Lovies, with Baz Luhrmann’s take on The Great Gatsby opening May 10th, the flapper, that caricature of young women of the Roaring 20’s, will surely be on everyone’s costume and makeup radar this year for fancy dress and Halloween. Read on for some thoughts on historical and Hollywood context, as well as some photo inspiration and DIY tutorials to create your own flamboyant flapper look!
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby relates a tale of loves won and lost against the garish extravagance of New York’s Gold Coast in 1922. Anyone familiar with Baz Luhrmann’s previous films (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet) will know that his costumes, while perhaps not entirely accurate historically, will certainly capture the flash and decadence in Fitzgerald’s original tale. Luhrmann’s relationship with various fashion houses during the making of this movie is well known, and you can see the results in the most recent trailer for the film and in the gallery at the bottom of this post.
From a costume perspective, flapper dresses as we tend to think of them today were fully in vogue by the mid-1920’s, with a straight, loose, shape, low, hip-level waistline, and hemline around knee height. “Youth and vitality” was the look of the day, emphasizing boyish silhouettes and short hair styles that celebrated both increased freedom of movement and (perhaps) reduced inhibitions.
While there are no shortage of commercial flapper costumes on the market, I love this look because it is an easy closet costume. Splurge on one of the Gatsby-inspired fashionable frocks on the racks to wear now, then re-use for your 1920’s-inspired flapper costume later this year (like 2011’s Lovely Medusa costume!), or simply pair a slim sheath dress in white or black with ideas from the tutorials below. If you decide to upcycle a plain dress or skirt for this look, try taking it up a notch with this simple DIY flapper dress tutorial (sewing too daunting? Attach your fringe with hot glue! It only needs to last for a night or two). Accessories are what makes this look, so focus your attention on piling on fun embellishments that say “flapper” to you!
In the 1920’s, fashionable makeup was more heavily applied than in previous eras and tended to emphasize dramatic eyes and lips, as shown in these two tutorials for Gatsby-inspired 1920’s makeup. For hair, short is certainly iconic for the flapper, but can be achieved simply with a bobbed wig or pinned-up long hair, as demonstrated in the clip below. Popular accessories of the time included flashy art deco jewelry (clips, pins, rings, and brooches) and multiple layers of scarves and looped beaded or pearl necklaces. The “fast” ladies of the era were known to shock society by drinking and smoking, so don’t forget fun props like a cigarette holder to make your flapper look a little extra scandalous. Dress your hair up with a cloche or easy DIY clip or headband, and you will be all set to dance the night away with vintage vigor!
To help inspire your look, here’s a gallery featuring stills, posters, and fashion editorials from the upcoming Great Gatsby release and the 1974 version starring Mia Farrow and Robert Redford, as well as Ralph Lauren’s Gatsby-inspired Spring 2013 collection. For more detailed history on dress of the 1920’s and flapper fashion, visit Fashion Era, and don’t forget to check out the related post section below the gallery for a DIY feather hair clip accessory tutorial and other 1920’s look how-to guides!