What to Wear
We encourage period attire at our 1920s and 1930s Balls because
it adds so much to the atmosphere. This is a fun and easy period
to dress for. However, no one should miss the ball because they
don't have an extensive vintage wardrobe.
If you prefer not to come
in costume, ladies may wear a dress or dress slacks, and men
may wear a suit or sport coat and dress slacks. Whatever you
wear, don't forget your smooth-soled shoes for dancing. (See
our suggestions for dance shoes.)
Here are our suggestions
for what to wear, for both ladies (1920s
and 1930s) and gentlemen.
In addition to comments on the period dress, we provide hints
for how you can approximate the period look with modern clothes.
Ladies - 1920s
silhouette of the 1920s was straight and angular and the boyish
figure, with flat bosom and no hips, was the ideal. Waistlines
dropped to the hip.
At the beginning of the decade,
skirts were still long, almost ankle-length. It was not until
1924 that skirts really became shorter, reaching mid-calf even
for evening wear. The shortest skirts of the decade, stopping
just below the knee, appeared in 1926-1927. In the last few years
of the decade, skirts often used panels, drapes, and pointed
segments to achieve uneven hemlines. This led to a lengthening
of the hemline by decade's end.
dresses were generally sleeveless, with deep V or U-shaped necklines.
Decorations included beading, which sometimes covered an entire
dress, as well as fringe and even feathers.
As skirts became shorter,
necklaces, particularly strings of pearls, became longer. Tan
or flesh colored stockings were popular.
Short hair was universally
popular throughout the decade. Those who chose to retain their
long hair wore it pulled back into deep waves over the ears.
It was then coiled into a chignon or knot at the nape of the
neck. Makeup was obvious, with red lips, powdered skin, and dark
approximate the style of the period, look for a low-waisted or
straight dress such as a "tank" style or "slip"
dress. Add a long rope necklace--preferably pearls. Modern character
dance shoes with a small heel are appropriate for this period.
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Ladies - 1930s
In the 1930s, the boyish look of the previous decade gave way
to a more feminine silhouette, which emphasized the natural form
of the woman's body. Bosom, waistline, and hips were clearly
defined by the shape of the clothing. The waistline returned
to its natural position.
dresses were long or ankle-length, molded onto the body by means
of bias-cutting. The bias cut enabled fabric to fall into a smooth
vertical drape and to cling subtly to the body. Such dresses
followed the body to the hips, where they flared out to the hem.
Other common characteristics of evening dresses included bare-backed
gowns and halter-type bodices. Gowns were sleeveless or had full,
cape-like, or puffed sleeves.
In the early to mid-1930s,
hair was still relatively short, usually waved softly, and with
short, turned-up curls around the nape of the neck.
Many modern evening gowns
with flaring hems will be appropriate for this period. Add beige
stockings and character dance shoes or other low-heeled dress
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the 1920s through the end of World War II, tailcoats were the
preferred dress for the most formal occasions, and were worn
with white waistcoat and tie. (Think of Fred Astaire.)
Generally, evening wear consisted
of the tuxedo in black or midnight blue. Tuxedos had either rolled
collars faced in silk or notched collars. Single-breasted styles
were preferred in the 1920s, double-breasted styles in the 1930s.
From the late '20s on, some men substituted a cummerbund for
In the '30s and after, white
dinner jackets were worn, especially in summer. Black ties were
worn with tuxedos or dinner jackets.
Almost any style tailcoat
or tuxedo will do, but stay away from the very modern styles
(such as those with stand-up collars) or colored tuxedos from
the '70s. You can also wear a white dinner jacket with black
tie and black formal pants. Or come as a gangster in double-breasted
Some costume shops will rent
appropriate costumes for the evening at a rate somewhat lower
than formal clothing rental shops. You often can obtain your
own formal wear inexpensively, by watching for formal rental
shop warehouse sales and checking resale shops.
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What to Wear to Other Period Events
Follow these links for our suggestions for dressing for other
Mid to late 1800s (Victorian)