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What to Wear to a Party in West Egg

Au Revoir by Georges Barbier

The Love Vintage Fair‘s first event in Sydney was this past 15 – 17 March, and of course I had no intention of missing it – unless I was out of the country I’ve attended every one since they started, and have had some absolutely wonderful finds. Dealers from other states come in with some of their best stock, and it’s a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new people with the same interests.

I didn’t intend to enter the vintage fashion competition on Friday night – I’ve just changed positions at work and have been quite busy, was planning on going out the Horden Pavilion after work and so would have to change there, and it takes quite a bit of preparation to pull the right pieces out of where they’re stored. 1920s pieces are now verging on the 100 year mark that puts them in the “antique” category and they have to be stored with care. I wasn’t sure if I was in the right frame of mind to pull together the right look. But when I found out there was a 1920s category…well, I knew I wouldn’t be able to attend and be around others looking stunning in my beloved era, feeling out of place in a modern frock!

The theme was 1920s Gatsby glamour, with the new movie coming up, so I decided to run with that. There’s a lot to be said with more understated, elegant daywear, or even the lovely soft afternoon frocks that one would wear to a garden party or similar event. I toyed with the idea of chiffon with a capeline, but in the end the idea of a wonderful, OTT Gatsby Party frock was too tempting – we don’t get that many chances here in Sydney to pull out the stops!

So what would one wear to a party in West Egg at Jay Gatsby’s? The novel was published in 1925 but was set in 1922, when hemlines hadn’t risen to the just below (or if you were daring, above) the knee heights of the mid to second half of the decades. New Yorkers tended to favour shorter hems in the 20s than the height of Parisian fashion dictated, but still you would have had longer evening gowns at one of his parties than was depicted in either the 1974 movie or in Baz’s latest. I didn’t want to be overly pedantic about the year, though – the general idea was to create the light-hearted, extravagent party outfit that caught a sense of one of his soirees.

TrellisDress

1920s beaded dance dress, French made

 

There’s that wonderful line at one of his parties about the dress he sent a girl who had torn her own – it arrived from “Croiriers” (a fictional store), and was gas blue with lavender beads…a colour combination that so evokes the beautiful beaded gowns and striking palette of the era. So I decided to go with one of the French beaded dance dresses on a cotton base – this lovely one with the flowers climbing up a trellis. Since I bought it, my mother has spent many hours stabilising and repairing the beadwork all by hand – we want it to last another 85 years at least!

Headdress

Early 1920s headdress

 

Once that was established, the next step was what to wear on my head. I hesitated just slightly as this headdress is one of the more theatrical pieces I own – indeed, it came out of a large collection of 1920s headpieces allegedly made for a woman who lived in California, who – while not an actress herself – purportedly had many of them made by the same people that did cinema costuming. It has rather a Mucha vibe to it, and is very much a late teens – early 20s piece.

I could have gone silver to tone with the diamantes and the clear crystal on the dress beads, but thought I’d pick up on the gold beading motif with these gold repro shoes.

GoldShoes2

Reproduction 1920s shoes with Louis heel.

 

Once that was decided, then this gold sautoir that my mother bought me as a gift from Online Antiques at a past fair was the natural choice of jewelery. No earrings, as the dangles on the headdress are statement enough! Just plain gold bangles.

Sautoir

Gold beaded sautoir (left)

For other accessories, I had a pinkish, raspberry beaded and fringed 1920s bag, and this fabulous feather fan – I have no decent photos of it (must document it), but it consists of three ostrich feathers with extensions that are coloured in an ombre cream to pink effect with a celluloid handle. These feather fans were a very popular accessory in the 1920s and are purely decorative – you couldn’t raise a breeze with this one, but they’re marvelous for dramatic gestures!

1920s feather fan with celluloid handle

1920s feather fan with celluloid handle

The final touch was a lavish arctic fox stole – I thought about going with a white assuit shawl, but thought that if I was going to be extravagant and dramatic, I might as well go the limit.

As usual I wore vintage undergarments – the foundation is so essential to the whole look – and was amused when I was getting changed out there that my subconscious seems to have been in the driver’s seat. Instead of picking up the 1950s seamed stockings I usually wear, in haste I’d grabbed my genuine vintage 1920s silk stockings. My subconscious had decided I really was not going to cut corners!

How was it received? Well, that’s the subject of my next post about the Fair itself – that, and the wonderful people we met there, and the gorgeous things we found!

 

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