In Flappers, Judith Mackrell portrays six women of the early 20th century who became leading ladies of a fashion trend that gave us the Flapper – Josephine Baker, Tamara de Lampicka, Nancy Cunard, Diana Cooper, Tallulah Bankhead, and Zelda Fitzgerald.
To be honest, I had not heard of some of them. I had a fair knowledge of Josephine Baker, Nancy Cunard, and Zelda Fitzgerald, but had not heard of Diana Cooper or Tallulah Bankhead and was fascinated to find out that Tamara de Lempicka was the artist that created some of paintings that I have come to associate with some of my favourite book covers.
Apart from very detailed insights into the life of each woman, Mackrell’s book does a fabulous job at revealing the social and historical context of each character. Each woman came from a different background, and struggled with different circumstances to rise to fame. This was fascinating. What was not so fascinating was that a lot of Mackrell’s writing seemed to be concerned with the love lives of each woman.
Appropriating the words of Zelda, some chapters grated on me because it seemed that
‘All they talk about is sex,’ […], ‘sex plain, striped, mixed and fancy.’
Still, this was a fascinating read about a time and a fashion movement that has left its mark on generations to come.