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Flapper Fashion Trend for Parties, Cruises & Weddings (Updated Photos & Article)

great gatsby eveningwear

by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

Yes, the flapper fashion trend is still hot (2 years after Gatsby) because we're all obsessed with the Jazz Age clothing on Downton Abbey. And, just like most women over 40 or 50, you probably have a pretty good idea what a flapper outfit looks like… at least when it comes to dressing up for a costume party. But, did you know that you can wear elements of the Roaring Twenties clothing style without looking like you’ve stepped out of a time machine... and without looking like a back-lot movie cliché?

read about party dresses for weddings and cruises

Long Plus Size Flapper Dress for Parties (don't wear so much bling with a blingy dress)

Hey, modern fashion can be boring.

So, here are some clothes and elements that will make your evening outfits just a tad more art deco. And, yes, you can wear these retro outfits for cruises and for weddings... even if half the people at the party are so young that they think you wore these 1920's fashions the first time around.

*Note: If you came here from Pinterest, there's a 50/50 chance that the exact dress you're looking for is no longer available anywhere except eBay. That's why I've added some cute, newer styles that are for sale online now (2015)... although a few of the frocks are no longer available in every size. So, I hope you will look around and find something similar to the dress you want.

Roaring Twenties Retro Styles Are Still Hip:

I know that Gatsby drop-waist dresses (and accessories) were HUGE in 2013, when I wrote the first version of this article, but I also know that retro fashions are never out of style. So, if you look good in this straight, no-waist, shift-like silhouette, you should wear it!

Just don't overdo the trend to the point that you look like you're going to a costume party (fancy dress ball) for Mardi Gras or Halloween. As long as you keep your outfit slightly low key, you will always look spectacular... whether the year is 2015 or 2020.

So... be yourself. Drink champagne. Kick up your heels. And, pretend you're Lady Mary or Countess Cora (or even young Lady Rose) living at Downtown Abbey.

champagne beaded maxi dress eveningsFlapper Dresses for Real Women at Parties & Cruises:

Unless you keep track of all the costumes worn on period pieces, you might think that flappers always wore short dresses with rows and rows of fringe. And, those short fringed dresses are very cute. However, real flappers wore long gowns, as well, especially while attending elegant evening soirees. So, if you have great gams, go ahead and show them off with minis, but if you’re a top-heavy "apple shape" like me, you might prefer longer (mid-calf to maxi-length) dresses that give your body more balance.

Avoid Tight Waists:

In the 20’s, women veered away from the heavily corseted and constricted styles of the past. And, those new drop-waist dresses represented the freedoms that women were striving to obtain during that new "modern" era.

(Yes! I’m ready to jump up and do a Charleston just from thinking about sheaths and drop-waists – designs that allow real women to actually breathe. I loathe tight waists of any kind.)

Vintage Flapper Evening Wear:

During the Roaring Twenties, many of the "city girls" were hot off the farm, and some of them went a bit wild with the abundant bootleg hooch and French champagne… but if you’ve seen either of the Great Gatsby movies, you already know about the excessive partying of that era.

Of course, if you had just traded in the pig slop of Omaha for the bright lights of Chicago... or the jazz clubs of Paris... you would be out partying, too. Right? Absofreakinglutely.

Anyway, my point is that there is a whole garden of earthly delights to choose from when considering party dresses with vintage details. And, I don’t want you to go crazy overboard, but I don’t want you to be afraid to try "new" stuff from a different decade.

Just use a bit of restraint. It's a lot easier to wear too much "retro" than to wear too little, because most of us are (understandably) trying to coordinate our outfits with the "right" accessories and the "right" hairstyles. However, for those of you over the age of _____ (fill in the blank), you should try to keep some semblance of elegance and refinement. (Less is more... unless you're like me and you'd rather be the "girl" dancing on the table than the wallflower in the corner.)

read about cute flapper dresses a la downton abbey & beyond

New Short Flapper Dresses for Party Gals

In many situations, just a small hint of 1920's embellishment is enough. So, look for these details:

  • Beading, Pearls, and Sequins: Twenties party frocks were embroidered or beaded with geometric and botanical designs. Typical art deco patterns include repeating fans, shells, diamonds, flowers, leaves, or overlapping concentric shapes... which were often placed in a staggered "tiled" sequence.
  • Fringe: If you're old enough to remember the 60s, you might want to go easy on the head-to-knee fringe... unless you’re working as a go-go dancer. A limited amount of fringe is just right on an older chick.
  • Luxe Fabrics: Try to find silks, velvets, brocades, and silky sheers (although cheaper, modern blends are also fine). Great drape is key to pulling off this type of sleek design.
  • Subtle Colors: Colorful clothing with fringe looks like boho, festival wear, which is NOT a bad thing, but it might not be the look you’re trying to achieve. The easiest way to look chic in flapper-inspired clothing is to keep your palette neutral by wearing colors like platinum, soft gold, cream, blush, beige, gray, black, navy, slate blue, dusty pink, grayed purple, etc.
read about beautiful embellished evening gowns for parties & cruises

Gatsby Evening Gowns Never Out of Style for Parties, Weddings, Cruises

Remember... you don't need to wear everything.

If you go into overkill by wearing a dramatic feather boa, a long cigarette holder, a pair of insanely long earrings, and an uncontrollably flippy, fringed dress, along with hardcore red lips, you'll end up looking like a drag queen. So, fill out your flapper details sparingly… try to pile it on subtly.

read a little bit more about art deco accessories for fall

Art Deco Flapper Style is Still Big Due to Downtown Abbey

Flapper Style Accessories for Parties, Weddings & Cruise Formal Nights:

If you’re not ready to wear a full-on beaded gown to your cruise ship’s formal night or your niece’s wedding reception… or if you can’t find a drop-waist cut that flatters your old bod, you can still add one or two little touches from the twenties:

  • flapper hatFlapper Cloches: If you’ve read my other articles, you already know that it’s fine to wear the right kinds of hats, such as cloches, at night. (One exception is the wearing of huge sunhats after sundown... which can look somewhat silly.)
  • Flapper Headbands: I love anything that women can place on their heads... as long as it isn't a lampshade. And, any type of beaded or glitzy accessory that drapes around your forehead will look Gatsbyesque… as long as your dress or top is fairly straight up and down.

short flapper dressFeathered headbands work, of course, but here's a different type of flapper headband. And, I like it a LOT.

1920’s HeadpiecesArt deco headdresses are usually drapey things with shine and sparkle. If you look on Etsy, you will find a ton of headpieces made out of chains and/or rhinestones. Do not be afraid of these flattering headpieces. Women wore them back in the 20's for a reason.

Flapper Jewelry: Look for art deco cuffs, necklaces, and earrings. Or layer a ton of long (and slimming) pearls or beads. Lots of women get flowery art nouveau and structural art deco mixed up because both trends were hot at the beginning of the last century. Here is a good example of art deco earrings. Nouveau is a bit more curvy and romantic... although, both styles are beautiful.

  • Evening Bags: It is really easy to incorporate a beaded handbag with a deco feel. See the clutch that looks like a fan in one of the photos above... it's so groovy.
read about this fun women's trend again

Mary Jane Retro Shoes for Parties or Daytime for Women

  • Roaring Twenties Shoes: Look for something like platinum (or colorful) Mary Janes or ballet flats with glittery bows.

I know you are probably a Baby Boomer woman over 40 if you're on this website. I know you are leery of jumping onto crazy trends, and after living through the Evil-80’s, I know you have good reason for using caution... but deco is different. 1920's designs are made for partying.

And, right now, you are looking at a lot of different retro trends that can be incorporated into your usual style. This year, you'll be able to choose from 40's glamour, 60's Mod, 70's hippie... and of course... 20's art deco clothing.

Don't Be Afraid to Experiment With Fashion:

If you decide to add a little Great Gatsby embellishment to your party ensemble (or if you choose to mix and match decades), there are lots of great dresses and accessories that will give your look a trendy edge.  I love 20's cloche hats and faux deco accessories for myself. And, I like to mix and match all kinds of different eras together to create a great style that I really OWN.

And... you can do the same thing. Shop around for new retro looks, old vintage clothing, folk styles from other countries, and any dresses or accessories that call your name. Don't worry about "what" will go with "what". If you love it, you'll find a way to wear it.

More Articles for Chic Baby Boomer Women:

Rules for Mother of the Bride Short Dresses

Plus Size Clothing for Women With International Shipping

Shopping Tips for Chic Baby Boomer Women

Costume Travel Jewelry for Evenings and Parties

read about flapper styles for parties

Main Photo Flapper Headband

Photo Credits: Prshots.com.

  • Main Photo - Flapper Headband: Photo from Accessories Direct (2013).
  • Long Plus Size Flapper Dress for Parties (don't wear so much bling with a blingy dress): Long plus size magenta dress from Marisota, goes up to size 26 (2015). And, this dress doesn't need a big statement necklace. I think a highly embellished dress like this would look better with no necklace.
  • Flapper Beaded Dress: Gold party dress from Phase Eight (2013).
  • New Short Flapper Dresses for Party Gals: All dresses from Pretty Eccentric (2015).
  • Gatsby Evening Gowns Never Out of Style for Parties, Weddings, Cruises: Adrianna Papell, Marisota (to size 18), Adrianna Papell, Adrianna Papell, Adrianna Papell (all 2015). Adrianna Papell dresses at John Lewis in UK. Papell and other gowns sold in US at websites like Nordstrom.com and Macys.com.
  • Art Deco Flapper Style is Still Big Due to Downtown Abbey: Blue earrings from Dorothy Perkins, red earrings from Matalan UK, fan clutch from Accessorize, black art deco earrings from M&S (all from fall 2015).
  • Flapper Cloche for Evening: Hat from Louise Green (2013). If that cloche is not available, she has many other cloches to check out.
  • Art Deco Dress: Black party dress from M&CO (2013).
  • Mary Jane Retro Shoes for Parties or Daytime for Women: Joe Browns (2015).
  • (If you're looking for a photo that's no longer here, the blue dress was from Marisota (Fifty Plus), the deco earrings were from Accessorize, the capelet was from House of Fraser, the deco clutch was from Accessorize.)

What do you think of this article? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page. It won't show up until I have time to approve it... and I'm totally slammed for time... but I'll try to answer questions. Thanks.

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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4 Comments

  1. Zoe

    Hi! I LOVED the beaded Champagne maxi dress, and was wondering if it was sold anywhere? Thanks!

    • Tina-Boomerina

      The dress is from Phase Eight in the UK. I'm looking on the Debenhams site to see if they still have it. The article is from over 6 months ago... but they might still sell it. I'll email you.

  2. Jennifer Adams

    Looking for a flapper dress that is suitable for a beach wedding. I'm getting married for the second time, want something simple and elegant. Preferably tea length type of dress. Sadly I don't have the stick figure from my 20's ..... am an average size build
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Cheer
    Jen

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Jennifer,

      I'm sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. Family emergency. Had to Leave town. I will email you to find out more about what you need.

      Tina Boomerina