The Great Gatsby and the Roaring Twenties Party

Last night we had our  Great Gatsby and 1920s Inspired Party held in the wonderfully opulent Gibson Hall. I thought I would write about what we did so that if you wanted to plan a 1920s themed party you could get some ideas!

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In the early 1920’s World War I had just come to an end. A new generation flocked from small towns to big cities in search of excitement, opportunity, and a “modern” way of living. Electronics like radios became more common, particularly in metropolitan households. Flashy new car designs rolled down city streets. Women had finally earned the right to vote, and their hard-fought equality and independence was reflected in their fashion– shorter haircuts, higher hemlines, less curvy silhouettes. Great fashion accessories include a feather boa, a strings of pearls and a cigarette holder. Click here for more outfit ideas: Great Gatsby Fashion and Flapper Girl Attitude

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Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin were creating names for themselves on the big screen. It was an era of change—and that change was not welcomed by all. Alcohol flowed like water in homes across the country, and drunkards filled America’s prisons and poorhouses. A powerful group of activists made it their mission to eradicate liquor in an effort to help the country return to simpler times. Gambling was rife and there was an emergence of underworld activity with Prohibition.

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As the demand for illegal liquor increased, so did the methods for masking its production and consumption. Cocktails gained popularity—heavily flavored concoctions assembled to disguise the taste of potent bathtub gin with juices, herbs, sweeteners and syrups. Finger food became fashionable, which helped to increase liquor tolerance by ensuring that party-goers weren’t drinking on an empty stomach. So after some gambling, our second activity of the night was a cocktail making class. Recipes for drinks popular in the Roaring Twenties include some full of innuendo, like Between the Sheets, or favorites like the Mint Julep or the Old Fashioned. Champagne cocktails were also a big hit.

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The Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, and what F. Scott Fitzgerald would later describe as “the greatest, gaudiest spree in history”. In Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, we are introduced to the opulent lives of wealthy east coasters during one of the rowdiest periods in American history.No book captures this wild and carefree time period quite like Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. The character of millionaire Jay Gatsby represents the extremes of 1920s wealth and decadence. Gatsby devotes his life to accumulating riches in order to attract the attention of his romantic obsession, the lovely but spoiled Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby’s fortune is evident in the raucous parties he throws from his mansion on Long Island’s north shore. These decadent bashes, free flowing with food and liquor, represent the indulgent excesses of the “flapper” period:

“At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from the other.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

To create the intimate, secretive vibe of a speakeasy, decorate your room with dark, rich fabrics, faux furs and velvet, for a lavish touch. Provide small, round tables with chairs and cover the tables in heavy tablecloths. The lighting should be subdued – pop a few low-level lamps or small candle holders on the tables – empty liquor bottles fashioned into candelabras are another fun touch. If you have bartenders, they should be in some sort of uniform. Provide drinks in crystal glasses or use innocent little teacups and saucers for your cocktails – this was the traditional way to serve alcohol at a speakeasy back in the Roaring Twenties. Serve your canapés from silver platters and glass plates, with shiny red or black tableware. We were served mini hamburgers and southern fried chicken as finger food, which became very popular during this era.

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The 1920s through to 1933 was known as the Ag of Jazz. Through the fusion of European music with Ragtime and other African American forms of music, Jazz exploded as a dominant in music. Young people danced the Charleston to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Their fast rhythms and closer physical contact between contact filled nightclubs and the silver screen with subversive energy. So don’t forget to play some Jazz and why don’t you teach you guests how to dance the Charleston. Hope you have a fabulous party! 😉

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