Vintage Style Inspiration: Colleen Moore

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“I was the spark that lit up Flaming Youth, Colleen Moore was the torch. What little things we are to have caused all that trouble.”  – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Colleen Moore was the most famous actress of the 1920s. While her film career spanned from 1916-1934, she reached the height of her fame in 1923 with the film Flaming Youth.

Having had more standard “leading lady” roles before, Moore was reborn when the film showcased her new trademark Dutch-boy bob, short skirts and long strings of pearls.

Her character embodied everything The Flapper stood for: Self-empowered female youth who listened to jazz music, smoked cigarettes and drove cars (previously male only activities), wore make-up, and generally flaunted their disdain for what was then considered “decent” behavior.

The Flapper archetype opened up a whole new kind of role for actresses and brought the racier side of the Women’s Movement to the big screen. It pushed aside the traditional Virginal Heroine and Spunky Little Girl roles in favor of a more complex woman.

By the time Moore had catapulted to stardom in 1923, it was already unthinkable that The Flapper was the kind of part Mary Pickford or Lillian Gish could play.

This extended trailer is all that remains of Flaming Youth:

I love Moore’s aesthetic because, though it was wild for her time, it retains a dainty femininity. I admire her juxtaposition of strength and softness, because I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.

Having emerged from the oppression of the Victorian Era, The Flapper is all about feeling free to have fun and be yourself. I think that’s a pretty good message, don’t you?

Rachel Rasmussen   —  

Rachel is a nerdy Oregon native with a philosophy degree and classical dance background. She fancies her personal style to be quirky sophistication, focusing on the importance of fit while adding special touches of handmade embellishments. She is also a connoisseur of whiskey and nap-taker extraordinaire.

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Comments 16

Rachel raywuwei.me

Oh wow, what an odd coincidence! Her doll house is pretty stunning.

Kristaq

Wonderful! I so love the 1920’s. Clara Bow is my favorite ’20’s icon.

Meghan

Thank you. I love the trailer. It is sad that is all that remains.

Laura Isabel Serna

There are a few excellent books talking about Colleen Moore’s life and career, among them Amalie Hastie’s “Cupboards of Curiosity” which talks about Moore as the author of her own stardom. Although the flapper is a figure of liberation, the flapper cycle, which Moore’s films inaugurated offer ambivalent portraits of women’s freedom. Typically the narratives end with the heroine’s experimentation and self-expression being contained by her marriage to an appropriate partner. In “Flaming Youth” this is precisely what happens to Moore’s character, a dramatic shift in the storyline from the novel on which the film was based. Some historians argue that the flapper channeled women’s energies away from political change toward consumerism as self-expression and a politics of the self. Interesting to think about in regards to the politics of slow fashion today.

Rachel raywuwei.me

I agree, but it is also important to remember that the 20s was a time of huge economic growth, and consumerism in general had a major shift. I feel like The Flapper represents a rebellious teenager phase of the women’s movement. Maybe not the most intellectual, but still integral to its overall growth and maturity. As a sewist, I am definitely an advocate of the slow fashion movement as well.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I find that this plot line of the strong or rebellious woman finding true happiness through love (i.e. a man) is a theme that echoes through hollywood film up to today.

Miss Crayola Creepy misscrayolacreepy.blogspot.com

She is too cute! I have read Louise Brooks’ book, Lulu in Hollywood, and a biography on Clara Bow, but I need to read about Colleen Moore!

Tiffany tiffanysnotionsandknits.blogspot.ca

That film looks awesome (although, that really isn’t a ‘trailer’, it’s just parts of the film that survive – I believe it’s just one of the reels). Way too much purfume! lol

I agree with Laura, that much of the flapper/jazz era had much to do with rising consumerism as self-expression. Also, it was not so much a reaction against the ‘opression of the Victorian era’, but a reaction against the hyper femininity that went with it. As a way to get more into the public sphere, women tried to dress more masculine or androgenous.

Rachel raywuwei.me

I think the hyper femininity that was forced on women was oppressive, and so they expressed their desire for freedom by appropriating menswear and participating in activities that had been previously exclusive to men.

Rae @ Motherhood Handmade motherhoodhandmade.blogspot.com

Interesting how modern that retouched picture seems. Kind of cool!

A Morris

Excellent inspiration for my flapper dress at the Great Gatsby ball in September……..
Thank you for this post.

Sondra Richter

ALL of the pictures look fresh and modern to me. They could’ve been taken yesterday. Amazing.

Betty Jordan Wester nouvellegamine.com

I love her. Brooks is my favorite, but Moore has such a cute personality. Thanks for posting this!

Heather L

Interesting! I recently enjoyed reading The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, about a lady that chaperones a young Louise Brooks to New York…very interesting characters and I was intrigued by the changing of the times throughout the book…such a change from Victorian era etc! (Too bad their were no pictures…imagining the fashion will have to do!). :)

Miss Crayola Creepy misscrayolacreepy.blogspot.com

I loved that book! The story was intriguing and it made me wish that I could be in New York during that time period so badly.

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