What to wear for a 1920s party or wedding: part 1

People often ask what they should wear to for 1920s parties and events. For many, the whole point of taking part in a vintage dance class, hen party dance class or vintage tea dance is to dress up! For the classic flapper look it’s very easy to pick up tassled dresses quite cheaply if you just type those words into google. You can get them from fancy dress suppliers, and you can add a feathered headband or fascinator and long beads and gloves. Bobbed hair a la Louise Brookes or Clara Bow is the 1920s classic. Or why not curl your hair? The tassled dress really is great fun for dancing in, especially for shimmying.

But if you’re a real 1920s enthusiast you may want to imitate some of the other 1920s styles that were around.

There’s the Gatsby look, great for daytime events such as Charleston with high tea, or tea dances. Generally drop waisted dresses are great, especially those with a sash. Or a skirt with a straight jacket.

Twenties fashion was more varied than comes to mind. Dress length did actuallly vary quite a lot.

Uneven hemlines were in fashion for much of the twenties with dipping, scalloped or handkerchief hemlines. It wasn’t until the mid twenties that the full knee was on show. Designers such as Jean Patou, Coco Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin and Paul Poiret were very influential. Here’s a Paul Poiret dress:

Here’s an incredible dress by Jean Patou

The flat chested look was in. Here’s a great site with the names of famous designers and images, and another.

It’s also great to get hold of 1920s magazines on e bay for ideas and even patterns for what the everyday woman would have worn, who couldn’t afford the designer look.

Orientalism also played a big role, with ‘Egyptian look’ dresses popular in the 20s. Beaded gowns were the classiest kind of evening wear. Buy also from Vintage Now in Australia.

You can actually buy really special reproduction twenties beaded gowns from Le Luxe and they also do cotton day dreses, embroidered, and gatsby style dresses too. Or if your budget isn’t so ample, why not customise a high street dress? Look out for something drop waisted then add a sash to emphasis that, or sequins or extra length. This one is customised from one of those really 80s, nautically striped, no-waisted dresses that were around again this summer. It’s had let-in added at the sides as it was too tight. The let in allows it to be danceble in, for Charleston high leg kicks, and it’s had a little extra length added at the bottom and a sash made.

Here’s a friend of mine in a gatsby style dress that she made herself, the clever thing!

The cloche hat really defined the era. Here’s a place stocking cloche hats in the UK.

It’s quite easy to pick them up from places like John Lewis and Accessorise, as they’re back in fashion at the moment. My pride and joy red cloche hat with a feather came from a flea market in Berlin. 

There’s a place in Brooklyn in New York that handmakes them, called Malachaiah hats.  I have this great flamboyant purple one. I don’t know why but I think of it as my Harlem hat. It really reminds me of jazz age flamboyance.

In the UK, there’s an excellent milliner, Vicky Rowe of Clara Bows Millinery, a fellow twenties enthusiast, makes the most delightful custom made cloche hats and skull caps and 1920s fascinators, if you want something really special.


About charlestondance

We are a group of 1920s and 1940s enthusiasts providing wonderful vintage hen parties in Cheltenham, London, Oxford, Henley on Thames, Wallingford, and Reading, or we come to you! Choose from: Charleston dance classes 1930s-1940s jazz dance classes Pop Up Afternoon Tea Parties and tea dances with a dance class, a full champagne afternoon tea and our live 1920s jazz or swing pianist Vintage Makeovers and Photoshoots Classic Musicals Hen Party dance class, or singing workshop (or both, for an all singing, all dancing, live life in a musical experience!) Our special, deluxe 1920s Day Out or 1940s Day Out in Cheltenham or Henley incorporating one vintage jazz dance class, one creative workshop (including vintage life drawing or fascinator making), a vintage makeover and photoshoot, afternoon tea, and a 3 course dinner!
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5 Responses to What to wear for a 1920s party or wedding: part 1

  1. I enjoyed this post a lot!
    I especially liked the post of your friend in her own home-made flapper dress.

  2. Where can I find patterns or instructions to make clothing like this? It’s so beautiful and timeless.

    • I’m afraid I’m not sure Brenda – I’ve heard you can sometimes buy original or reproduction 1920s dress patterns on ebay online! Perhaps a google search for 1920s dress patterns will do it. Do let me know if you find anywhere! Or I suppose if you find a friend who is handy with looking at a garment and then making their own pattern from it, that would also be a solution!

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