Posts Tagged ‘Inter-war culture’

The lowering of morals and raising of hemlines: the Charleston

3 December 2009

Contributed by Ciara Meehan

For those of you who are fans of Strictly Come Dancing, you’ll know that the Charleston was attempted by the contestants for the first time ever on a recent show. Viewers were transported back to the 1920s through fast paced dancing, flapper dresses and the sounds of ragtime jazz. This was the dance that launched Ginger Roger’s career after she won the Texas State Charleston contest at the age of fourteen. It took American popular culture by storm, and a new generation and mentality emerged.

When the First World War ended in November 1918, it was hoped that the post-war era would bring with it better times. The pattern of life in America did change: the working week was not as demanding, there was more disposable income for things like entertainment, and in general the standard of living increased. Women of the wartime generation had generally not dated, waiting instead to marry a suitable partner. However, almost an entire generation of young men had lost their lives in the Great War. The next generation of women wanted to enjoy life and had what was considered a casual attitude towards men.  Gaiety and youth became the themes of the new decade, and the Charleston epitomised the roaring twenties. Named after a city in South Carolina, it also lent its name to a song performed by ‘Ruth Little’ in the Broadway show Runnin’ Wild, which opened in October 1923.

Identified by hip swaying, leg swinging, and the crossing and uncrossing of hands against moving knees, the Charleston was about having fun. Read More