After Baz’s bastardisation of Romeo and Juliet and the farce that was Australia, I’d rather put my $16 towards a top-shelf sack of goon. I always preferred Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night anyway.
That being said, I’m just as easily swayed by the breezy whims of trends as the next man and nothing starts fashion/cultural fads better than period dramas.
For example when the movie Control came out I immediately started a terrible band, started dressing all in black and took to chain smoking.
So, in honour of the imminent return of the Roaring Twenties chic, we’ve put together a little list so that you can have the ultimate period night out in 2013.
First things first, you’re going to have to look the part. In the 1920s men of means sought to model their look on the stars of the silver screen, actors like Douglas Fairbanks and Rudy Valentino (Google them). While for the women, short hair, and ‘slender, masculine silhouettes’ were all the rage. In other words, if you want to have a proper 1920s night, ladies, it’s time to get your Flapper on. Shortly cut, bobbed hair, shapeless, sparkly shift dresses and, preferably, a cloche hat to highlight just how short and racy your hair is. Oh, if you’ve got a fuller figure maybe consider strapping your ‘assets’ down, as supportive bras didn’t really exist in the 1920s! For men it’s all a bit simpler really: nighttime attire consists of a sharp suit (preferably three-piece), collared shirt, bow tie, shiny leather winkle pickers and slick backed hair. Start by raiding vintage clothing stores, or your grandmother’s closet!
Old–fashioneds for all
Now that you and yours have slipped on some suspenders or a short skirt, bobbed up your hair or brill creamed it flat, you’re ready to hit the town for a pre-dinner apéritif. Historically, the early 1920s in the United States (and Australia) was riven by prohibition, which technically made the selling or consuming of alcohol illegal. Thankfully, between moonshine totting bootleggers, corrupt politicians and bent coppers alike, alcoholic spirits like whisky and bourbon were more prevalent than ever. The fact that they were often distilled by country bumpkins, in slightly unsanitary vats meant that they didn’t always taste great, so they needed to be mixed with something nice. So, in many ways, the early 1920s gave birth to some of the world’s great cocktails. Whisky sours, dry martinis and the eccentric sidecar were all born in the crucible of prohibition. While pretty much anybody these days can buy a book of Gatsby cocktail recipes and a shaker, the greatest thing about living in a prohibition-free era is that you can just go to a bar where people get paid to make them for you. Chances are they’ll be infinitely better at it as well. If you’re in Sydney, places like Palmer & Co [pictured] (merivale.com.au/palmerandco) or Black Bar (thestar.com.au) definitely fit the bill, if you’re in Melbourne check out 1806 (1806.com.au). Drink up and be merry, old sport!
Dinner and a show
‘Home entertainment’ in the 1920s meant sitting by the fire and reading a leather bound novel, while listening to the wireless. There was no such thing as television, DVDs, laptops or gaming consoles. So if you wanted a little entertainment you’d have to head out and catch a show. Now I would have originally penned a night at the cinema into any 1920s themed evening, but damn and blast if all the pictures these days aren’t ‘talkies’. So instead, why not catch a little show while you eat your dinner? That’s a perfectly acceptable way to spend an evening, surely. Head out onto Sydney Harbour on an aptly titled ‘Showboat’ and check out the couples dancing The Charleston or strut into Carlton or Fitzroy and catch a cabaret show while picking at a Waldorf salad and sipping on a mint julep.
The spirit of Jazz
The 1920s was also known as the ‘Jazz Age’, a time when large scale radio broadcasts began to bring African American inspired music into white, middle class society like never before. Jazz music had a huge influence on popular culture at the time, and has continued too until the modern day. At the time it was, in many ways, the world’s first youth movement, but it has become rather dated. There was a time when I couldn’t think of jazz without picturing a goateed beatnik, wearing a turtle neck and black beret, scat singing and saying ‘maaaaan’. Jazz clubs have made something of a resurgence in Australia though, and I can safely say that they make a pleasant change from blaring dubstep and sweaty, shirtless bros fist–pumping.
The Green Fairy
Yes, yes, before you start whining, I’m well aware that Absinthe was most prevalent in the late 19th century, particularly in the salons of Paris. But indulging in a little Green Fairy now and then was still seen as a perfectly acceptable, even fashionable, vice in the 20s. For many years in Australia, proper Absinthe (the one with the mildly narcotic wormwood in it) was banned, because drinking a lot of it tended to turn people a little mad. Thankfully though, that ban has been lifted, and a few specialist Absinthe bars have cropped up. Prepared properly, Absinthe can be a lovely drink to round an evening off with. Let an Absinthe specialist guide you and float off into blissful numbness.