How to Dress for a 20’s Theme Party

The word you'll hear most associated with the 1920's is 'roaring'. It really was a period where more than ever in our history, people were conscious of having a style and more importantly, being able to express themselves through their individualism. With the uptick in secret club events evoking the clandestine nature of 20's Speakeasy's, I thought it would be appropriate to put a style guide together. But first a quick bit of information on some of the reasons on how the 20's earned its roaring reputation. 

In 1914, there was the Great War. For the first time in British history women were asked to join the British war effort and around 1917, American forces would come to Britain and with them they brought the wonders of jazz and stimulated a dance culture not seen before. Men would discard their naval and military uniforms and look to impress the ladies with their chalk line suits, spats and braces. With that said, here are a couple of tips that might help you with your 20's styling from top to bottom. 


A great era for hats; the Homburg, the Boater, the Panama were just some and all very popular at the time. With the success of Peaky Blinders the Newsboy Hat will be a safe bet for your party. If you're going gangster fedora, then make sure it's a wide brim and be sure to accurately do your hair because gentlemen take their hats off indoors. As Jamie Foxx mentions in Django Unchained. 'You don't wear a hat in the house white man. Even I know that'. 


I'd recommend printed ties with thin stripes. Don't allow them to hang too low, if it should hang below the waistcoat then tuck them into the trousers. You can opt for a bow tie, make sure it's self-tied. 


It's important to have the suit matching. With that I mean ensure the jacket, trousers and waistcoat are the same fabric. You should plum for baggy pants, known either as Knickers, Plus Fours or Oxford Bags. Ensure they're bagginess looks right and if possibly, brought up to the naval. Be sure to use and held up with braces or suspenders, as belts weren't prevalent in this time period. The jacket should ideally have 3 buttons, wide lapels, without falling fowl of bilious or cartoon-esq. 

Shirts (Pin Collar or Tab Collar)

During this time there was an Oasis/Blur style war breaking out over stiff and soft collars. Both are acceptable, as are detachable rounded collars, as seen in The Great Gatsby. For dress shirts the collar could be pure white like the cuffs, whilst the body would be striped. The popular cuffs could be double cuffs. Fabrics were mostly cottons or linen, silks were becoming a little pricey for the common man by the 20's. For my money I'd go for a Pin Collar, the collar bars hit the scene in the late twenties and I believe will give you the edge at the party. Attention to detail my friends. 


Steer clear of anything square capped. Two-toned wing tipped derby’s were everywhere on the dance floor back then and has enjoyed a resurgence since with the likes of Boardwalk Empire, La La Land has carried on the Gatsby mantle. The uppers should be a blend of leather on canvass and I'd mute the colours to tan/beige which will be more versatile with other items in your wardrobe. 


Criminali-Tea with Bottomless Teapot Cocktails for Two at Barts, London

There are just some words that sound better together. London and Speakeasy, for example. Afternoon and Tea - idly saddle next to each other don't they. Whilst Bottomless and Cocktails are the kind of words you'd pay good money to see skittle around inside a Hadron Collider. Now imagine getting to experience all of those wonderful conjugations under one roof, in one afternoon. 

Recently, thanks to Virgin Experience Days, I had the good fortune to visit Uncle Barts’ 1920s Speakeasy just along Sloane Avenue where my date and I were transported back to a decadent era where men were men and dames were dames. On the door we slipped Big Frank a password that was initially refused (all part of the fun and games) before being whisked inside to experience what’s being hailed as 'truly London’s worst kept secret'.

If you're a fan of books like F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which was published during the midst of the tumultuous 20s, or maybe you've seen Baz Luhrmann’s rendition of the novel, then this place will offer you that same portal of nostalgic escapism. Personally I'm more of a The Untouchables guy. Morricone's scintillating and heartbreaking score. Costner and Garcia at their nuanced best, De Niro at his most destructive and of course Connery, in his post-Bond pomp!

"You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. THAT'S the Sccchhicago way! And that's how you get Capone". 

I digress. When I heard about Uncle Barts being the Doyen of bootleg cocktails, that was the clincher. (I recommend The Alchemist from the menu). Throughout the afternoon we were suitably captivated by the gangster's moll from The Hotsie Totsies, as she tantalised us with an array of modern jazz inspired renditions. This was an exquisite way to pass a couple of hours on a chilly Saturday afternoon. A great unexpected treat for the other half as an early Christmas present. As well as the bottomless cocktails you’ll also be served up a selection of sandwiches and cakes.