The Object Highlight for this week is one that most of the staff here at Trowbridge Museum agree on – the Flapper Dress. This object was chosen by Nikki our Collections and Exhibitions Officer
The dresses that mean freedom! As a rural Wiltshire town and a museum which has always had a dominant Victorian/industrial revolution theme, our ‘heroes’ have always been that – heroes, rarely a heroine in sight, and definitely not without her good husband shadowing her story. Whilst Trowbridge was thriving during the industrial revolution women were still waiting for their moment. Trowbridge history is dominated by male mill owners, male weavers, Isaac Pitman, George Crabbe, John Clark, Sir Roger Brown, but we have little to tell of the women in the town. However, these dresses have finally given them a voice.
When we think of the roaring 1920s our minds lindy hop back to glamour looks, cool cats and smoky jazz bars. Nothing evokes this image more than the iconic flapper dress. However, we think of these dresses as more than just a risqué fashion movement… Following centuries of long clothing and living in a male dominated society, many women had their first taste of freedom following the first world war. Men were away fighting for the country and it was time for women to show their strength and resilience. With the men returning, these women were not going to give their new sense of freedom and power up. They wanted their voices heard!
Inspired by the spirit of jazz, the younger generation felt free, they swapped the Foxtrot for the Charleston and ditched restrictive corsets for boxy, shorter dresses. They were proving that their worth was more than a shapely figure.
To me they symbolize a generation of strength, unity after the great war and the freedom enjoyed in Trowbridge. Which after these last few years resonates again!