The Tahoe Heritage Foundation’s annual Great Gatsby Festival is a very fun event for anyone who loves history. It is especially fun if you can dress like a fashionable 1920s lady and stroll through the beautiful grounds of Valhalla in style.
To get started you will need a dress. The 1920s were know for their straight cut long dresses (hem below the knee) that made women appear “boyishly” flat chested and without hips. Summer day dresses were made of lightweight, chiffon, georgette or silk materials. Solid colors as well as geometrical, Egyptian and Asian patterns were all the rage. Many modern long summer dresses can be easily adapted to look “’20s.” One quick way to make a simple straight line dress look art deco is to tie a thin fabric belt or loose sash a few inches below your hip bone. This creates the unnaturally low waist line that is very characteristic of the early to mid ’20s. Another option is to wear a long skirt and white blouse. Skirts could be plain and straight or pleated and a bit fuller. Avoid tapered “pencil” style skirts. These are symbolic of the 1940s.
Once your dress is picked out you will need to add the crowing glory of the fashionable woman: the hat. A cloche hat is a tight fitting, low brimmed, headpiece that every ’20s woman wore. They were often made of wool, felt or crochet yarn which was ideal for winter but too warm for summer months. Instead ladies adorned themselves with wide brimmed straw hats that were wrapped with a ribbon and accented with a flower and feathers on one side. A-symmetrical shapes were equally common with one side of the straw hat pinned up and decorated with a colorful flower. If you do nothing else to dress for the Gatsby Festival you must at least wear an appropriate summer hat.
The next step is to stroll along in a comfortable pair of shoes. T-straps and Mary Jane’s with 1-3 inch thick heels were ideal footwear for day or night. If you don’t have a pair of these already try you local dance supply shop for a pair of black “Character” shoes. Avoid ballet flats, thin heeled pumps, sandals and socks. Women wore tights in dark solid colors or funky geometrical patterns (for the youthful ladies.)
Finally feel free to adorn your outfit with accessories like mid length lace gloves, a shawl, beaded clutch purse and even a parasol. For jewelry choose geometrical shapes inspired by the discovery King Tut’s tomb in 1922.
Fashionable hairstyles were short bobs and finger woven hair. If you have short hair your cloche or straw hat will do well to cover your hair appropriately. If you have long hair you can gather it back to fit under your hat or placed it in a flat bun at the nape of your neck.
It’s not very difficult to pull together your outfit from items in your closet or local vintage and thrift stores. However if you have a few hours and some sewing skills I highly recommend you sew your own 1920s One Hour dress. It’s fairly easy, beautiful, and authentic to the time.