Women in the 20's
The twenties was a fascinating decade for women. During that time we became, in many ways, what we are today.
The body of the flapper was boyish. Skirts shortened to calf length, waists loosened and dropped to the hips, breasts were flat (often bound to make them seem small), and women discarded their long hair. The ideal female body in the 1920's had a serpentine slimness, an exalted prepubescent form.
The youthful look was not naive and pure but worldly and insolent, portraying a new titillating sexuality for women. Women were drinking bootleg liquor and smoking right out in public, dancing provokatively, showing their knees and wearing make-up. The term "sex appeal" entered the vernacular as it displaced "modesty" and "regal elegance" as woman's goal in fashion and behavior. Young flappers tried to cultivate the exotic flavor of mysterious sexuality portrayed on the silent screen by Theda Bara, Pola Negri and later Greta Garbo.
Freudian psychology became popular, with the interesting result of traditional "Ideal" motherhood being attacked in ways that encouraged this new sexualization of women. Doting, oversolicitous mothers wree blamed for emotional invalidism in their children. Such overwhelming affection and attention from a mother could only be caused by repressed sexual hunger being channeled into the child. Suddenly, sexuality was not incompatible with motherhood. In fact, the only way to be a good, psychologically healthy mother was to be sexually expressive.
Women were urged to channel their energy into their marital relationshps, not just into their children. They must be lovers, not mothers, to their husbands. This meant keeping their figures alluring and slender. No longer was it acceptable for a woman's body to succumb to matronly spread. For the first time, women's body measurements and weight became critical to judgements about their attractiveness.
The twenties was a fascinating decade for women. It marked the turning point for many positive changes that would come later, such as feminism, and for some disturbing trends that ares still with us, like dieting and body image obsession.