This weekend I went to the Art Deco Society's Annual Gatsby Summer Afternoon. I was invited to go months and months ago by some friends, and as the date approached, I started thinking of all of the other things I could/should be doing (like dancing, grocery shopping, etc.) because I was kind of afraid that I was going to be stuck with a bunch of odd characters, like the kinds of people who re-enact Civil War battles or go to Renaissance Faires and adopt really bad Elizabethan accents.
So I was kind of expecting to be hanging about with some wannabe drunken Zeldas in their rented flapper outfits, but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I was super pleasantly surprised. I had an absolute ball.
For starters, these Art Deco people are serious. They were into not just the clothes, but the history, the slang, the dancing, the whole period. There was not a rented costume in sight. (I have to admit that my outfit was stellar and I fit right in...I'll post pics if they do me justice. Otherwise you will have to imagine that I looked fab.) The most amazing hats, parasols, lace, shoes...and that was just the men. (No, I'm kidding!) But everyone put such care into how they dressed, including their hair, makeup and accessories. They looked good. It was like being an extra on a film set.
All of the picnics had vintage linens, china, glass and silver. No paper plates. No styrofoam cups. Cell phones were not allowed, if you can believe that one. People picnicked around their vintage cars. There was a Charleston contest. The Royal Society Jazz Orchestra played, and the singers and emcee sounded just like they stepped out of 1925. The Deco Belles, the bathing beauties, paraded with their gartered stockings and one-piece swim suits in vivid colors. Charles Lindbergh could have shown up and he'd have felt right at home.
This was the period, just after World War I, that tango dancing exploded in Europe. (See, I found a way to bring this all around.) Even though most of the dancing at the picnic was Lindy or Charleston-centered, they did play a few tangos but not the kind we are accustomed to hearing at milongas. I did get to dance one great tango with a new-found dance partner and overheard a couple of little whispers from the sidelines: No, they're doing Argentine tango.
I just came across some really interesting info on the history of tango in this century as the dance made its way through Europe and then back to the USA. Although it's not the kind of tango we prefer, I got a kick out of thinking of our predecessors dancing such a scandalous dance in their scandalous new way of dress (no corsets, the bra wasn't invented yet) and you know what...these people paved the way for us today. Your grandmother or grandfather might have been one of them!