PUBLISHED APRIL 2016, VINTAGE LIFE MAGAZINE
It should be no secret by now that I'm quite a big fan of all things vintage. For the last twelve months I've been counting the days to the next Roaring 20s & All That Jazz Festival, so you can imagine the kind of squealing that happened when I received an email from the Escarpment Group offering to host us for the entire weekend of this year's festivities! I basically went into some kind of flapper style euphoria, almost hyperventilating at the idea of needing multiple vintage themed outfits for this year's events.
I hovered back and forth between going for 'true vintage' 1920s (probably not, on my budget), or repro (glam or everyday?), or thrift shop. What's a vintage girl to do? Ok, I admit these are certainly 'first world' problems and I'm not trying to be flippant - God knows my budget has nothing for 'event wear' - but for those weeks proceeding the festival, I had something joyous to focus on and that is part of what makes life (and vintage) fun!
After dropping off our bags at Parklands Country Gardens & Lodge (our designated luxury digs complete with our own private fireplace), we ventured across to our first indulgence, dinner at The Wintergarden; the main restaurant at the recently renovated Hydro Majestic Hotel. I've been to The Wintergarden before, so I knew what kind of culinary treat I was in for! I'm a plant-based eater, so basically that means that when I dine out, I am used to disappointment as there doesn't seem to be such a thing as 'five star veg' in most restaurants these days (unless the whole restaurant is already plant-based). The Wintergarden is one of the few exceptions that cater for fussy eaters like me without ever making you feel like a pain in the tush. I was served a beautiful entree of beetroot with marigolds, micro herbs and powdered dried olives, followed by risotto with extra roast veggies on the side. So delightful and I loved every mouthful! No time for dessert though because we were soon whisked off to the first official event of the weekend, the 'Gangster Casino Charity Night'.
I'd like to say up-front that I would not normally be an advocate for gambling, but when it's for charity, of course I'm happy to donate for chips and giggles. For the Charity Casino night I decided to go 'glitzy flapper' (if that's even a thing!). Now I know it may not be totally authentic but I found my dress (a handmade silver and black flapper dress) at the local thrift shop, and as it turned out it fitted in well with a lot of the other attendees on the night who were also trying out their Charleston gear. I also added my 'old reliable' black faux fur stole (it's always faux for me) with some deco style bling, and it worked out a treat.
The guests were offered Black Jack (way too hard for me), a Lucky Wheel (let's just say I'm not very lucky) and Roulette (hurrah, just my speed). After a few rounds of losing my chips on Roulette, number 14 caught my eye. It's red, it's Valentine's Day (which is also the day I got engaged) so I figured, sure, let's throw one of these big chips on that, you know, for love! You wouldn't believe it, IT CAME IN!!! Of course I promptly cashed out because, seriously, how much more luck could I have?! At the end of the night the top winners got to barrel dive for donated prizes, so lucky me! On top of the gambling tipples, we were also given an amazingly energetic performance by the Sydney Swing Katz, who flew through the air with the greatest of ease, no trapeze necessary. Incidentally, book me in kids, I am so 'there' for your next round of classes!
Next day, as I primped my second flapper look in preparation for the Hydro Charleston Challenge (Australia's valiant attempt to reclaim the Guinness World Record for the most costumed people, dancing the Charleston), the sky looked rather ominous. Oh dear, rain today simply would not do. My Charleston outfit had been cobbled together at the last minute after my chosen attire had unfortunately been snowed in by the New York blizzards, but ironically it looked like the bad weather had found me regardless!
Over at the Hydro, as my friends and I corralled together like soggy little Daisies, (yes, that's a bad Gatsby pun) our hearts dropped a little when we realised today was not going to be the day we broke the Guinness World Record.
Sadly our 2015 record of just under 400 people had been beaten twice already in the UK (by Bexhill & London), so the chances of us finding 1000 willing flappers, on a day like today, seemed rather 'optimistic' at best. We did, however, find 466 absolute legends who came out regardless and danced like they meant it. They danced like the 'flappers'!
One thing that cannot be dampened is the spirit of a bunch of vintage friends, who like to trip the light fantastic, side-by-side, beaded shoulder-to-shoulder. It didn't matter about the weather, it didn't matter that my outfit had been snowed in by a freak blizzard leaving NYC. Today I was a fabulous flapper wearing my new/thrift shop finds with wet hair and muddy shoes (with the heels falling off), next to my beautiful friend in her 'true vintage' 1920s dress and amazing turban, amongst a bunch of the most gorgeous gals you have ever seen, and some dapper lads who made the effort to get their glad rags on and drive two-plus hours up from Sydney just to do...this!! To dance, dress up and celebrate! After dancing up a storm (in a storm!) and several of my friends taking out the Best Dressed awards (way to go Kathy & Scott) it was time to move on to The Long Lunch.
Traditionally this is a picnic style lunch beginning indoors at the Hydro, before spilling out onto the front lawn of the hotel, however, this year they went for a marquee. Considering the weather, that was probably a good idea, although I really did miss the chance to set up my picnic on the lawn. Picnic blankets aside, the idea behind this event is certainly one of the most novel I've ever come across. Each guest is given a lunch hamper of local goodies in a huge gift box to unpack and enjoy at will, while being entertained by an authentic 20s fashion parade of pieces from the Darnell Collection and live music. Luckily, again I was catered for food-wise, although I have to say I was slightly jealous of the amazing desserts stacked in with the regular hampers (passionfruit jelly pots and artisan chocolates) but I certainly couldn't complain. I had an amazing edamame salad and more antipasto than I could possibly ever eat, plus dip, breads and Bellini cocktails on arrival. I left feeling totally inspired and ready to create my own Long Lunch style recipes!
I was pleasantly called away to meet up with my UK-based friend and songbird, Lubelle Rose, who was also in town for the festival. This girl's cherubic face lights up a room and she sings like a vintage angel (just ask Simon Cowell and the judges of Britain's Got Talent - they were certainly impressed)! We had time for some flapper style selfies (as you do). She is the only person I've ever met who can match me for crazy photo 'faces'! After a whirlwind trip to Australia, on her way back from performing in Asia, she was heading home to the UK. Such a loss for us but I can't wait to see her next time I'm over!
Later that evening we were back at the Hydro again to enjoy Shanghai Nights, a Chinese Lunar New Year themed event. There were amazing cocktails and nibbles plus I discovered an inspiring pair of photographers who were there as part of the festival, Sophie and Eloise, who have started using the vintage tintype process again!
Finally before leaving, we managed to sneak away to my favourite part of the Hydro - Cat's Alley. I suppose the name gives it away (Kitty/Cat), even though apparently that's a reference to gossiping ladies, tut tut girls! Cat's Alley today is an Asian inspired, deco colour bomb, with bright red walls, giant lamps and armchairs, and most importantly at that time of night, no one else around! My final outfit I had put together for Shanghai Nights was a combination of a thrift shop cheongsam, some vintage style modern bling and my 'true vintage' black, velvet, 50s opera coat I've had for years from, OMG, Harrods! Yes kittens, Harrods. I felt like a queen!
I knew the weekend would soon be over but with my 'decade sandwich' outfit of thrift, plus modern, plus vintage, standing in the lavish corridor of a hotel that is over one hundred-years-old, that has been a playground for the rich, a rehab, a military hospital, a derelict and is now a modern tourist spot with a new Asian deco twist, it felt ah-mazing to have a last minute chance to have Cat's Alley all to myself and reflect on the weekend, and what a weekend it had been! Between my random romantic roulette win, my soggy Charleston dancing amongst wonderful friends, picnicking in a marquee, taking vintage selfies and sneaking into Cat's Alley it had all been a blast! In fact you could even say the weekend had been Deco Tastique!