How to Emulate Clara Bow Flapper Style

When the conversational topic turns to the 1920s, one of the first defining aspects that comes to mind is the age of the flapper. The term was used to describe a new breed of women who flamboyantly aired their rebellion against the status quo. They sported bobbed hair, short skirts and feigned an affinity for jazz music. Their generalized MO was seen as disgraceful, with their frequent petting parties (featuring open making out and various forms of foreplay,) their casual attitudes about sex, cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. They frequented speakeasies and took up smoking, which had previously been a “men-only” privilege. Who knows how long this persona would have continued, had not the Great depression come along, quite abruptly and thereafter, forever quelling the hedonistic excess that characterized the Flapper Days.

Clara Bow flapper style

There was no mistaking a flapper, even though their range of fashion and hairstyles was varied. Their most prominent display of attitude was found in all the long and beautiful piles of hair that were trimmed away to reveal a myriad of short styles, from ultra-short, flat pin curls tightly gripping the head and framing the face and neck, to the sassy cuts made around the jawline or just above the shoulders, with fanning out volume or those signature finger waves. They brought on the makeup, with deeper lipsticks and rouges than ever. Long, ornately decorated cigarette holders were the “it” accessory. The knee became the new hemline destination, shocking the all-conservative society of the era. Chest-binding became another form of acting out in flapper defiance, and heels became higher than before. Sequins, tassels and feathers were everywhere.

With the mention of “flapper,” the Hollywood “it” flapper was and will be for all of time–Clara Bow. The queen of introducing the flapper brand to silent films, Clara Bow managed to convey a look that was as adorable as any little rosy-cheeked cherub you could ever imagine, with her rather mussed-up short curls and those large, charcoal-encircled innocent eyes below a thinly penciled-in crescent-shaped browline. Her signature pouty smirk, right in the middle of those two rosy red apple cheeks of hers made her the irresistible star she was then, and will always be.

That Bow Brow
For starters, Clara Bow completely removed any trace of natural hair eyebrows from her face, to clear the way for her artfully rendered version. If you are ok with it, go for it–they will always grow back, but rather than shaving the stubble, pluck them, to give yourself a few days of browless elbow room. When starting with a clean slate, your aim is to create a perfect, symmetrical arch above each eye, with outer end spots tapering off to a fine point. If you prefer to stick with your natural brow line, make it happen by following your brow’s particular growth pattern, but exaggerating the arch effect in the middle. This will work perfectly, with a medium brown pencil.

The Bow Bob
The Queen of the flappers surely knew how to rock flapper styled bobs. Layered hair works the best for a Clara coif, for a head full of signature curls that seamlessly frizz together. If your hair includes longer lengths, simply pin those up and out of the way, but curl the ends. Bangs are not imperative, but Bow did sport them, and rather thickly. And she rocked the single, side spit curl thing, too. Look at pics for examples. Curl the layers into little ringlets of about 1-inch sections each, using your curling wand. If you can select barrel size, go for a ¾-1 inch barrel. Once cooled, gently and randomly tease “at” the sides and crown and give a little misting of hairspray. Finish off with a bow fashioned hair effect. Nothing too small, here, if you’re doing the Bow Bow.

Those Eyes
Clara Bow’s smoky charcoal surrounding effects made her eyes appear even larger and sadder. Begin by applying a white shade to the area between the crease of your eye and the brow line. Then come back with a coppery metallic shadow for the whole lid. Once you’ve got the whole above eye thing covered, take a smoky black shade to line both the top and bottom lids, adding a hint of continued shadow at the corners where they meet on either side. The finishing touch comes from laying on that mascara, even adding an extra coat that’s just as thick. No such thing as overdoing it, here. Top and bottom–all black, all around.

The Classic Bow Baby-Doll Pout
Using a lighter shade lip liner than your intended lipstick shade will help you define exactly where you want to go. Clara Bow’s lip coloring did not extend all the way to the corners of her mouth–as was the trend of the times–but rather began a scant ⅛ “ in, with a fuller top and bottom effect. Think round, especially when defining the top lip, with the deep dip in the center of the two full sides. A dark color is not necessary here–you might try a nice medium dark plum shade. Just as long as you can tell that you’re wearing lipstick, that’s what matters. Go a little heavy on rosy-ing up your cheeks, with the same color as what you used on your lips.

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