There is a lot of talk regarding what our lives will look like after the COVID-19 threat is corralled and vanquished, and we are free to move about the world again. I imagine most of us are planning our breakout moment by getting a much needed haircut and color along with a pedicure after months of DIY hair maintenance and salon-in-a-box treatments. (Who knew that repurposed scissors from the wrapping paper drawer could be so useful?)
It’s hard to imagine what our post-pandemic daily life will look like but it will most certainly be different than it was just a few months ago.
If the past is really prologue, we could be in for some radical changes.
After the influenza pandemic of 1918, there were major, transformational improvements in healthcare and women’s rights. In 1920, governments began to embrace the concept of socialized medicine, and in August of that year the 19th Amendment was ratified. Finally, women had won the right to vote, own property, and claim the money they earned as their own instead of their husbands or male family members.
There were other changes that freed women in the 20s, and one of those changes was expressed in fashion. There was a radical shift from the corseted, puritanical Edwardian look to the free-spirited style of the Flapper. While the rules of Edwardian dress were less constricting than their Victorian counterparts, there were still up-tight dresses, skirts, and coats. Women’s apparel was never shorter than ankle length, and wearing pants was considered absolutely heretical.
The Flapper was liberated from the constraints of heavy clothing and fabrics, long lengths, and preposterous headdresses. Huge, opulent hats were out. Fluid and unstructured dresses that fell just below the knee were in. Trousers also became popular. While pants were worn as early as 1890 when bicycling became fashionable, it wasn’t until WWI that women embraced them for their ease of movement. And it wasn’t until the 20s that trousers became tres chic and were worn as leisure wear.
Flappers also rebelled against the heavy, elaborate coifs of the Gibson Girl by cutting their hair short and wearing it in a bob. Because women’s hair salons balked at such “dangerous” modernism, undeterred Flappers stepped into their local barbershops for short haircuts until women’s hairdressers yielded to their stressed accounts receivables.
Like the trouser, the bob expressed the defiant tone of the era and a more inclusive society which we know as the Jazz Age.
We don’t know what the world will look like when we emerge from our homes but let’s hope it’s a better place than the one we left.
Be well, wash your hands a lot, and stay safe!