Inspired by… THE ANNUAL LAUREL HOUSE GALA
1920’s…What do you (as a guest) want and need?
First of all, you’ll need an invitation and a request to come dressed ‘to the nines’. Consider a password for a speakeasy-style party and a combination of rich colors and geometric designs like the 2013 Gatsby film’s opening and final credits.
What will you see?
The 1920’s were full of eye candy– pearls, furs, feathers, fringes, ruffles, flowing fabrics, shiny accents, red on a backdrop of white, gold, grey and black. Sparkles, feathers, light, balloons, confetti and fun.
It was the first time that a majority of people lived in cities, so nightlife was bustling. The Stock Market was soaring, so some people (think thousands of millionaires, practically overnight) had more money than they knew what to do with, so there were more frivolous purchases and expenses. Cars and gasoline were available to the mainstream for an affordable price. The Ford Model T had been so efficiently produced by this time that anybody could buy one for only $260, so travel became easier and more widespread and Americans were on the move. It was a time of economic prosperity, general peace (this was post World War I), and affluence.
What will you hear?
As people spread apart with their cars, the radio brought them closer together. Broadcasts went out across the country and kept everybody in tune with the same programs, jokes, songs and news. The first TV broadcast was in 1928, but it would be some time before a majority of American families had their own sets. In the early 1920’s, many American towns had a movie theater and most Americans, regardless of age, social standing or gender went there at least once a week. They dreamed the same big dreams, looked up to the same movie stars, and had fun watching a story come to life on the big screen.
Music changed, too. Jazz, Ragtime and Broadway Musicals all gained popularity and songs like these Favorites of the Roaring 20’s were heard from Speakeasies to living room rugs around the radio.
Due to a seaport closing in New Orleans, Jazz musicians were forced up the Mississippi to find work, and cities like Chicago and New York were forever changed for the better. Louis Armstrong, the ‘father of the Jazz trumpet’, brought songs like What a Wonderful World, La Vie en Rose, A Kiss to Build a Dream On, When You’re Smiling, Mack the Knife, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, and countless others to the forefront of the music world.
Jazz spread, and people loved to dance to it! Night clubs, parties and speakeasies were full of hip, young people, drinking (prohibited) alcohol, breaking rules, shaking their tail feathers and having an overall good time.
What will you smell?
Think of an underground Speakeasy full of dancing, glamorous people. It probably smelled like gin, cigarettes, cigars, beer, perfume, cologne, black licorice (a popular treat), and the Charleston (a little sweaty, perhaps?) all at once!
What will you taste?
New American foods in the 20’s included Wonder Bread, Betty Crocker baking mixes, Land O’ Lakes butter, Quaker Oats quick oats, Macoun apples, Welch’s grape jelly, Caesar Salad, Wheaties cereal, Lender’s Bagels, homogenized milk, Rice Krispies cereal, Velveeta cheese, Peter Pan peanut butter, Oscar Meyer wieners, 7-up. Chains and companies started popping up and becoming more common, including White Castle food chain, Safeway and IGA supermarkets, Progresso brand foods, Clapp’s Vegetable Soup (the first commercially prepared U.S. baby food) , and Gerber canned baby food. Of course, you probably will not serve most of these at your party, but it is fun to know! Just go with something classic, fine and delicious, and guests will be happy.
Treats included Eskimo Pies, Good Humor ice cream, Girl Scout Cookies, Popsicles, Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink, Honey Maid Graham Crackers, Kool-Aid, and lots of candy! Baby Ruth, Oh Henry! candy bars, Gummi Bears, Mounds, Charleston Chew, Clark Bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Bit-o-Honey, fruit-flavored Life Savers, Mr. Goodbar, Milk Duds, Pez, Mike & Ike’s, Butterfinger, Snickers, Twizzlers and more all came into existence and popularity in the 1920’s, and people loved them! If you’re not reading this and making notes for a Candy Buffet for your party (as Laurel House did in the photo below), you should definitely consider it!
Prohibition in the U.S. was a nationwide Constitutional ban on the sale, production, importation and transportation of alcoholic beverages, and it lasted from 1920-1933, promoted by a “dry” crusaders movement and mandated under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
Of course, with the onset of Prohibition, speakeasies sprang up overnight, sometimes in shabby sections of town, but often in the best neighborhoods, and many of these establishments were actually fine restaurants in their own right. New York’s “21” Club was a speakeasy during this period and had 2 bars, a dance floor, an orchestra and dining rooms on 2 floors. While the Prohibition hurt many restaurants across the country, people still had a love of fine dining and fine drinks, and found them where they could. Check out this post from Food Republic with recipes for 10 popular Roaring 20’s-inspired drinks.
What will you feel?
In the 1920’s, many city-dwelling Americans felt happy and entertained. Women had a sense of freedom with their time, as the recent inventions of home refrigeration, dishwashers, Air Conditioning, pop up toasters, washing machines and vacuum cleaners eliminated some of the drudgery of housework and gave them some extra play time they hadn’t had before.
There was relief at the end of World War I and major changes taking place in medicine, from band aids to insulin injections and the discovery of penicillin, that made people feel good and brought up the national morale.
There was pride in our homeland heroes, from the military and those who served our country in the war, to Charles Lindbergh and Babe Ruth, to the faces, voices and familiar tunes of the radio and movies, and it made many people happy. They ate, they drank, they socialized, they danced, and they felt a sense of freedom and love.
What should you do?
As a party guest, your role is to relax and enjoy. If there’s an opportunity to take part in an extra, delightfully fun activity, do it! See a Photo Booth? Strike a pose! Fireworks show starting? Be there! Another guest looking for a companion? Spend some time with him or her. Take in the sights and sounds, help out if you’re so inclined and do your part to make the party a success. Come on time, stay awhile, bring a Host(ess) gift, and if you really want to prepare for a 20’s party, learn the Charleston!
What will you wear?
Not sure what to wear to fit into the 1920’s theme? Think extravagant, decadent and carefree!
For women, drop waists, minimized bosom, dark lipstick and nails, big jewelry, hair cut into a bob or styled into a low updo, a side do, with bangs, curls, headbands and hats were in. Mary jane shoes with strap made it easy to dance!
For gentlemen, a three-piece suit was a winner, in any color of their choosing, and pinstripes and plaids were definitely in. Throw in a hat, a cane, a cigar, a mustache, a pair of spectacles and/or a pocket watch for good measure, and you’re good to go!
Now have fun, and remember to check out the Wediquette 1920’s Themed Pinterest Board for LOTS more ideas, for parties and weddings alike. Thanks to Laurel House for sharing your photos and ideas. Looking forward to the next Gala!
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