Designers and musicians embodied 1920s styles during “Roaring! A 1920s Event” at the Arts Ballroom in Center City on Nov. 10.
Very few people today know what life was like in the 1920s.
Historically, the decade was the epitome of a carefree lifestyle, hence the nickname the “roaring ‘20s.”
To capture that lifestyle, Noel Zayas hosted “Roaring! A 1920s Event” at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10 in the Grand Hall at the newly renovated Arts Ballroom at Juniper and Locust streets. Now named the Arts Ballroom, the space was originally the Hotel Sylvania, which celebrated its grand opening in 1923.
Roaring! provided a taste of 1920s culture blended with a modern twist. The event was centered around fashion, art and music inspired by the decade. The event was divided into two main rooms. The Grand Hall was dedicated to mingling, drinking and fashion, while the other had a more intimate setting with tables for attendees to sip a glass of wine and enjoy a cabaret performance.
Maci Miller, one of Roaring’s cabaret vocalists, filled the room with her take on Nat King Cole’s “Route 66.” Citing the idea that music today is significantly different than caberet, Miller said she must prepare before each performance.
“I always reference the greats. I tried to study what Ella Fitzgerald was doing, and I put my own thing into it,” Miller said. “If I love what I do, it shows, and people feel that.”
In order to get further into character when she performs, Miller said she dresses as if she were living in the time period in which she performs.
“When you’re performing, [fashion] is part of the act. It’s the look, and it’s what you’re giving,” Miller said, dressed in a cheetah print dress.
In the grand ballroom, DJ Rahsaan remixed Adele and other contemporary artists to encourage a dance friendly atmosphere. Several women dressed in traditional flapper attire danced as if they didn’t have a care in the world. According to Jennifer Rosenberg’s article “Flappers in the Roaring Twenties,” flappers were some of the first women to style their hair short and wear makeup. Traditionally, promiscuous women were the only ones to do so, but flappers popularized makeup very similar to that worn by women today.
Many women who attended the affair donned traditional 1920s makeup and styled their hair with the ever-popular finger wave.
“The women look fantastic,” attendee Mike Jerrick said. “I think everyone wants to go back to the 1920s because it was footloose and fancy free.”
Fashion and personal appearance were a crucial part of the mood of the roaring ‘20s, and it was one of the main focuses of the evening. Carmelita Martell, head stylist for the event, dressed models in Brazilian designer Priscilla Costa’s latest collection.
Costa’s models walked down the runway wearing dramatic flapper makeup and satin gowns in neutral colors with floral designs. Dresses ranged from floor length gowns to knee length skirts.
“I liked the dresses, and I liked their flower ruching,” attendee Allison Guarino said. “They were ‘20s inspired, but I could still go out [in one] tonight.”
The women’s dresses were made with light materials like satin, which allowed for easy movement. Rosenberg said clothing that allowed easy movement was one of the factors that lead to women adopting the carefree lifestyle commonly associated with the flapper generation.
Macy’s provided the clothing for the male models. Although more conservative than the flappers, the men’s fashion embraced 1920s themes and incorporated them into contemporary outfits. All of the men’s outfits incorporated layers into the ensemble. One model wore a blazer and sweater over a tie and dress shirt with a pair of cuffed green velour pants. Another wore an earthy green sweater with a pair of embroidered khaki pants.
“The guys seemed super preppy, but the pants with the [embroidered] dogs were a little ridiculous,” Guarino said.
Noel Zayas hosted the 1920s event during the second season of Boardwalk Empire, an HBO series taking place in the 1920s.
“A lot of fashion comes from television. Mad Men inspired a whole collection at Banana Republic,” Master of Ceremonies Jessie Holeva said. “As the 1920s in Boardwalk Empire shows up more, its definitely going to be a trend.”
Performers were able to give a taste of 1920s culture, and designers were able to show people how to utilize the latest trends.
“While it wasn’t quite a speakeasy, I was impressed with how people interpreted 1920s fashion with an updated look,” Guarino said.
Mark Longacre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.