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The Unknown Flapper: 1920

The Unknown Flapper: 1920

New York circa 1920. One of six similar Bain News Service portraits labeled "Soot." Who can put a first name to this memorable face? View full size.


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Tough life

If that is indeed Botten Soot, she would have been only 25 when the picture was taken. Did people age that much faster back then?


At normal view, she looks weary. But at full view, I see she is beautiful.

What flaps was flattened

The fashion of the '20s dictated flattened breasts. The look was almost boyish and considered to be very sexy.

Don't ask me why.

Botten Soot

This might be Ingeborg Bergit ("Botten") Soot, the Norwegian singer, actress and dancer. Born in Bergen March 23, 1895; died May 21, 1958.

[I think maybe you solved the mystery! Clapclapclap. - Dave]

My theory

It appears that she may have a black eye, or maybe it is soot. I have read where women began to use a lot of makeup in the roaring twenties, and eye shadow made from soot was used. Perhaps that explains the word "soot" on the photos.

["Soot" is her last name. - Dave]

Missing something

Even in high-res, I don't see anything that would flap on her, even in the strongest wind.

I know her nickname


Assuit Shawl Dress Fabric

Someone else might recognize the lady, but I recognize her dress fabric, which started life as an Eqyptian woman's shawl or scarf. These were made of narrow strips of silver foil (sometimes silvergilt) that were folded and flattened through the openings in handmade linen or cotton netted mesh fabric, usually black or cream white, and very rarely other colors such as Nile green. The silver foil decorations are heavy and catch the light, and the netted mesh drapes beautifully. Known as Assuit shawls, they were very popular as imported dress accessories in Europe and the US during the 1920s, and some, like the example here, were remade as dresses, with or without the rhinestone shoulder straps. Most examples had much more elaborate geometric patterns than the one seen here.

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