Footage of Flappers from 1929 Restored & Colorized with AI

The flap­per is the Roar­ing 20s’ endur­ing emblem — a lib­er­at­ed, young woman with bobbed hair, rolled down stock­ings, and a pub­lic thirst for cock­tails.

(My grand­moth­er longed to be one, and suc­ceed­ed, as best one could in Cairo, Illi­nois, only to mar­ry an old­er man at the age of 17, and give birth to my father a few months before the stock mar­ket crashed, bring­ing the friv­o­li­ty of the decade to an abrupt halt.)

Our abid­ing affec­tion for the flap­per is stoked on F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s Jazz Age novel­la, The Great Gats­by, and its many stage and screen adap­ta­tions, with their depic­tions of wild par­ties fea­tur­ing guests like Miss Baedeck­er (“When she’s had five or six cock­tails she always starts scream­ing like that”) and Lucille (“I nev­er care what I do, so I always have a good time.”)

The vin­tage fash­ion blog Glam­our Daze’s new­ly col­orized footage of a 1929  fash­ion show in Buf­fa­lo, New York, at the top of this post, presents a vast­ly more sedate image than Fitzger­ald, or Ethel Hays, whose sin­gle-pan­el dai­ly car­toon Flap­per Fan­ny was wild­ly pop­u­lar with both young women and men of the time.



The scene it presents seems more whole­some than one might have found in New York City, with what Fitzger­ald dubbed its “wild promise of all the mys­tery and the beau­ty in the world”. The mod­els seem more eager ama­teurs than run­way pro­fes­sion­als, though lined up jaun­ti­ly on a wall, all exhib­it “nice stems.”

My young grand­moth­er would have gone ga ga for the cloche hats, tea dress­es, bathing suits, loung­ing paja­mas, golf and ten­nis ensem­bles, and evening gowns, though the Deep Exem­plar-based Video Col­oriza­tion process seems to have stained some mod­els’ skin and teeth by mis­take.

The orig­i­nal black and white footage is part of the Uni­ver­si­ty of South Carolina’s Fox Movi­etone News col­lec­tion, whose oth­er fash­ion-relat­ed clips from 1929 include pre­sen­ta­tions fea­tur­ing Wash­ing­ton debu­tantes and col­lege coeds.

Added sound brings the peri­od to life with nary a men­tion of the Charleston or gin, though if you want a feel for 20s fash­ion, check out the col­lec­tion’s non-silent Movi­etone clip devot­ed to the lat­est in 1929 swimwearthis is a mod­ernistic beach ensem­ble of ray­on jer­sey with diag­o­nal stripes and a sun back cut

It’s the cat’s paja­mas. As is this playlist of hits from 1929.

Explore Glam­our Daze’s guide to 1920s fash­ion his­to­ry here.

Watch the orig­i­nal black and white footage of the Buf­fa­lo, New York fash­ion show here.

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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