For all the advancements we’ve made in technology, for all that even our most simple modern pursuits would be unimaginable to past generations, we somehow have managed to become more socially stodgy than ever. We actually have lawmakers insisting that the word “vagina” not be used in the very chambers where the vaginally-challenged male membership (Hah! He said member!) are pushing legislation to whip these genitalia into shape.
I should mention here for the benefit of my readers outside the USA that in this country women outnumber men by a considerable margin, but for some reason never seem willing to take over through the vote and fix some of this foolishness. If I may be permitted a political moment I would like it very much if the ladies of America would “Mom up” and take over for a while. These guys are nitwits.
Anyway, it would be fun to imagine what the modern American male would make of someone like Gordon Conway. This woman essentially left Dallas, Texas in 1915 (when it was even more troglodicious than it is now) and showed up at the offices of Vanity Fair to announce that she was the shit, and where was her office, please? She was twenty years old. Twenty. And she was right.
Gordon Conway was the shit.
It is ridiculous that more of this woman’s work cannot be found to share with you here. I recommend that you seek out the book, Gordon Conway, Fashioning A New Woman by the rather wonderful Raye Virginia Allen. It is one of the few places you can see a wide selection of her drawings, ads, and costume designs.
Over a twenty-two year career she created about 5,000 finished drawings almost all of them published in ads or for article illustrations; she did the costume designs for over a hundred stage shows, and worked as costumer for some 47 movies. She even tried her hand at acting in some of the pictures. She traveled widely and enjoyed the fruits of her reputation for glamour, smarts, and experience. While it would be too much to suggest that she created the flapper look in the 20s all by herself, there is little doubt that her take on art deco design had a tremendous influence on the look we all associate with the Roaring Twenties. By the time feminist writers like Lois Long came around to bestow their cheeky reportage on the nightlife and fashion of the day in magazines like the New Yorker, Conway had already been on the job some ten years.
And what would she have had to say to these pseudo-avuncular, hairy-nosed twits in today’s corridors of power? Not much. She didn’t waste time on boys pretending to be men.