Art Deco Weekend roundup

Last week I posted the tiniest bit about my wardrobe for Art Deco Weekend 2012, but I didn’t really tell you much about what it was about.

Napier holds an annual Art Deco weekend because an earthquake (and resultant fire) on Feb 3 1931 devastated the city, killing 256 people in the greater Hawkes Bay area, and necessitating the rebuilding of the entire downtown business district.  All the rebuilding was done in the Art Deco and Spanish Mission style.  So every year Napier holds a festival to celebrate it’s Art Deco heritage, and commemorate the earthquake.

Or so goes the official line.  Sadly, my impression was that the festival was really just an excuse to sell stuff, wear silly clothes with only the barest veneer of historicism, and drink too much.  There were a few tours about architecture, and a 20 minute ceremony about the earthquake, but I found the lack of history and recognition of why the event was held vastly disappointing.

Also, the whole event puts a huge emphasis on the 1920s.  The official posters are almost always 1920s in style, and depict people in 1920s clothes.  The tour guides and Art Deco trust board, as a whole, wear truly dreadful pastiches of 1920s styles.  I don’t get it.  The earthquake happened in 1931.  The city is a 1930s and 40s city.  Why not focus on that and celebrate that?  To me, ignoring this basic fact, and glazing over the history, does those who died, and those who survived and rebuilt, a great disservice.

So the weekend was a bit disheartening for me as a historian.  It was a fun event, but I never felt that it taught me anything, or pushed me, or challenged me, or gave me something to aspire to as a costumer or historian.

It was, however, a wonderful weekend for bonding.  I drove up with Claire of The Vanity Case, and Rachel who modeled the Vionnet dress, and stayed in a dorm at the Criterion Art Deco Hostel with them and five other fabulous swing dancing ladies (and almost one fabulous swing dancing guy, but he got rearranged out at the last minute).  We had the most fantastic time dressing up together and trading accessories and stories and lending each other slips.  I got to meet swing dancers from all over New Zealand, and even two Art Deco aficionados from Southern California.  So that part was well worth it, and hopefully we can be the new vanguard that brings life, and interest, and depth, and history to the Art Deco Weekend.

Or just gorilla hunts.  Those are good too.

So, without further ado, masses of photos.  These are meant to give you a bit of an overview of the event, and a sneak peek or two at some of the things I sewed.  I’ll post more photos of those later.

Day One, Friday:

Wore the Frumpy Dress, my brown oxford pumps, and my marcasite and cameo necklace.  Claire did my hair, we went op-shopping, checked into the Hostel, visited with all the swing dancers, had Turkish for dinner, and one dreadful dance (not my partners fault).

Leaving our B&B, pretty floral chiffons for the trio

Blowing kisses at the only McDonalds in the world worth visiting

Frumpy dress and a vintage car

Day One, Friday:

Wore my newly finished beach pyjamas, entered the reproduction costume contest (hated it, always do, must just acknowledge I’m not an exhibitionist), stood in the fountain to cool off, watched a friend & dorm-mate with the Bathing Belles competition (woot woot!), changed into a linen sailor skirt and blouse, stood in another fountain, changed into my green silk pretend-30s dress and a finished off with a few reasonable dances.

Wellignton girls in the authentic vintage costume contest

Swing boys put on some street art at the costume contest

Corinne from SoCal in her costume-contest winning reproduction Egyptomania dress

Rose (with parasol) about to win the Bathing Belles competition

Beach belles and navy boys

Cooling off in the fountain with some swing girls

Claire in her adorable spotted 30s overall playsuit - and very un-vintage accessory

Day 3, Sunday:

Wore my newly finished red, white & blue chiffon dress.  Spent a lot of time walking around the streets of Napier getting sunburnt and trying to remember where I parked the car.  Went to the Gatsby Picnic (really?  Couldn’t come up with something more unique to NZ?) and hung out and danced at the Swing crowd’s circus-themed tent.  Had a lovely photoshoot on the beach while vintage planes and a not-exactly-period helicopter did tricks.  Spent more time walking around, getting sunburnt, and trying to find the car.  And then drove home and was sad.

The best picnic-ers at the Gatsby Picnic. Wish I had stopped and talked to them

Vintage plane arial awesomeness

The navy officer is not interested in these newfangled flying machines

Another kind of arial awesomeness at the Gatsby Picnic

Claire and Rachel as circus girls

With Mary and Corinne of SoCal in their gorgeous period & period reproduction frocks

And thats that.

Rate the Dress: Deco stripes in 1923

Last week your reactions to the 1860s girl’s pink & white striped party frock were quite divided.  Most of you said something along the lines of “cutest dress ever!” or “I would have felt like a princess in it”.  Some of you, however, had horrible experiences with being forced to wear frilly dresses as a kid, and you didn’t like it for that reason.  Those in favour of pretty princess dresses pulled it in at a 8.4 out of 10.

This week, lets leave any chance of saccharine behind and look at a dress inspired by my time at Art Deco Weekend.  This frock from the Met incorporates clever angles and curves and pleats and stripes, all while maintaining a sleek silhouette – very Art Deco.

Dress, ca 1923, probably French, silk and cotton, Metropolitan Museum of Art

When I polled you about your least favourite fashion eras the 1920s won (lost?) by a landslide.  So this dress is a real risk.  Will it fall foul of your dislike of the 20s?  Or will you like the simple, comfortable, easy-wear, restrained but colourful, Art Deco inspired shift dress?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

Pretty blouses for Christmas wear

Are you sick of 1911 yet?  I hope not!  This will be my last post of this era for a while though.

A charming selection of blouses from the Girl's Own Paper

The full page view

3811, with 'trimmings of velvet bands', 3860, 'a graceful style for a girl, and one that would make up nicely in silk

The very feminine 3815, and 3006, with 'fullness given by box pleats'

3819 is 'a useful afternoon blouse made up in velveteen'

Front and back views of the blouses

Meet the Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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