Zelda Fitzgerald – the first American Flapper

Zelda Fitzgerald. An icon. A icon of the Jazz Age, of the roaring 20’s, of the Flappers, called the “first American Flapper” by her husband Scott Fitzgerald. Zelda and Scott have become such legendary icons since their times in the mid-twenties, and with the remake of The Great Gatsby coming out this year, it seems only right to spend some time on this amazing couple and woman.

zelda fitzgerald

Flappers were a “new breed” of young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms.

Zelda described the flapper as:

“The Flapper awoke from her lethargy of sub-deb-ism, bobbed her hair, put on her choicest pair of earrings and a great deal of audacity and rouge and went into the battle. She flirted because it was fun to flirt and wore a one-piece bathing suit because she had a good figure … she was conscious that the things she did were the things she had always wanted to do. Mothers disapproved of their sons taking the Flapper to dances, to teas, to swim and most of all to heart.”

It was Zelda who chose the title “The Great Gatsby” for her husband’s iconic best selling novel. It is also often said that Zelda was his muse and inspiration for many of his female lead characters – including Daisy Buchanan. Scott often borrowed her quotes and writing in his books which even lead Zelda to once say “In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald—I believe that is how he spells his name—seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.”

zelda fitzgerald and scott fitzgerald

In all honesty, it unfortunately appears that our perception today of the Fitzgeralds and their lives are highly romanticised and idealised, in reality – Scott was an uncontrollable alcoholic and Zelda was insanely jealous and diagnosed with schizophrenia, leading to years of hospitalisation in the last decade before her death. Zelda tried desperately to break from the shadow of Scott’s success with her own writing, as a ballet dancer and as a painter – with very little or no success and Scott passed away believing he was a failure. They lived their last years completely apart with seperate lives and Zelda missed Scott’s funeral.

The Fitzgeralds embodied an ideal, a dream, passionate young love, uncontrollable emotion for one another and an era that that we still love today – to quote from the upcoming Baz Luhrman’s “The Great Gatsby” as Leaonardo Di Caprio says “the buildings were higher, the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the liquor was cheaper. The restlessness approached hysteria.”

zelda fitzgerald painting


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