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The Missouri Review 29.3 (2006) 89-99

George Barbier
The Knight of the Bracelet
Kris Somerville

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Figure 1
Lithograph of Woman in Fashionable Dress, 1914. Photo credit: Christel Gerstenberg/Corbis
[End Page 89]

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Figure 2
Fashion Illustration of a Woman in Paquin's Evening Dress, 1913 Photo credit: Stapleton Collection/Corbis

With the publication of This Side of Paradise in early 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald, a Princeton dropout, failed U.S. army officer and former middling advertising executive, achieved instant celebrity and became a spokesperson for his generation. The twenty-four-year-old author populated his largely autobiographical Bildungsroman with wealthy collegians who rejected their parents' prudish Victorian [End Page 90]

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Figure 3
L'Olsarice, 1920s Photo credit: Stapleton Collection/Corbis
morals in favor of bootleg gin, steamy jazz clubs, country club parties and smoky cafés. Growing up during the brief span between World War I and the 1929 crash, Fitzgerald's generation [End Page 91]

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Figure 4
Persia, 1914 Photo credit: Stapleton Collection/Corbis

benefited from an interlude of prosperity and its accompanying modernity. College enrollment tripled, two-thirds of American homes had electricity and an increasing number of Americans owned radios and automobiles. [End Page 92]

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Figure 5
The Rosary, 1922 Photo credit: Philip de Bay/Corbis

Fitzgerald provided his readers a window on the world of the young and beautiful. His stories for popular magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and the Smart Set featured hip-flask-carrying [End Page 93]

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Figure 6
Lithograph of Couple Dancing, 1914 Photo credit: Christel Gerstenberg/Corbis

young women with rouged cheeks and lips, bobbed hair and knee-skimming skirts. The era between the two world wars saw the emergence of the New Woman. More than a quarter of them [End Page 94]

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Figure 7
The Judgement of Paris, 1920s Photo credit: Stapleton Collection/Corbis

were employed, giving them money to spend. In the workplace and at home, they adopted traditional male habits—smoking and drinking if they chose, driving automobiles and fully participating [End Page 95]

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Figure 8
Lithograph of Theater Goers, 1914 Photo credit: Christel Gerstenberg/Corbis

in consumer culture. Spurred on by a new degree of sexual liberation promoted by mass culture, they also experimented more openly with sex. Unlike her Victorian mother, the flapper was in [End Page 96] no hurry to embrace motherhood and used a variety of birth-control methods to prevent it. Between 1800 and 1920 the number of children born to a typical household fell from seven to three.

Parents, ministers and teachers—the usual guardians of virtue—lost authority to writers like Fitzgerald; artists; advertisers; fashion designers; and starlets such as Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and Colleen Moore. Popular culture promoted the rarefied life of travel, society and shopping. It also placed youth culture center stage, a phenomenon that would not recur until the 1960s. The flapper's appeal was infectious, marked by concentrated, irreverent energy for life and fevered interest in things exotic, modern and urban.

The flapper phenomenon emphasized individuality, yet a characteristic look emerged that would dominate women's clothing for a decade. Mass-marketed clothing and cosmetics also made it affordable to people of different regions and classes. Constricting styles of dress were dropped in favor of a relaxed, almost shapeless fit. Gone were heavy, flounced layers of silk and lace, high bustles, petticoats, tightly laced corsets and dark, lackluster shades. The flapper look featured loose, tubular dresses with unrestrictive dropped or invisible waistlines adorned with decorative sashes. The short hemlines, sleeves and deep necklines unveiled the body for the first time. The plumpness so prized in Victorian women became a fashion liability. The bust was flattened, shoulders became broader and boyish hips were favored. Having a slender, athletic body was a necessity, and to achieve this androgynous look American women became obsessed with weight loss. Popular commercial magazines...


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