Outfit for a 1920s party

Turns out you can get dolled up for a 1920s Great Gatsby party without spending heaps. As promised, here is my outfit and cost breakdown:

home made 1920s dress

The dress was made at home. Back then, dress cuts were simple; fashion was easily DIYed, and accessible to the middle and working classes. My hem work was hokey, but the garment stayed together for the night and I brought home a compliment or two.

  • $35 on dress fabric
  • 12 hours labour, spread over 5 days

black open toe high heels

The shoes were old faithfuls. Mary Jane heels would have been a closer style match, and sometimes you'll find them at op shops, but rarely for size 5 feet. Try your luck if you're a size 7 and above.

The stockings were plain black pull-up lace-tops, bought for a party years ago and packed in a sock box since.

  • $0, shoes already owned
  • $0, never throw out good stockings

knotted black beaded necklace

The jewellery was a multi-strand black seed bead rope with a knot, found at Good Sammy's. A string of pearls would have given a nice contrast, but the dress fabric was so busy with texture, I didn't mind going minimal on accessories.

  • $12 on secondhand necklace
  • 15 minutes in an op shop

finger waves and pin curls hairdo

The hair was a symphony of finger waves and pin curls, deftly crafted by Abbey and Libby at Rebecca Oates. All it cost was the complimentary voucher from my last haircut. It was a lucky coincidence for me, but a great lesson in timing.

If your salon gives you treats after a visit, schedule your normal appointment within a week of the party, then cash in those treats on the day. Otherwise, ask what styling they can do on a wash & blowdry service.

I also learned that finger waves and pin curls are among the first things a stylist learns in hair school. When it comes to salons who charge based on a stylist's seniority, you may get awesome enough hair value from a junior or middleweight.

  • $0, be smart (or lucky) with your vouchers
  • 30 minutes in the salon

shootin' the breeze with the ladies

The makeup was... passable. I'm not skilled here, but you get away with so much in the dark! I used a BB cream, brow pencil, lip liner and lip balm, already owned. Purchased new were a Maybelline Master Smoky (not masterful) and a Great Lash mascara (pretty great).

  • $20 on new things
  • 10 minutes in the bathroom

an old couple :)

Which brings us to a grand total of $67 for a whole 1920s outfit. w00t!

The gentleman had it better: $33. He already owned the hat (corporate freebie), jumper and shoes. Purchased were:

  • Shirt - $5
  • Pants - $5
  • Tie - $3
  • Socks - $20

I won't lie - this takes effort. I consider this too much effort for just a party, but as DIY experience and skills training, it was worth having a learning opportunity that integrates with normal life.

Key takeaways for me, and for fellow budgos, wombles, opportunists and crafters:

  • Get to know the theme, as there's probably something easy you can get away with.
  • Think this way: reuse > make > buy secondhand > buy new.
  • Learn to sew - it opens up a world of options.
  • Hit op shops where you can, but remember vintage fashion is in - serious shoppers, fashionistas and vintage boutiques are likely to have found the really good stuff already.
  • Get clever with time planning, free gifts, and vouchers.

Of course, if it's down to numbers, you can do even better by borrowing something. :)