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Last Updated on 1st January 2017 by Sophie Nadeau

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how 2016 has been a complete rollercoaster of ups and downs; both personally and (more importantly) globally. So I thought about taking a little time trip to the roaring 20s. Instead of partying like it’s 2017, why don’t we take a little look at how to party like it’s the 1920s? After all, the 1920s brought with it the rise and promise of hope; something we could all do with a little more of for 2017…

End of War & Hope on the Horizon

Following the end of the First World War, the 1920s rolled around like a smoke infused breath of fresh air. Millions of young men had lost their lives and Europe was still cleaning up four long and bloody years of war. Women were emancipated in part with the vote and no one had ever been so optimistic about the future. Treaties signed at the end of the 1910s had promised that ‘the war had been the war to end all wars’. While the decade was known as the ‘Roaring 20s’ or ‘the Jazz Age’ in North America, it was referred to as ‘the Golden Age Twenties’ in Europe. It was an age of scientific progress and the future had never seemed so bright.

The 1920s: A decade of discovery

Modern medicine has saved millions of lives the world over. To be honest, most of us wouldn’t have survived without it (including me!). And one of those magical discoveries? Antibiotics. Penicillin was discovered in 1928 in London and has since led to a whole host of other antibiotics being discovered.

Been to the cinema recently? Avoided some emails by checking out the latest additions to Netflix? Well, you can thank the rise of the 1920s for that too. The first ‘talkie’- non-silent movie- was released to the public in 1927. Oh, and the world’s first colour television was also invented in 1928.

1920s age of discovery

Greta Garbo, a star of talkies films.

Start of Emancipation of Women

The First World War saw men going off to fight for their respective countries by the thousands. As a result, women were forced to assume what had long been seen as ‘men’s work’. They worked in factories, toiled in the fields and proved that women could produce just as much as a result. After the war, many women demanded to be able to keep their jobs. In the USA, women working rose from 7 million in 1919 to 11 million in 1929.

Following the war, women also demanded to be allowed to vote. They had proved themselves to be as capable as men and wanted to be treated as such. In 1920, women of the middle and upper classes had won the right to vote in the USA. By 1928, women in the UK had won the right to vote on equal terms as men (that is to be a citizen and over the age of 21 years old). Other countries still had a lot of progress to do. Unfortunately, some still do…

No self respecting woman should wish or work for the success of a party that ignores her sex

“No self respecting woman should wish or work for the success of a party that ignores her sex”. Rally 1920

How to party like it’s the 1920s!

But the real question is: just how did a party go down in the 1920s? What would you be drinking? What would you be wearing? The recent remake of the Great Gatsby starring Leonardo di Caprio has led to a surge of roaring 20s themed bashes. When you imagine how to party like it’s the 1920s, you’ll probably conjure up scenes of glittering dresses and jazz music. However, this wasn’t always the reality.

how to party like it's the 1920s

1920s party at Montparnasse café.

Prohibition & Alcohol in the 1920s

Whether you’re headed to the in-laws or out to a club this New Year’s Eve, chances are, alcohol will be on the menu. We may watch the Gatsby movie and be astounded by the sheer volume of cocktails and canapés on the menu; the champagne fountains, the sheer excess. But the harsh reality was that during the 1920s, in the USA, prohibition was in full force.

Bootleg alcohol (also known as moonshine) was on the rise and figures suggest that more alcohol was consumed during the alcohol ban, not less. Smugglers did whatever they could to bring in the hard stuff; from stuffing whiskey bottles in pigs to brewing their own lethal concoctions. And, of course, as smuggling increased, so did gang activity. Police officers were bribed and prohibition was seen as an eventual failure.

People had to be sneaky about their drinking activities. Cue: the speakeasy. Also known as ‘a blind pig’ or ‘a blind tiger’ these were the bars everyone visited on the down-low. Places where gangsters rubbed shoulders with movie stars. It’s estimated that there were up to 100,000 of these illegal bars in New York alone. The point is, literally everyone was heading to these hidden bars.

how to party like it's the 1920s

Prohibition officers destroying illegal barrels of alcohol, 1921.

Dress in the 1920s: Rise of the Flappers

If you were a woman in 1920s America then things might be looking up for you. Women now had the right to vote and were less and less expected to go out and live by Victorian ideals. I.e. marry young, start a family and stay at home.

Instead, women cut their hair short, wore makeup and a more androgynous figure came to be fashionable. Women started to date men unsupervised and would stay out late smoking and drinking, just like their male counterparts. They’d listen to the newly popular jazz music and treated sex more casually. And, of course, women wore those iconic flapper dresses that have become so synonymous with 1920s America.

how to party like it's the 1920s

“Where there’s smoke there’s fire” by Russell Patterson, showing a fashionably dressed flapper in the 1920s.

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!

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