Vulnerable Freedom

During the days she works at a cafe. She meets businessmen who find her charming. She flirts with them while she pours their coffee. The big tippers get a wink and a smile. It’s an art form. She is exhausted yet awakened by the city’s noise. It sounds like a constant roar. The lions call to her, they know how to draw everyone in. When her shift ends she stumbles home, the hangover finally wearing off. She lets down her hair and falls asleep on her couch. A few hours later she wakes, the roar getting louder. Eleanor fixes herself a drink from what’s left of her whisky and puts on her scratchy old record player. She lets the fog pull her in. She reapplies her makeup, layer upon layer, with remnants of last night’s makeup still making an appearance. She opens the curtains to the bright lights, which glow over the city. A twinkly daze. The perfect setting for the roar, now booming. As she flees the apartment, the record player comes to a halt. No matter, it’s long been drowned out.

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I had always imagined women of this time period with cutting edge sequined dresses with their fan in one hand and champagne flute in the other as they floated across a fabulous art deco ballroom. When researching this look, I began to picture more than just the ‘jazziness’ of the twenties and how I had romanticized that period today. I thought about the lifestyle it entailed. It was a crazy time.

If you look at the historic timeline of that era, the western world was changing rapidly.  Though today one could picture the twenties as a constant party, I think the lifestyle of the time was a lot more draining than one could imagine. Some countries were penniless after the First World War, class differences were flattening in Europe and the United States had the prohibition.

What’s remarkable about this era is that women had more freedom than ever before. The independence that surged for women during WWI only heightened the socio-economic changes of the turn of the century. After the war, the culture of the roaring twenties reflected that independence. It was the first time in western culture where respectable women of society could play the part of the bad girl. The bold fake looking bow lips and the popping droopy eyes were previously only accepted in the entertainment industry. The look was a rebellion against the previously delicate makeup that was accepted in the Edwardian era. For many women at that time, the glamour wasn’t about the fashion of the era; it was about living on their own terms. Now, realistically that may not have been all that glamorous. It meant making ends meet (for some) whilst also adding jazz and liquor. What inspired me for this look was making that reality look credible with both makeup and photography.

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