How To Charm Gatsby's Socks Off Circa 1920

by Sonya Mann

After looking at drinks and dresses, I'm compelled to find more outfits appropriate for a swanky champagne brunch. You might think that all champagne brunches are swanky, but that is not the case: One Sunday my boyfriend filled his water bottle with delicious tangerine juice from Trader Joe's, mixed with cheap sparkling wine, and we cavorted around the city. It was great.

For inspiration regarding truly swanked-out champagne brunches, I would consult Gossip Girl, the show that I can't stop referencing even though I haven't watched the whole thing. Blair's clothes break my heart because they. are. so. beautiful. Especially her lingerie! (Wouldn't you dress up for Chuck Bass? I would dress up for Chuck Bass.) However, my goal today is to focus on real-life style. What do people without a couture budget wear?

One of the cool features of the internet is that fashion no longer lies beyond a regular person's reach. Neither you nor I will ever be in a Vogue editorial — unless Cara Delevingne is reading this, in which case please email me immediately — but anyone can start a blog to showcase their particular sense of style. Instagram is full of #OOTD shots. These streams of photos and friendly life summaries range from professional to personal; style blogs vary wildly in every way that you can name.

John Sciulli/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Pictured: Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere, who built her blog into a career, leading to opportunities like a clothing collaboration with Club Monaco.

One thing that many fashion bloggers have in common, besides their dedication to clothes, is a love of vintage, or at least the vintage "look." Those of us who don't wear vintage clothes still sigh at the gorgeousness of past aesthetic trends. Hence the prevalence of ModCloth, an e-commerce site that is essentially expensive Forever 21 for the Zooey Deschanel set.

Enough of my bugbears with the fashion industry. Back to vintage looks: The 1920s were a particularly dreamy era, full of decadence leading up to the stock market crash that launched the Great Depression. Before the financial disaster, ateliers embraced sumptuous beading and impeccable pink suits, as exemplified by The Great Gatsby. Women especially experienced skyrocketing sartorial freedom. Hemlines and heels ascended several inches. Chic flappers wore skinny dresses with long bead necklaces falling over flattened busts, cropped their hair to curl just under the chin, topped their new hairdos with cloche hats, and chain-smoked elegant cigarettes. (Emulate everything but the last part, kids. People who smoke are boring.) Basically, flappers were a walking champagne brunch, and the Prohibition didn't slow them down at all.


Those of us who want to dress like Jordan Baker (fictional) or Josephine Baker (larger than life) — à la Lupita Nyong'o at the 2014 Met Gala — can find plenty of inspiration in the blogger world. One of my reliable favorites is Rebecca Stice, a.k.a. The Clothes Horse, who curates art and photography from decades past, as well as work by contemporary creatives, in addition to posting frequent outfit photos, depicting romps such as a Jazz Age birthday party. Small businesses that consist of more than one person can also kickstart your imagination: Davena Vintage's lookbook Sparklerette City evokes the festive devil-may-care mood of the 1920s, even if the silhouette is slightly off.

Brides and anyone else who enjoys wedding photos — apparently there are people who don't dream of weddings but how — are facing a delightfully deep pile of web pages to sort through. Such as: Knoxville wedding on the blog Ruffled, Gatsby -inspired lookbook on Style Me Pretty, and darling couple Dixie and Shawna on 100 Layer Cake. Vintage Tea Roses put together a few charming mood boards. Oh, don't forget, two artists tying the knot in a forest on Green Wedding Shoes! Let's not even talk about Pinterest! (Seriously, let's not talk about Pinterest; Pinterest is a scourge.)

I've gotta admit that I strayed from my original goal of "stuff regular people wear." After all, a wedding isn't a regular day; it's a day that most couples budget hundreds or thousands of dollars to fund. Maybe I missed the point in the first place — fashion bloggers are "normal" people like you and me, not supermodels or movie stars, BUT the ones most commonly looked to for inspiration have impeccable photography skills and extensive wardrobes "gifted" by sponsors. It's easier for them to pull off a look from 90 years ago without batting an eye. (Goodness, almost a century has passed since the 1920s. Time flies, right, Mr. Gatsby?)

Where does that leave us, the casual window-shoppers planning an imaginary champagne brunch? Right back where we started: In our imaginations, unless we're willing to devote time and money to realizing the dream. Which is okay — if I could actually undertake every task I thought about tackling, then the truly important parts of my life would be ignored. And yet, my pesky brain is scolding me, "Think of how many sequined dresses you would have! THINK!"

Images: Flickr/Witt Istanbul Suites; Getty