are not the ones I have seen in other fashion histories, and she also includes images from less familiar mass market store catalogs, not just Sears. The real garments tend to be glamorous, since evening dress is more likely to survive, but there are some day dresses and suits, in addition to some designer labels. And she shows men’s fashions and vintage examples, too! Both volumes are definitely worth a look if you love the Twenties.

But — in spite of that drawing by John Held — there are plenty of  pre-nineteen twenties uses of the word “flapper.”

I just heard this vaudeville/music hall song from 1914:  “Florrie Was A Flapper,” sung by Elsie Janis. Elsie Janis dressed in men’s clothing (like Vesta Tilley) when she sang this vaudeville song in London in 1914.

Here are a few of the lyrics — plainly proving that Florrie the Flapper (1914) was a precursor of, not only the flappers of the twenties, but the Gold Diggers of the 1930’s!

Florrie was a flapper who would gad about the town
She’d lunch with you, she’d dine with you, she’d sup
She often said she didn’t feel the need to settle down
She had so many friends to settle up
She’d let you take her shopping at the most expensive place
She’d say, ‘You mustn’t buy me things,’ but still
As soon as ever you began to bill and coo
She simply cooed and left you with the bill.

It’s an old recording, so you may want to refer to the full lyrics by clicking here, as well as listening to Elsie Janis sing the song, by clicking here.

Colleen Moore was one of the leading “flappers” on screen in the 1920’s. In Why Be Good, she manages to hang on to her chastity while routinely getting men to buy her dinners and drinks and dresses…. Just like Florrie (whose virtue is less certain.)

P.S. If you love the Thirties:

For a brief article from TCM explaining why Gold Diggers of 1933 is “the ultimate thirties film,” click here. For “10 Little Things I Love About Gold Diggers of 1933,” click here. (Who wouldn’t love Joan Blondell?)

Click here for the full lyrics of “Florrie Was a Flapper,” written in 1914.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Menswear, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture

Hems Going Down Part 1: 1926

"Eloise, go and look in Delineator! Maybe it would be safe to have it a little longer?" January 1929, Delineator magazine. Cartoon by Helen Hokinson.

“Eloise, go and look in Delineator! Maybe it would be safe to have it a little longer?” January 1929, Butterick’s Delineator magazine. Cartoon by Helen Hokinson.

Sometimes it seems like 1920’s hems began falling even before they had finished rising.

Nineteen twenties’ hems reached their shortest — in some cases above the knee — lengths near the end of the 20’s; some historians date their high water mark to 1927, but above-the-knee dresses can be seen in films released in 1929. Pauline Weston Thomas has written about “The Short Skirt Misconception of the Twenties” at Fashion-Era. Click here.

Two Hems for the Price of One

One of her points is that the mid to late twenties were years of change, reflected in the many dress styles that strove to be both long and short at the same time. Afternoon and evening dresses often had a style feature that dropped below the normal hemline. A side drape, flared godets or “handkerchief hem” panels, and dresses that were short in front and longer in back —  all allowed a transitional “two hem” option.

Three dresses for Misses aage 15 to 20, Butterick, April 1925. Delineator.

Three dresses for Misses age 15 to 20, Butterick, April 1925. Delineator.

In 1925, skirts were still below the knee, but the sheer dress on the left, above, with its “handkerchief hem” has a shorter opaque underskirt (or costume slip.)

This similar dress, left,  from August of 1926, has a sheer lace or printed chiffon top layer:

"Young Parisienne" styles from Butterick, patterns 7026 and 6999. August, 1926.

“Young Parisienne” styles from Butterick, patterns #7026 and #6999. August, 1926.

It’s also much shorter than its 1925 counterpart. The scalloped hem on the right was also seen in late twenties’ styles.

These evening patterns, from December 1926, carry your eye below the hem with side drapes. The one on the left actually has two hemlines:

A side drape dangles below the rest of the hem in these evening patterns from Dec. 1926. Delineator.

A side drape dangles below the rest of the hem in these evening patterns from Dec. 1926. Delineator.

This dress, No. 1118 from November, 1926,  also has a “tunic” [sometimes called an “apron] that hangs below the hem at the front sides.

Butterick 1118, Nov. 1926.  Sheer blue velvet was recommended.

Butterick 1118, front and back views. Nov. 1926. Sheer blue velvet was recommended.

The dress on the left, below, for “Larger Women,” has floating panels for sleeves  and curving inserted panels that make the sides longer than the front or back.

"French Dresses for Larger Women." Butterick patterns 6957 and 6962, July 1926. Delineator.

“French Dresses for Larger Women.” Butterick patterns 6957 and 6962, July 1926. Delineator. The shirring at the shoulder (left) would allow for a fuller bust.

Although these 1926 dresses are for mature women, the “dress and slip” on the center figure is not much below the knee.

This glittering dress, by French designer Renee, is also longer at the sides than it is in front.

French designer Renee showed this evening dress in Fall, 1926. Delineator sketch by Soulie. Sept. 1926.

French designer Renee showed this evening dress in Fall, 1926. Delineator sketch by Soulie. Sept. 1926.

Pour troubler” is Renee’s name for a most disturbing frock of white faille silk with a design of trailing leaves, flowers, and dew drops crystallized in brilliants on the dress and fluttering draperies. A girdle of green chiffon does a half Nelson clutch at the side.”

This Paris gown from Cheruit — also 1926 — has longer panels of a different color:

A "Summer dancing frock" from Cheruit. Sketched for Delineator , August 1926.

A “Summer dancing frock” from Cheruit. Sketched for Delineator , August 1926.

Panneaux evases [Literally, “panels widened at the top” — which does not seem to be what the picture shows] of gold gauze set in a white frock of the same material make a Summer dancing-frock that calls to mind pale flowers by moonlight. From Cheruit.”

One style that became very popular among young women — and which was adopted by older women by the end of the decade — was the afternoon or evening dress that was much longer in back than in front.

Paul Poiret made this early, sophisticated version of black velvet with a sequinned bodice in 1926.

"An uneven swirl of black velvet below a sequinned bodice" by Paul Poiret. drawn by Lages for Delineator, Dec. 1926.

“An uneven swirl of black velvet below a sequinned bodice” by Paul Poiret. drawn by Lages for Delineator, Dec. 1926.

“An evening frock from Paul Poiret is an uneven swirl of black velvet below a sequinned bodice on which multicolored flowers are worked in brilliant shades of blue and rose and green. Ends of Chartreuse velvet fall from the bows at the hip and the hem is faced with silver ribbon.” [Since the back is longer than the front, the inside of the hem is visible, so Poiret has decorated it with silver ribbon.]

Because the model is sitting (apparently on thin air), it’s hard to be sure that Poiret’s hem is longest at the back, rather than the side. But that’s definitely the case with this 1928 dress from Hattie Carnegie:

Hattie Carnegie dress with large-scale print and scalloped hem, much longer in back than in front. Delineator, July 1928.

Hattie Carnegie dress with large-scale print and scalloped hem, much longer in back than in front. Delineator, July 1928.

Among teens and very young women, the short front / long back dress, with a full skirt based upon the robe de style, must have been popular, because within a couple of years it was widely adopted by older women, too.

These are some 1926 patterns “for misses 15 to 20, and small women.”

Two views of Butterick 6935. Delineator, July 1926.

Two views of Butterick 6935. Delineator, July 1926. The version on the right is shockingly short, since the hem is see-through, exposing the entire knee.

Butterick patterns for young women, Sept. 1926. Number 7065, left, and 7024, right.

Butterick patterns for young women, Sept. 1926. Number 7047, left, and 7063, right.

Here, the same dress is trimmed with hand-beaded art deco flowers:

Butterick dress pattern 7047, beaded using transfer pattern 10472. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

Butterick dress pattern 7047, beaded using transfer pattern 10472. Delineator, Sept. 1926.

The bodice on a robe de style could fit quite snugly, and usually fastened with a line of snaps under the left arm. (Movie flapper Colleen Moore, wearing snug bodices, could be seen dressing and undressing several times in Why Be Good? from 1929.)

By 1929, these high-low hems had become acceptable for daytime wear.

Day dresses for January 1929. Butterick patterns 2395 and 2392. Delineator, January 1929.

Day dresses for January 1929. Butterick patterns 2395 and 2382. Delineator, January 1929.

“2395 — The scalloped frock. This is a dress that can only be worn by the very young and the very slender. The new molded body is seen in the basque to which a straight skirt is gathered. All the edges are scalloped and the hem rounds down slightly longer in back. The deep cape collar takes the place of sleeves and matches the background of the dress. Designed for 32 to 37 [bust] (15 to 20 years ) and 38.”

It appears that the same dress, with a darker bias-bound hem, was later featured in this ad for shoes:

"They flatter the foot and keep it young." Shoe ad, Delineator, March 1929.

“They flatter the foot and keep it young.” Shoe ad, Delineator, March 1929.

The high/low hem appeared on older women in afternoon (dressy) dresses, too:

Afternoon dress, July 1928. Butterick pattern 2140, Delineator magazine.

Afternoon dress, July 1928. Butterick pattern 2140, Delineator magazine.

Delineator, January 1929.

Butterick patterns 2418, 2347, 2402, 2367. Delineator, January 1929.

Delineator, Nov. 1928.

Butterick patterns 2269, 1785, 2307. Delineator, Nov. 1928.

More about high/low hems and other transitional variations to come. . . .

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Filed under 1920s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes