1920s & 1930s: our top tips for stepping back in style

Playing a character from a historical period for a dinner party can feel like quite a challenge and potentially a big cost outlay. However, you definitely don’t need to go out and buy a whole new outfit. The important thing is to have a couple of key items to set the tone. With money a bit tight for lots of us now, here are some super successful ideas that won’t break the bank. Many of these accessories and style ideas can be found in what you already have or picked up in local charity shops.

Dress for the 1920s

Several of our murder mystery games are set in the 1920s: ‘My Deadly Valentine’ proves popular every year and ‘Murder at Down at Heel Abbey’ is an all-girl hen party game set in the same era.

If you’re playing a female character, we suggest a straight-cut loose-hanging, knee-length dress (make a fringe from ribbon and attach along bottom hem), fishnet tights, long beaded necklaces worn tied in a knot, bare shoulders or faux fur wraps, silky gloves and maybe a cigarette holder. If you want to have authentic hair and make-up, go for bright red lipstick and smoky eyes, finger waves in your hair or a low bun with beaded headband. Add a feather for a flapper look!

Some of the accessories like the cigarette holder can work equally well for a male character. Otherwise a suit with a crisp white shirt can be topped with some sort of hat, like a bowler or a newsboy cap. A clean hairless face was the norm, but a simple army moustache would have been widely seen.

Good themes to search for further inspiration online are: Great Gatsby, Black & White Grandeur, King Tut, Ancient Egyptian, Jazz Age and 1920s sparkly!

Ready for the 1930s

If you’re invited to a 1930s murder mystery party – playing ‘Murder on the Leyton Orient Express’ for example – you will want to define the look, to make sure it is 1930s as opposed to 1920s. Think Hollywood glamour in the style of Greta Garbo rather than 1920s Great Gatsby rich socialites. Think bigger and bolder! On the other hand, life on the streets was tougher, with the Great Depression making life hard for many, so it very much depends on the background of the character you’re called to play.

If you’re playing a female character, we suggest for hair and make-up that you use hot rollers to achieve big glamorous curls. Go for matte foundation, thin arched eyebrows, false eyelashes, and dramatic dark lipstick. Clothes-wise, try floral prints, luxury fabrics with silk, shine and dazzle! Where the 1920s had drop-waist loose short dresses, the 1930s were fitted and often floor length. You don't see too many necklaces or accessories on the ladies of the 1930s. If anything, go for some sparkly earrings.

If you’re playing a male character, we suggest a down-at-heel worn-out suit with suspenders if you’re down on your luck. For Hollywood glamour, go for black tie Fred Astaire, top hat and mustache. If you prefer a gangster look, try a double-breasted overcoat and fedora.

Check out YouTube for some more suggestions. We love Samantha Snow's easy diy suggestions for 30s clothes from thrifting 80s and 90s clothes!

Good themes to search for further inspiration online are: Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, Art deco, radio era, floral and bold, Jazz, Swing and Big Band.

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