1931 Sears Roebuck Catalog - This illustration is a 1931 dress and what looks like a 20s hat. There was a brief transition between the flat figure of the 20s and the tailored 30s where you could wear a cloche (or cloche-ish) hat with the 30s silhouette. You may never wear a 30s hat with a 20s dress; the look didn't phase out that way.
How to Gatsby
By Karen Geer & The Fashion Salon Team.
Without accessories a dress is just a dress, more importantly without accessories and lady is not a lady. Women in the 20s and 30s never left the house without hat, gloves and handbag. Catalogs of the day like Sears-Roebuck listed accessory packages for a particular outfit.
The right accessories makes a so-so dress into a smashing Gatsby success. Let's start at the top and work our way down.
The cloche (a French word meaning bell) is what we think of for the '20s. They have come back, a bit, in popularity so it is possible to get one new - if you have a small head. The cloche is meant to be pulled completely over the head and down to the eyebrows, giving the wearer a charming coquettish look. If you have a large head, good luck. You can always try a scarf if you can't find a hat that fits. The cloche is not a look everyone can pull off.
Big garden party hats flatter everyone and offer sun protection. Pinning up a modern straw hat in back, front, or side with a flower is a good improvisation. Whatever hat you choose feel free to make it your own by changing the ribbon, adding flowers or feathers.
The 30s hats are shallow and sit jauntily atop the head at an angle. These hats are usually simple and classic but there were a few marvelous inventions of straw, felt, net, and/or feathers with architecture that can rival a Frank Gehry building. These smart, prim little numbers are very hard to find new. So keep an eye peeled for them at vintage establishments.
Don't forget your parasol! If you ever wanted to carry one, this is the perfect place. Parasols were very popular in sunny weather. They can be very fussy affairs of silk and lace or the oiled paper styles from the Orient.
Round frames (horn rims or metal) were worn by men and women with no style difference between the sexes. While round was the most common shape by far; ovals, and octagons were popular. Rimless glasses did exist but their fragility makes them rare. Older gentlemen might wear a pince-nez (pronounced pons-nay) that stay on by pinching the nose removing the need for arms.
Click here for a great collection of links about vintage eye glasses.
In the 20s and 30s handbags were a less practical affair than they are today. Women carried little in their bags: lipstick, powder and a small amount of cash. There were no credit cards. Middle and upper class women shopped in places were they had accounts. With these accounts the lady would just give her name and the bill would be sent to the man who paid the bills: father, husband, lawyer, special friend, etc.
The clutch purse became popular in the 1920s and continued through the 1950s. Materials for handbags were all sorts of leathers: calfskin, lizard, snake, alligator and patent.
Hand tooled leather was very popular in the 20s. Other 20s materials were steel mesh and metal boxes which were really glorified make-up compacts often enameled or jeweled. The 30s ushers in the use of less expensive materials for handbags like straw and wooden beads.
Shoulder straps had not been thought of yet. So if you are shopping for a modern bag with a vintage look, be sure you have a way of hiding or removing the shoulder straps.
Handbags are a huge subject so click on the links below to learn more:
The Tassen Museum of Bags and Purses
DecoDame Compacts and Purses
Complete your look with gloves. Gloves of the 20s and 30s either stopped at the wrist or went on to gauntlet length. The gauntlet styles often had lavishly designed cuffs. These are quite difficult to find, vintage or new. In the summer gloves would be of cotton, silk, lace, or ivory chamois.
- Do not carry your gloves, they are either on your hands or in your bag or pocket.
- Do not: eat, drink, smoke, play cards, apply makeup while wearing your gloves. Once gloves are visibly dirty put them away until they've been cleaned.
- Do: wear your gloves while shopping, dancing, in church, and outdoors.
- Finally, when shaking hands remove the glove from your right hand. If there is no time to manage this apologize by saying "pardon my glove."
Don't forget stockings, women did not appear in public with bare legs. There are times you may have to wing it, if you can't find seamed hose, you can draw a seam on your leg with eyebrow pencil.
While gentlemen preferred the look of dark hose, women refused to go along with them. Ladies wore pale colored stockings made of silk or rayon. These fabrics had a light sheen and a tendency to bag a bit at the ankles. Cotton and wool stockings still existed but were not considered fashionable. All stockings had seams.
Warning! There is a trend these days for contrasting seams - this is not period at all. Women of the Jazz Age longed for stockings without seams, but had to wait until after World War II for technology to deliver them. They would not want stockings that accentuated the seams.
Please, no fishnet stockings. These were worn on the stage only and would've been considered bizarre with regular dress.
Women wore stockings held up by garter belts or girdles. Some women did roll their stockings down below the knee to feel more free (and shock the older generation). Pantyhose did not exist. They do make seamed pantyhose now and unless you make a practice of pulling your skirt up over your head, no one will be the wiser.
Best online resources:
Behold the shoe of the 20s! This shoe, and versions of it, were ubiquitous through the 20s and remained popular in the 30s as well. Look through the photographs of the time and you will see this shoe in huge variety with "Mary Jane" or t-straps.
So popular was this shoe that it is now called a character shoe and can be bought, brand new with various heel heights and colors at Amazon or any theater or dance shop. If you buy at Amazon the ADSC gets a small percentage of that sale and anything else you may purchase at the same time as long as you enter through this our web site.
The shoes of this era are "sturdy" in look and we find that charming. Vintage looking shoes have become popular again so there is little reason to not be properly shod. The most important feature is the "Louis" heel - also called a tango, curved, Spanish or vintage heel. Narrow little heels like kitten or stilettos did not exist. Heels should match the material of the uppers. Stacked heels do not make an appearance until the late 30s. Toes are rounded with the exception of the early 20s when they were pointed. Square toes? Never ever.
Shoes of the 1920s - 30s. If you can't see a big difference between the shoes of the 20s and 30s, you're correct, there isn't. The 30s offered a greater variety, but most 20s shoes work just fine with 30s outfits.
If you have health issues that make regular shoes difficult, please don't stress about it. No one wants you to hurt yourself. Most shoe companies make a simple oxford that are very comfortable and look just right.
The 30s brought more styles as well as the platform shoe á la Carmen Maranda. But the little character shoe maintained its grip throughout the decade.
Traditional pumps, without the mary jane or t-strap, did exist. Find yourself a basic pump with a Louis heel and you are good to go. But there are some amazing shoes, vintage and reproduction, that are simply fabulous so indulge a little.
That said, Gatsby Summer Afternoon is a big outdoor event on a lawn with with lots of walking. Don't wear your best vintage shoes; they might get damaged. If you've recently acquired something fabulous bring them for show and bring another pair for hoofing it.
Louise Brooks with 20s
iconic bob and pearls
The subject of art deco jewelry is so huge we can only cover the basics. Pearls were the thing, long strands of them wrapped at any length around the neck. Coco Chanel caused a fashion riot by pairing a long strand of pearls with a tweed suit. Pearls are always natural white and round.
Since Gatsby is a daytime affair leave the precious stones (diamonds, emeralds, rubies) at home. Diamonds before cocktails was considered vulgar. You want semi-precious stones like jade, turquoise, marquisate, agate and carnelian. Bakelite was popular for day as well.
Along with Art Deco stylings ethic designs were in, particularly anything from the Orient: China, Japan, India.
Along with the high fashion iconic pieces, see the links below, women also wore costume jewelry. Check out the image below to see what a Sears and Roebuck customer might purchase. This page is from a 1928 catalog and shows the transition from the long necklaces of the 20s into the shorter, more constrained 30s.
Preview Google Book: Authentic Art Deco Jewelry Designs
Lang Antique's Art Deco Jewelry Page
M. Shcon Art Deco Jewelry
Antique jewelry Online - Art Deco
Tia's Girl Stuff
The Fashion Salon Team is and has been: Kimberly Manning Aker, Sara Klotz de Aguilar, Karen Geer, Alice Jurow, Derek Kerr, Cherie Oliver and Maria Rivero care to join us?