I Was A Flapper Girl for One Night
What happens when you get an invitation to party at Jay Gatsby’s mansion…
I have always been obsessed with retro fashion, especially the flapper style of the roaring twenties. Flappers did what society did not expect from young women. They danced to Jazz Age music, they smoked, they wore make-up, they spoke their own language and they lived for the moment. They flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior.
Flapper fashion followed the lifestyle as skirts became shorter to make dancing easier. Flapper girls were starting to break free of the mold that society had constructed for them. They were the rebels of their time.
Last Thursday night, my sister & I dressed up in our flapper gear: short black, drop waist dresses, sequinned headbands with feathers, fur stoles and t-strap vintage shoes. We each had an ‘invitation’ to attend a party at Jay Gatsby’s mansion at the Gate theatre in Dublin city. It was an immersive-style performance where all the ‘guests’ wore 1920s vintage outfits & mingled with the actors playing each of the characters of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby.
As we gathered in the theatre before the performance, a staff member instructed us to turn off our smart phones as all photos & selfies were forbidden. We were about to transport ourselves into the world of bootleggers, booze, flappers & jazz where modern technology has no place. The perfect selfie had to wait to until after the performance. Once inside the elaborate Gatsby ballroom, we headed to the ‘speakeasy’ bar to enjoy a gin sling to get ourselves into the party mood! The performance was about to begin.
Following quite a serious but charming introductory monologue from narrator Nick Carraway, it was time to start dancing! Two actresses playing the chief female characters, Daisy Buchanan & Jordan Baker started teaching us how to dance the Charleston. We all gathered on the dance floor copying each individual move until we were ready to dance the whole thing to music.
With over fifty other dancers on the floor, it was challenging to move around but I managed to do so without kicking anyone in the face! It was so much fun, I’ve decided I want to take proper lessons this year.
This production managed to distill the book’s essence and then spray it all over the Gate’s hallowed halls. The actors mingled with the crowd, beckoning you out to give you another bit of a show elsewhere in the theatre. Rooms backstage were transformed into a dining room or library inside Jay Gatsby’s mansion.
A small group of guests and I followed actor Nick Dunning into a hospitality room where we were regaled with stories of Jay Gatsby & perused a dinner menu. We were asked what our dreams were. A shy lady replied that she wanted to travel to Africa, another one wanted to do a parachute jump. Of course I had to be dramatic & said I wanted to be an actress in the ‘talkies’. “How are you going to achieve that?” asked Nick. “I’m going to get an audition & YOU are going to be my agent,” I said. “Ok, I’ll take 75% commission,” smiled Nick. “Hmm…I don’t think so!” I laughed.
What a thoroughly enjoyable night immersed in the decadent opulence of the roaring twenties! This was more than just a night of fancy dress, dancing & booze. It was a unique experience & so much better than just sitting passively in a theatre watching a play. It had felt as if we were strolling around inside a novel. We weren’t the spectators, we were the active participants inside one of the great American novels of the 20th century!
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. “
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald