There is probably a good chance that you have a 1920’s themed party, Guys and Dolls themed party, or A Great Gatsby themed party coming up sometime this year – even if you don’t know about it! The 1920’s have been hailed as one of the most popular eras for a fancy dress or themed parties since the 2013 release of Leonardo DiCaprio and Toby MacGuire’s film A Great Gatsby and who is really going to complain about getting invited to attend a fabulously decadent soiree?
The thing is, to make a 1920’s themed party work, you need to dress the part. Here are some ideas about what to wear to get yourself all dressed up for your next Gatsby ‘do!
The Flapper Girl
Flapper dresses are the most classic and iconic costume ideas around. There are heaps of different styles, colours and sizes available that you are guaranteed to look good no matter your costume preferences, but amidst all the differences there are still a few necessary items to make a flapper girl costume complete:
Tassels: Flapper girl dresses have excellent movement in their wardrobe thanks to these little babies that turn even the slightest of movement into a swish of decadence. Available in different colours and materials, no flapper girl is every complete without at least one belts worth of tassels on their dress.
Feathered Headband: Another classic look for the flapper girl is to have a band of material (usually sequined or glittered up in some way) resting smack bang in the middle of the forehead with one long elegant feather sitting behind a small jewel (fake or real – it’s up to you!) just off to one side of the forehead. The feather is a classic look, but lately modern Gatsby designs have been wearing elegant and intricate headpieces that can be made of flower crowns, strings of pearls, sequins or even just delicate lace, all of which can still reach the intended Flapper Girl look.
A String of Pearls: Long or short, fake or real, it’s rare to find a flapper without her favourite accessory.
An Accessory of Feathers or Smoke: Usually a flapper will have some sort of accessory with them to tie the whole outfit together (because what flapper wouldn’t have their accessories on?) and this could be either a matching feather boa, long black silk gloves or even a long tapered cigarette holder. Any of these will complete your flapper girl look!
Inspiration: Coco Chanel, Selena Gomez and The Scene’s album When The Sun Goes Down, or Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.
Photo by Veronica Varlow at Danger Dame
The Femme Fatale
There is nothing sexier than The Femme Fatale – the slinky minx who gets to walk into the PI’s office ensnaring men to follow into compromising, dangerous and deadly situations. She is mysterious and seductive, and who wouldn’t want to dress that part? Here are some ways you can do just that for your next 1920’s themed party:
The Slinky Dress: A femme fatale is always in a long sexy dress that is either black, red or sparkly with a slit up in thigh. It’s usually long enough to give an air of mystery, but either tight-fitting or cleavage popping to give off a seductive vibe.
The Red Lipstick: Red lipstick is the perfect mark to leave on your victims, so make sure that your lips are blood red, or quite noticeable on a pale face. Purples and dark maroons are acceptable as well, and are usually paired with a dark smoky eye with cat’s eye shaped eyeliner.
Inspiration: Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character of Kathryn in the movie Cruel Intentions, or practically any dame that walks through the door looking for help in a Film Noir movie.
The classic look of a 1920’s mobster has sparked many inspirational ideas behind Guys and Dolls, Gangster themed parties themselves and many black and white crime noir features (Do you remember Angels with Dirty Faces from the Home Alone movie?). With robbing powerful mobsters like Public Enemies who made crime look cool in dapper suits, what guy wouldn’t want to get his gangster on for a 1920’s themed party? And no gangster would be complete without:
A Suit: Pinstripe is probably the best material style for the 1920’s gangster, but even simply wearing suit pants with a nice collared shirt or even a vest will get you looking like you were born to rob banks in no time! Pair them with suspenders or a classic hat to top off the look.
A Fake Gun: I’m not one to suggest carrying weapons, but when they go with your costume I am all for it! Fake machine guns are the quintessential accessory for any mobster and his henchman, and even if you pick yourself up an extremely childish and fake looking one, you are still going to steal hearts (and bank notes!)
Inspiration: Al Capone, Johnny Depp’s character of John Dillinger in the movie Public Enemies, or the “Angels with Dirty Faces” spin off from the Home Alone movies.
Photo by the National Honor Association
The Detective or Private Investigator:
With too cool gangsters on the loose, it’s necessary to fight all that cool crime with a classic true blue detective. Right out of the pages of The Maltese Falcon, the detective is the law-abiding citizen that regularly gets visits from the Femme Fatales – which might make an amazing couples costume if you are going to your 1920’s themed party with your significant other. In order to pull off the detective character, you need:
The Trench Coat: Classic detectives always have a tan or beige coloured trench coat. This might be a bit hard to find depending where you live, but you can always scour Op Shops for the perfect trench coat. No detective is ever seen without it!
The Hat: The same goes for a detective’s hat. Usually broad brimmed Fedora’s, the Detective’s hat is as distinctive as his coat, and is usually a darker brown or chocolate colour.
The Suit: The thing about the 1920’s is that the scene was completely smart – the men were dressed to the nines in crisp, well-ironed shirts and suits, and well-polished shoes topped off with a neatly tied tie. To be the detective, you need to get fancy!
Inspiration: Peggy Carter in the TV show Agent Carter, or any private investigator from The Maltase Falcon or other such 1920’s Film Noir.
I hope you enjoyed this take on the classic 1920’s idea for costumes, and let me know in the comments below if you would like to see costume options for other themed parties too! Don’t forget to check out my other 1920’s posts as well while you are at: