Our party’s theme was 1920s inspired by The Great Gatsby and so it was vital that we should capture and dress in New Yorker’s style from this period. The young women of this era were a “new breed” who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers had their origins in the liberal period of the Roaring Twenties, the social, political turbulence and increased transatlantic cultural exchange that followed the end of World War I, as well as the export of American jazz culture to Europe. Their behavior was considered outlandish at the time and redefined women’s roles. In August of 1920, women obtained the right to vote. With this new feeling of power, hemlines became shorter and waistlines became looser. As the focus shifted from the war to social life, fashion became a high priority of the majority of woman during the time, which is evident in The Great Gatsby, which sees long descriptions of the glamorous styles of the party guests and their great concern for their appearance.
Indeed, Daisy Buchanan in the novel The Great Gatsby is a perfect illustration of a woman in the 1920s. Married to a wealthy man, Daisy is portrayed as a stereotypical house wife with her good looks and aristocratic life style. Daisy is in love with her husband’s money and the simplicity and luxury of her living. It is wondered if Daisy is like a role model in this novel, but throughout the novel, she is perceived to be ditsy, boring, and an adulteress to Gatsby. Fitzgerald offers a suggestion to his readers about the blend of her personalities in this quote from the novel, “She’s got an indiscreet voice. It’s full of-” I hesitated. “Her voice is full of money.” Her love of appearance and shallow life values is seen by what she hopes her daughter will become: ” I hope she”s be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
My friend Estelle wore a short cropped wig to our themed party, as boyish cuts were in vogue, especially the Bob cut, Eton crop, and Shingle bob.She emulated the character Jordan from The Great Gatsby, a competitive golfer, representing one of the “new women” of the 1920s—cynical, boyish, and beautiful. In the film Jordan wears sports clothes as a badge of her profession and her sensibilities. She is so progressive, she wears styles from the 1930s—a backless, floor-length evening gown, a capped sleeved blouse with a matching capelet, and pants. Yes, pants. These are not the pants worn as evening pajamas to beach resorts in the late 1920s. These are palazzo pants, much like the ones I wore to my cousin’s wedding last summer. Historians need not haggle over their accuracy. The pants are out of place, but the message is on point. Daisy wears white cotton dresses. Jordan wears pants.
As Finger waving was used as a means of styling, I decided to get my hair done at the hairdressers. I was told that Finger waving was very time consuming (and therefore expensive) and so I opted for a wavy curled look with a side plat. I later would bunch all the hair to one side so that it would look as if it had been pinned.
Hats were still required wear and popular styles included the Newsboy cap and Cloche hat as worn by Daisy Buckanan in The Great Gatsby film. My friends wore headbands with flowers and encrusted jewels. For my look I went to my local charity shop and bought an art deco style pearl choker and layered on the beaded necklaces. I also wore long gloves with chunky rings over the top and put my mobile and money in a bright yellow Swarovsky encrusted clutch bag. At the time pins and brooches were also in style as were Horn-rimmed glasses and feather boas, which I loved. The boa was so soft, I might just wear one everyday and pretend that I am Miss Havisham.
Flapper girl’s style largely emerged as a result of French fashions, especially those pioneered by Coco Chanel, the effect on dress of the rapid spread of American jazz, and the popularization of dancing that accompanied it. Called garçonne in French (“boy” with a feminine suffix), flapper style made girls look young and boyish: short hair, flattened breasts, and straight waists accentuated it. By at least 1913, the association between slim adolescence and a certain characteristic look became fixed in the public’s mind. At this early date, it seems that the style associated with a flapper already included the close-fitting hat, but a hobble skirt rather than one with a high hemline.
Flapper dresses were straight and loose, leaving the arms bare (sometimes no straps at all) and dropping the waistline to the hips. Silk or rayon stockings were held up by garters. Skirts rose to just below the knee by 1927, allowing flashes of leg to be seen when a girl danced or walked through a breeze, although the way they danced made any long loose skirt flap up to show their legs. To enhance the view, some flappers applied rouge to their knees.Popular dress styles included the Robe de style. High heels also came into vogue at the time, reaching 2–3 inches (5–8 cm) high. For my outfit I wore a pink beaded sequin dress which is short and has net sleeves and combined this with short pink nude heels. Kinga wore a beautiful lace top and flaoting ruffled dress with a sequin head band and black boa.
Flappers began working outside the home and challenging women’s traditional societal roles.They were considered a significant challenge to traditional Victorian gender roles, devotion to plain-living, hard work and religion. Increasingly, women discarded old, rigid ideas about roles and embraced consumerism and personal choice, and were often described in terms of representing a “culture war” of old versus new. Flappers also advocated voting and women’s right although many old suffragettes saw them as an insult to women’s emancipation. They were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms.
An after thought for Leo…
In the 1920s New York, Old money and Tom Buchanan-types were losing their hold on American culture. Gatsby and his parvenus pushed the boundaries of “appropriate.” Bye-bye tailcoats. Hello tuxedos. In the extravagant party scenes, Luhrmann mixes the old guard with the new—a Western senator in a 10-gallon hat dances with a debutante; Ivy League boys wear white flannel pants and feel up film stars. Things are not trickling down anymore, Dr. Veblen. Fashions flourish in the strangest of places. Tom wears a fitted, dark blue, double-breasted vest and suit coat. He is restrained. Gatsby sports that pink linen suit—a detail modern readers remember because of its connotations with gender. In its cultural context, however, the color was about class and about showiness. The pink suit—pinstriped and paired with a burgundy tie and gold collar bar—reveals Gatsby’s true beginnings. Tom and Nick adhere to the kind of sartorial understatement their mummy taught them and they cultivated on green quads. The contrast between the blue blood and the bootlegger is striking – in 1920s New York, class was beginning to change.
Pink 1920s Style Dress – MISS SELFRIDGE (available now on ebay)
Stone Pointed Court Shoes – NEW LOOK
String of Pearls – ACCESORIZE
White Gloves – AMAZON
Chunky Rings from local market
Art Decor Choker Pearl Necklace from Charity Shop
White Feather Boa – Fun Fancy Dress
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Other dresses in 1920 style: