Friday, March 18, 2011

Making an Entrance: The Iconic Flapper Coat

by Kristin Summerlin

In the Roaring 20s, a stylish flapper didn’t simply wear a coat for warmth. Often tailored to match a specific dress, her coat, with its slouchy, casual cut and luxe fabrics, proclaimed ease, wealth and opulence.

Flappers created a style all their own – often quite shocking to the older generation, who were dismayed by what they considered a “fast” and reckless lifestyle. Everyone today recognizes the flapper “look”: bobbed hair, cloche hats, boyish silhouette, beads (often worn with the long strands down the back). That look represents newfound freedom for women and the devil-may-care attitude of America after the Great War. Dresses revealed lots of skin – bared arms, increasingly shorter hemlines – and since smoking, drinking and applying lipstick and powder in public were all the rage among these young rebels, cigarette cases, flasks and make-up compacts became important fashion accessories.
This iconic flapper coat (1925-1928) – displayed beside a 1928 Pierce-Arrow – has all the bells and whistles to make it the “cat’s pajamas.”
  • The most sumptuous chestnut silk velvet pairs with opulent gold lamé in a completely reversible design.
  • Rich details conjure up the allure of the Orient: bold stylized roses, brilliant colors, and an exotic-looking fringed silk trim that mimics monkey fur, a popular embellishment of the time.
  • Worn lamé side out (as displayed), two oversized ruched velvet roses at the collar create a dramatic frame for the face and echo the orange roses in the lamé. The same orange roses are cut out and appliquéd at the back hem of the coat, embellished with gold braid and sequins.
  • Reversed, the coat is more understated, with an Art Deco flavor created by geometric bands of gold lamé against the soft chestnut velvet. To create interest, the velvet of the coat’s body is woven in a shadow stripe to contrast with matching plain-woven chestnut velvet at the hem and sleeves.
Here, the coat is paired with a green and gold lamé chemise and a cloche embellished with lamé roses, both from the same period.

Each of the garments in the Fountainhead Collection has a story to tell about the way people lived during the early days of America’s love affair with the automobile. We’re creating new signs to showcase important details of the garments on display, and we thought it might be interesting to share some of those stories here from time to time.

* Photos by Ronn Murray Photography


  1. Fun and interesting information. I'm preparing to study the 20's with my American Literature students, and this will be a perfect source. Thanks!

  2. What an outstanding idea! Exhibiting clothing and automobiles with interesting observations, insights and information from the era... wonderful combination. Would that I did not live fully across the country if only to see this exhibit wiht my own eyes... consequently so pleased you are offering we on the Eastern Shore this venue in which to enjoy this gorgeous collection. Thnaks so much !


Blogging about the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum's latest news, adventures and research