1920s Flapper Dress Artifact Highlight #15

This beautiful orange flapper-style dress was donated to our collection in 2007. It is made of silk and is embellished with black beads and rhinestones. It comes with a matching slip and a belt. The dress has no designer label and belonged to Minnie A. Ludwig Shafsky.

The simple silhouette of this dress was characteristic of the Flapper style and was in contrast with the restrictive Edwardian fashions Minnie herself wore as a young woman.

Minnie Ludwig (Shafsky) c. 1900
Actress Louise Brooks 1927

To demonstrate their independence in the post-war period and their strong desire to part with the strict values of their Victorian relatives, the flappers took off their corsets and shortened their skirts, dropping the waistline to the hips and leaving their arms bare. While not every woman was a flapper, by the mid-1920s this fashion was in style outside of the big cities and for women of all ages.

Minnie Shafsky wearing the dress c. 1932. Pictured with daughter Joyce, who donated the dress in 2007.

It became much faster and easier for women to dress fashionably as mass production and the development of affordable synthetic fabrics gave them access to beautiful clothing and shoes.

Mary Brooks Picken

In 1923, Mary Brooks Picken of the Woman's Institute developed a new plan by which an attractive dress could be made in an hour. It aroused tremendous interest among women everywhere. Some doubted that such an achievement was possible, until the dress was made in a public demonstration in the Grand Central Palace, New York, in 34 minutes.

The fact was recorded in the New York newspapers and attested to by officials of the National Merchandise Fair.

Even though the happy-go-lucky flapper lifestyle and look did not survive the hardships of the Great Depression it set the tone for the American popular culture and modern American society. Forced with a challenging reality, the flapper lifestyle faded amid soup kitchens and bread lines.

Minnie was born in 1880 in Auburn.

Minnie A. Ludwig

She was the daughter of Caroline Keehner Ludwig, who came to California in the 1860s from Germany and made a name for herself as a moneylender and property owner in Auburn.

Caroline Keehner Ludwig

On August 10th, 1904 Minnie married Louis Shafsky in Auburn.

Louis Shafsky

Louis Shafsky opened a dry goods store on Washington Street in Auburn in 1902.

Placer Herald February 15, 1902

Shortly after the wedding, the couple moved to the Bay Area.

Placer Herald November 19, 1905

After Louis died in 1933 Minnie resided in Berkeley and died there in 1962.

After Minnie's dress was donated it became part of our permanent collection. It also ended up in an exhibit at the Historic Courthouse.