The “Roaring 20s” was a time for letting loose and enjoying global economic prosperity. Sandwiched in between two devastating world wars, the 1920s were a time of celebration, excess, experimentation, joy and redefinition of gender and social boundaries. The arts and culture thrived and flourished in major cities worldwide, and underground partying almost never ceased. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1925, forever immortalized the roaring 20s. Set in 1922, the central characters capture all of the opportunity, angst, tragedy and triumph of this unique time. Because it was such an important period in history, it has become a popular party theme. Here are some tips to throw your own roaring `20s theme party, including costumes, food, invitations and decorations.
Many of the themes associated with the 1920s have to do with music, film and art, as well as fashion, crime and society. If you are planning a 1920s theme party, you may want to consider one of these main ideas to build on:
- Prohibition and speakeasy underground bars
- Jazz music and the variety of dance styles that emerged, such as the “Charleston” and the “Lindy Hop”
- Headbands and feathers, flapper dresses with feather boas and long pearl necklaces
- “The Great Gatsby”
- Silent films — especially those about famous gangsters like Al Capone
- The birth of the Ford Model T car and modern aviation
Building on Your Theme and Sending Out Invitations
Once you choose your theme, the next step is to identify where you will hold your party and how you will evoke that theme in the food you serve, the decorations you choose, the invitations you send out and the costumes you and your guests wear. If you’re not sure whether your guests will know what costumes are appropriate, you might include a picture of classic roaring `20s attire on the invitation or even a link to funny costumes from the 1920s inside your invitation. This way, your guests will feel prepared and excited about attending your roaring `20s festivities.
Foods From the 1920s
Because alcohol was harder to come by during the 1920s Prohibition years, the speakeasy became a focal point of underground social life, including for dining. Chinese and Italian food made great strides in popularity. Sales of sodas and fad foods increased. Rich foods with even richer sauces found their way inside the forbidden doors of the speakeasies as big-name hotel chains like the Waldorf Astoria began to release cookbooks that were snapped up by the masses. Here are some popular dishes and drinks you might want to consider serving at your theme party:
- The “Old-Fashioned” cocktail
- Gin and tonics
- Mint juleps
- Waldorf salad
- Chicken Cordon Bleu
- Asparagus au gratin
- Hollandaise potatoes
- Beef Wellington
- Smashed potatoes
- Ravioli (fried or baked)
- Mushrooms stuffed with crab and cheese
- Venetian ice cream (aka gelato)
- Black and white cakes
Once you have sent out the invitations and set the drinks and dinner menu, the only step left is to decide on the party ambience and decorations. You’ll want to consider the lighting and décor, the music you play and also the activities and games you plan. For décor, you may want to consider having a movie screen with a silent film playing. You can create a music mix of big band, free jazz and ragtime to play during your party. You might even want to order posters of classic Model T cars, movie actors, jazz musicians or flappers to hang on the walls. For activities and games, you can teach your guests 1920s popular dances like the Foxtrot, the Jive and the Turkey Trot and have mahjong and Yahtzee stations where guests can try their hand at these popular games.
With these ideas, you can plan a roaring `20s party that your guests will never forget.
About the Author: Steve Sherman spent many hours as a kid talking with his grandmother, who was a flapper in the 1920s. He loves passing on his grandmother’s stories each year to his history students.