Easy 1920’s dressing – you can do it!

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

In the next few weeks I’ll be posting about 1920’s fashion in anticipation, preparation, and education for the RDU Rent Party: Gatsby Edition, July 7, in Durham, NC, featuring Glenn Crytzer and his Syncopators. As co-coordinator of this dance, I am truly excited about this event and hope that my excitement will be infectious. However, I can already sense (and have already heard, in some cases) the anxiety and drag about having a 1920’s themed event and dressing up during the summer. I’m here to tell you, Raleigh/Durham, that you can do this (if you really want to) and it won’t break the bank (although if you go all out for this you could possibly break some banks). First things first, let’s get some misconceptions out of the way:

1. Like payment, attendance at Rent Party is on a do-what-you-can basis. If you don’t feel like dressing up, don’t do it.

2. All eras are welcome, not just 1920’s.

3. This is not a formal dance, but if you would like to go all out for this, I would personally love to see everyone looking swell.

4. Most men don’t own proper summer suiting and asking you to wear a three season wool suit would be asking too much in July – wear what you are comfortable wearing.

Jason Sager, my co-coordinator, said it best this morning: “If you’re not normally a dress up type, this is a great event to dip your toes in that water if you feel so inclined; if you’re already a dress up type, it’s a chance to expand your collection, or just show off what you’ve already got.”

Let’s also remember that people were dancing in the south and dressing up for years and years prior to the advent of AC. We will have AC, fans, and chilled beverages, of course.

If you are interested in dressing up in the 1920’s style, you don’t have to go out and purchase something vintage or expensive. You may already have what you need in your closet or a relative’s closet. Some of my best pieces and borrowed items to complete an outfit came from an attic or the back of my mom’s, grandmother’s, and even my grandmother’s friend’s closet.

What pieces do you need? I always look to photographs for inspiration, so let’s break down the outfits of the couple in this photo:

GENTS: You start with a suit and pare it down from there. You could wear any combination of pants and jacket, vest, or suspenders, all of the above, or some of the above, preferably in lightweight summer fabrics (See Lindy Dandy’s post on summer suiting). This guy is wearing a regular tie, but you could also wear a bow tie. He is not wearing a hat, but you could always add a nice straw boater, lightweight newsboy cap, or some other hat of your choice.

LADIES: Look for a drop waist dress or create the illusion of a dropped waist. Here, the woman in the photograph has paired a striped top with a knee length skirt. Off the top of my head I know my mom has both of these pieces in her closet. 😉 Hemlines in the 20’s ranged from knee length at the height of the flapper era, but were more calf length for most of the decade. You could find a skirt to fit the decade’s hemlines and a long-ish top to create an illusion of a dropped waist, and maybe add a straw cloche or long strand of beads, if you so desire.

Shoes are easy – wear your dance shoes!

Some of the best shopping is not about spending money, but about using the resources available to you and rediscovering old favorites or items that have been neglected. If you are missing pieces, a trip to your local thrift store may get you across the goal line. If all else fails – keep reading! I’ll be posting more 1920’s goodies soon.

For more information on the RDU Rent Party dances, visit the Facebook page.


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