Modan garu: the Japanese flappers

Last week I had an exciting milestone moment. For one exciting minute, I thought I’d read every book available on the subject of flappers and the society set in the 1920s. No more wasting every paycheck on Amazon, no more boring everyone with tales of the Ponsonbys and Fitzgeralds for me, no sir!

Then I picked up an old copy of InStyle in the office and read an interview with Erdem. In the piece he talked about his inspiration, noting how Japan’s modan garu had been a huge influence. The modan garu were, he explained, the Japanese equivalent of flappers.

Wait, what?

Oh that’s right, in my pig ignorance it hadn’t quite occurred to me that the flapper movement spread beyond the US and UK. Wow, how racist am I?

Obviously my first port of call for research was Wikipedia, where I discovered that I was even more of a hick than I thought possible. Joining the modan garu (or ‘modern girls’) were India’s kallege ladki, Germany’s neue Frauen, France’s garçonnes, and China’s modeng xiaojie. I’m sure there are more. The one thing all these women have in common is a desire to be independent – both financially and emotionally, as Wiki so eloquently puts it.

It’s kind of been a bittersweet discovery. Bitter in that I’m bitter I didn’t know about them before and sweet in that I now have something else to educate myself on. I’m taking it easy on myself and starting out with modan garu – largely because there seems to be the most reading material, although I still can’t find a massive amount as these poor Google-based collages prove. Top tip: searching モダンガール yields more results, I’ve found. The 1924 novel Naomi by Junichiro Tanizaki is said to have popularised the term ‘modern girl’, in much the same way as my old pal Fitzgerald ‘invented’ the flapper. I bought that one today.

Excitingly, I’ve also picked up a book called The Modern Girl Around the World. This academic-ish text includes essays from various authors on young women in the 1920s, living pretty much everywhere except England and America. I can’t wait for this beast to arrive. Prepare yourselves for more boring posts about the interwar period, heading in this direction soon.

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