In a style called “leggings”:
In the 1890s, the British had a new and interesting way of talking about hair, which was that it was loose and fluffed or pulled back in, sort of like a flannel or a turtleneck. The style was called flats, and was inspired by the styles of British flappers, who dressed in tight trousers and flapping leggings made from canvas. French author Marcel Proust wrote an allegory about this style called The French Flapper.
I had a couple flapper friends in high school, and they would dress up their hair like this a couple times to demonstrate certain things, and I think they were a little bit of a tease, but I think it was funny. Also the style seemed to be kind of an anti-establishment movement. People were taking a lot of risks, and the only way they could do it was by flapping their legs all around the room.
It turns out that these women were also taking risks in business, as well. In 1906, the American women’s business journal “A-H” published an article by one of the founders of the flapper movement, Clara Bownds, describing the success of a New York salon in the early 20th century where women flapped their legs in front of the mirrors:
The mirror was kept hidden under a piece of old wallpaper, and it was made to keep with an upright posture. Each of us could keep a certain amount of sway on our figure by leaning our faces forward. The shape of this mirror was made to look as if our figure was flapped about in a sort of an exaggerated fashion over the surface of a polished board; the object of the gesture was to make everything appear slightly to the side; this was the true effect you had when you flapped the legs around the mirror.
Women in the 1890s were really, really into their heels, and they wanted to have a way to flaunt their bodies without giving them away too much. They wore it on the tips of their fingers. They even wore them above the knee.
Women had all these different movements, and all these different expressions, and this movement kind of became a sort of a social icon. They had very sophisticated ideas of what was socially acceptable. All the little things like this: the flapping of the legs, the way that you put your lips over your bottom lip, the way you folded your arms – all these were very feminine.
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