“Why are people all dressed up?” a pig-tailed blonde wearing an oversized baby blue tee asked while tugging on her mother’s gray biker shorts.
As masses of sweaty and restless participants from New York City’s Brain Tumor Walk waited for their ferry back to Manhattan to empty, they watched in awe as a gaggle of new inhabitants on a considerably more lighthearted pursuit unloaded onto Governor’s Island looking like time travelers.
The Observer was there to catch the 7th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party, hosted by Michael Aranella and the Dreamland Orchestra. This Gatsby affair celebrates the Roaring 20′s and all of that decade’s fashion, cars and Charleston-inspiring melodies.
Sweet tunes blasted from an antique phonograph between live performances and dance lessons. Attendees paid full homage to the Jazz Age and straw hats were everywhere. Ladies donned feathered headbands, long beaded necklaces, drop-waisted dresses, parasols and dark red lipstick. Men sported suspenders, vests, bow ties and knickers. To our surprise most of them pulled it off with a grace rarely seen back on our mother-island.
A woman in a full-length fuchsia dress and flowered head piece in front of us upon entry gasped when a ticket taker stamped a large black inky image of a motorcar on her arm for admittance. “Can you place that under my glove instead?” she asked daintily. Keeping true to the era, she promptly pulled a bottle of rosewater out of her wicker picnic basket and sprayed it on a navy embroidered hanky, gently blotting the smudge off her porcelain skin. There was no 99 cent hand sanitizer a hundred years ago, after all.
While most were head-to-toe committed to the 20′s style garb, we were sporting cowboy boots and magenta lipstick, but we thought we’d at least dabble in the fun. Perplexed by the variety of head adornments on the scene, we made our way to the Worth & Worth hat stand where we got a lesson from Brandon Franklin, hatter extraordinaire. Pork pie, fedora, boater—we got schooled. After deciding on a newsboy cap, we gravitated toward the music, carefully skirting picnickers on the way.
There was something about the giant trees canopying the grounds, the old brick buildings lining the manicured lawn, the Lindy Hop taking place on the dance floor and all that jazz. As much we wanted to resist it, we actually felt like we were in the 20’s.
Until we overheard a woman nearby.
“Does anyone know how to tie this?” a barefoot flapper with a tall feathered gold headband bounced around asking anyone wearing a bow tie—a sizable population on this afternoon. As the maroon satin sadly drooped in her hand, man after man shrugged and explained that his own bow tie was a clip-on. After a good ten minutes she found Frank, a 20-year-old who could help.
The flapper dragged Frank over to her spiky-haired companion in khaki cargo pants and white polo. Once the bow tie was assembled a photo was in order.
“Put this on Facebook. Yeah, man,” he said, flashing a sideways peace sign and lifting his Oakleys up to raise one eyebrow for the iPhone lens.
And, just like that, we were jarred right back to the present.
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