Nothing can beat out the style competition at a social gathering quite like an outfit that harks back to the glamorous 1920-1930’s era…
These outfits conjure up images of long, draping pearls, short bobs and pin curls, fringing and, of course, the incomparable flapper dress. Anyone who has ever seen Catherine Jones and Renee Zellweger light up the screen in the hit musical Chicago will be familiar with this shape but even for those who haven’t, it is still with us today in the form of dresses worn by celebrities at award shoes (Christina Aguilera and Charlize Theron to name but two) and designs by the late legend Coco Chanel.
One common misconception is that the flapper dress is more or less a minidress and that it requires a certain figure to really be pulled off. Certainly, the fashionable ladies of the 1920’s favoured a boyish figure and went to extreme measures to achieve a waif-thin body (including bandaging their breasts flat) but the hemlines had not yet crept above the knee. Skirts were actually still rather long but were designed to confuse, hence the use of scalloping, dipping and handkerchif hemlines in floating fabrics. For this reason, the flapper dress is ideal for the shorter of stature. Stubby legs will instantly be transformed into long, svelte pins using any of these techniques. Just check out pictures of the aforementioned Christina Aguilera for an idea.
In saying that, if you are proud of your legs and wish to show them off to the fullest extent, you can opt to wear an above-the-knee flapper dress, as the look has been modified time and time again over the decades.
Another misconception is that flapper dresses must have a dropped waist. If, again, you have short legs in proportion to your body, or if you are apple-shaped and would like a loose fit around your midsection, this is not the style for you. Instead, opt for something with an empire line, a classic style and one that is equally favoured by celebrities. This is also an opportunity to show off that fringing. Dropped waists can utilize fringing on the hemline but dresses with an empire line can have fringing from the bust down or indeed from the top of the dress down. If you are not ready for elaborate fringing you may prefer a simple scalloped design with sequins for nighttime.
Last, but certainly not least, flapper dresses should always feel comfortable on the wearer. A wonderfully informative website called www.fashion-era.com says of Coco Chanel
“She worked in neutral tones of beige, sand, cream, navy and black in soft fluid jersey fabrics cut with simple shapes that did not require corsetry or waist definition. They were clothes made for comfort and ease in wear making them revolutionary and quite modern. She was the Jean Muir or Donna Karan of her day and the originator of the LBD – that little black dress.”
If you find that a dress is gathering or clinging in certain areas, take it off, peruse the aisles for a moment longer and settle on a style that feels better on, using the above guidelines if you need to. For the final touches, wear with pearls, Mary Jane ankle strap button shoes- perhaps with a T bar- and a cloche hat or, if you’re feeling daring, a hairband adorned with a feather.
Alternatively, if you lack the time, patience or indeed the cash to look for your flapper dress in shops, do not hesitate to create the look yourself, using a dressmaking pattern and the necessary tools.