The style and glamor of the 1920s were undeniably cool, and since 2020 is just around the corner, it is no surprise that our minds may wander to that bygone era. To celebrate the arrival of the new decade that is upon us, consider paying homage to the 1920s. What better way to celebrate the decade of effortless glamor and glitz than hosting a 20s themed New Year’s Eve and “putting on the ritz?”
For a 1920s themed party that puts the “great’ in the Great Gatsby, it is necessary to pause and look back at the more memorable aspects of the 20s and identify a few of the surprising similarities and not-so-surprising differences between then and now.
Twenties Are for Plenty
Often referred to as the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age, the 1920s were a time of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity. With economic wealth, the decade brought new freedoms that changed lifestyles and attitudes. Cars brought people the freedom to travel. Women who were given the right to vote also attained economic freedom from the money they acquired by working white-collar jobs.
Changes in lifestyle and culture began in the cities and soon spread. Jazz and dancing became increasingly popular. Art Deco was the design style of architecture and interior design at the time. Fashion for women changed dramatically as corsets were cast off in favor of loose, drop-waist dresses, and boyish hairstyles reigned.
The changes in women’s style led to the popular “Flapper” image of young rebellious women celebrating their new independence by donning knee-length dresses that scandalously exposed their lower legs and arms, wearing cosmetics, dancing, drinking and being more outspoken.
While certain freedoms were expanded, others were restricted. It became illegal to manufacture, import or sell alcoholic beverages, and further restrictions were placed on alcohol and gambling. Instead of the intended outcome of reducing drunkenness and petty crime, these new laws led to illegal bars known as speakeasies. These lucrative establishments sold alcohol and often offered food, live bands and shows and were largely controlled by organized crime.
Back then as now, economic growth, freedom of travel and exposure to mass culture shaped lives. For the first time, people were dressing and dancing the same and even using the same slang. Moving forward to the next twenties, the last twenties are the perfect way to celebrate. Now that you know some background and history, accomplishing a Great Gatsby party won’t be a mystery.
We have arranged all the steps, so rest easy while we present a guide to recreate a New Year’s Eve party-ready speakeasy.
More is More Décor
When decorating for a 1920s themed party, channeling art deco style is essential. Art deco was the essence of chic in the twenties. The look was about opulent extravagance. If you are looking for the perfect art deco designs, look for bold statement pieces that feature leaves, feathers, animal sculptures or prints, geometric shapes and metallics.
Art deco lamps, bronze and brass statues and art deco ashtrays can all be found online, and these vintage pieces are great to have as accessories beyond your party. Gorgeous and unique, these antique items may even increase in value long after your party ends.
Objects that come from previous periods can transcend time. There is a shape and weight that is distinctive to objects created in a specific period. These items add interest to a room, and some even have stories that can jumpstart a conversation.
A few other ideas for easy party decorations are candles, twinkle lights, empty champagne or gin bottles, mason jars, pearls, martini glasses and champagne coupes.
Mirrors and fabrics are an easy way to incorporate art deco into your party surroundings. Fan-shaped mirrors or sunburst mirrors can accent the walls, and floral, diamond or fan patterned fabric or luxurious gold fabrics can adorn the windows.
If you want to take your party environment further into the 1920s theme, look for a few unique, large pieces of furniture with curve appeal. Armchairs with a scalloped design and soft upholstery in jewel tones would be a breathtaking addition to your decorations and great for photo ops.
To complete the top-to-bottom look, don’t neglect the floor. Covering the floor in a large rug with a geometric pattern or even a black and white vinyl floor mat can bring the art deco look full circle.
Flowers by the Hour
Floral designs from the 1920s were beautiful and ostentatious. The floral arrangements were luxurious and overflowing. Cascading bouquets and garlands with bold colors, beige tones and silver and gold would be gorgeous flowing across the table set for your Gatsby themed party.
Twenties floral arrangements consist of cascading waterfall designs layered with reflective metallic materials, a vertical or horizontal line design, strong patterns or a geometric shape, eccentric combinations of various textures and unusual plant materials.
Popular art deco flowers are calla lilies, tulips, lavender and wisteria. Fruit mixed with foliage in chrome, silver and black containers can also be used to add interest to tables.
If you are looking for Great Gatsby party flowers or any other floral designs reminiscent of the 1920s, let our florists at Conroy's Flowers Long Beach in Long Beach, CA, seamlessly integrate art deco arrangements into your décor.
Men Who Are Dapper, and Women Who Are Flapper
To create a truly memorable and authentic Great Gatsby party scene, you need to get your guests on board. Send guests invitations with an illustration and explanation for how to dress to impress a la Gatsby.
Women attending 1920s parties wore sleeveless slip gowns in light materials like chiffon or silk that were shapeless and adorned with beading, sequins or fringe. Dresses were either rich tones or pastels that fit loose and went to the ankle or just below the knee. They wore seamed stockings and gold, silver or black t-strap shoes. They enjoyed accessories like rhinestone and feather headbands, skull caps, shawls, small bead or mesh purses, bangles and pearls.
Hairstyles in the 1920s for women were short bobbed styles, but not everyone took the plunge and sheared their locks. As a result, faux bobs can still accomplish the style and be true to the time frame. Urge partygoers to seek style tips online when it comes to faking those cute crops.
Men can capture the 20s evening wear look by wearing a tuxedo. Variations between tuxedos from then and now aren’t too great, so a well-fitting tuxedo would work just fine. They often wore white vests and bowties. Men also wore white and ivory suits at outdoor events, and for those who want gangster appeal, striped or plaid suits work well.
Men’s hair was usually slicked with pomade, and they preferred side parts. Shoes can be white, two-toned or black patent evening shoes covered in spats.
Showcase these looks with explanations and illustrations on the invitation to get your guests excited about the dress code.
Food to Capture the Mood, and Drinks to Make Them Blink
Speakeasies were where the mixed drink/cocktail craze began because these illegal establishments paired poorly distilled alcohol with Coca-Cola, ginger ale, sugar, mint, fruit juices and other flavors to disguise the taste of the alcohol. Some popular drinks for the time were gin fizzes, whiskey smashes, martinis, mint juleps and planter’s punch, which is a rum-based punch that was on many speakeasy menus.
When it comes to food, speakeasies popularized finger foods. Some easy versions of these delectable little bites you can serve are deviled eggs, cheese balls, bread and butter folds, stuffed mushrooms, lobster canapes and shrimp cocktail.
The best part is guests can continue with the festivities and look amazing while still enjoying food and drink.
Easy Breezy Speakeasy
It was no accident that the secretive, illicit nature of speakeasies made them undeniably cool. To further elevate your Great Gatsby themed New Year’s Eve Party, conjure that cool by providing guests a membership card with a secret entry word in their invitations.
During your party, you can play a silent film in the background and have a playlist of the best songs from the twenties. There are also activities from that timeframe that are great for encouraging a party atmosphere if guests don’t want to dance.
A way to encourage guests to dance, especially guests who don’t normally get out there on the dance floor, is to play a video showing dance moves from that era. Since most guests won’t be familiar with the dance styles, it leaves everyone more equal in terms of ability with this dance style.
The Lindy Hop, the Turkey Trot and the Shimmy are all incredibly fun dances to try out with your guests. No one need feel self-conscious since everyone will be learning at the same time.
There are also activities from that timeframe that are great for encouraging a party atmosphere if guests don’t want to dance. Dominos, Yahtzee and card games like poker and blackjack fit right in with the theme, and if you hand out some cards with twenties slang phrases printed out for guests to use, you might not need any other entertainment.
For instance, tell your friends to put on their glad rags and get spiffy, grab their main squeeze and ankle over to your joint for some giggle juice.
Creating invitations with illustrations will help guests know what to expect and get in the mood to party. New Year’s Eve is the perfect time to be with your favorite people, celebrating the passing of a year and in this case, the end of a decade.
Bring the twenties to life with your 1920s themed New Year’s Eve party as you look forward to the next twenties that await just after midnight. With music, food and drink, attire, talk and of course, dance, you and your guests have the exciting opportunity to channel the exuberance and exhilaration of the past and future all at once. Doesn’t that sound like the bee’s knees?