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Gatsby Summer Afternoon at Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate. Photo: Aiello

Diana Brito is this year’s Gatsby Summer Afternoon Chair. As a long time member of the Art Deco Society of California, she joined the board in 2019 and hit the ground running, working hard to make sure everyone this year has a good time.

Diana kindly agreed to a Q&A with ODFL.

  1. When was your first Gatsby Summer Afternoon and what do you remember most about the day?

My first Gatsby was in 2016. What I remember most fondly was that it took me away from my normally hectic life. I loved that I was able to step into a different time and place. The afternoon was warm and sunny, the grounds were brilliant green, the house looked like a sparkling jewel, and the guests were all so lovely (those flowy dresses and parasols were ethereal). Everyone seemed to move at a slower pace. It was like I had stepped into a dream, or Jay Gatsby’s estate for an afternoon soiree. I didn’t want to go home that day.

2. As a seasoned planner of Gatsby Summer Afternoon, you know the day backwards and forward. What can returning attendees expect to be the same?

The most important thing that our guests have asked about was the dancing. Our guests love to dance, and those that do not dance enjoy watching or tapping along. We are thrilled the Royal Society Jazz Orchestra will be joining us again this year. We are excited to bring back our Charleston Dance and Vintage Auto contests, the beautiful display of vintage autos, the wonderful Decobelles dance troupe, and of course visiting with old friends, and welcoming new ones.

3. What new ideas can we look forward to?

Meet Up:
There will be “New Guest and New Member” Meet-Up so new guests have an opportunity to
meet one another (seasoned Gatsby aficionados are also welcome), make new friends, learn about the Art Deco Society and the history of the Gatsby Summer Afternoon.

The Great Gatsby Reading:
We are planning a salon style reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby. A wonderful opportunity to hear guests read and discuss the novel.

Sponsored Tickets:
I think that the most important change this year is that we have initiated “partially sponsored” tickets available for those who might need one. This began with one of our members who graciously gave us the seed money to start this program. Since her generous donation, others have donated through Eventbrite. I am touched by our donors’ kindness.

We know this past year has been financially difficult for many and we want to help our members, and non-members, who are finding our ticket prices less than affordable. To request a partially sponsored ticket, all someone needs to do is complete a few questions and send it to us. All information remains confidential. (Check the ASDC website for more information.)

4. What do you think makes Gatsby Summer Afternoon unique in the world of period events?

The Art Deco Society is a Historic Preservation organization that focuses on the Art Deco Era and celebrates the music, art, architecture, fashion, literature, and modern culture of the time. Gatsby Summer Afternoon founder Laurie Gordon had an idea to create an event that celebrated the beauty of the era. Perhaps what makes this event so unique is that it has been in existence for 36 years. It is important to note, Gatsby Summer Afternoon is not a historic reenactment, but a celebration of a moment in time from a fictional novel. Our guests love to play along.

5. Last year Gatsby Summer Afternoon was cancelled due to the pandemic. Covid is still a concern – will there be some protocols in place? Are masks required?

We were relieved and disappointed to have to cancel our 2020 event, not only for COVID reasons, but should we have gone forward with 2020, we would have had to cancel Gatsby Summer Afternoon 2 days before the event due to the intense air quality in the Bay Area. Yes, Gatsby was scheduled on the week our skies turned orange.

For us to move forward this year, the City of Oakland Parks Department has asked that all our guests be masked, unless eating or performing on stage. Our guests are asked to picnic at a distance, create pathways around the vintage vehicles, and that our restrooms and transportation must be sanitized. While we know that this is more than most outdoor events do, we gladly agreed as the health, safety and welfare of all of our guests is important to us.

6. What are some tips for anyone new to Gatsby Summer Afternoon?

First of all, welcome! We love our new guests and want you to know we are happy you are joining us.

I would suggest that a new guest come to our “How to Gatsby” event on August 15th to learn how to pull together an outfit, and your picnic. There will be a presentation, cocktails, and small vendors selling picnic gear and fashion.

There is a misconception that you are only allowed to wear vintage, and while we appreciate vintage, we believe that our guests can pull together looks that are inspired by the era. We encourage everyone to do what is most comfortable for them whether that be vintage, vintage inspired, sew your own outfit, or make do with that you have. Be creative.

We do encourage our guests to save their sequins and fringe for other events as this is a daytime picnic, and of course wearing sneakers, flip flops, t-shirts, cut-offs of other casual modern clothing is not in keeping with our theme. There will be no Costume Closet this year, so guests should come dressed to Gatsby Summer Afternoon.

Finally, consider joining the New Guest/New Member meet up at Gatsby Summer Afternoon.

Diana, your new ideas are great! I particularly like the Meet Up event. As longtime ADSC members and picnic site judges, my partner and I always try to make an extra effort toward new attendees to help them feel welcomed. Also, the COVID protocols are so important to keep people safe. A big Thank You to you, Diana and the ADSC Board.

The How to Gatsby: A Get-Ready Guide to an Elegant Art Deco Afternoon (presentation and sale) is set for Sunday, August 15th, 2-6 at the Alameda Naval Air Museum.

The 36th Annual Gatsby Summer Afternoon is happening Sunday, September 12, 2021, 1pm-6pm at Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate in Oakland, CA.

Note: I believe that Gatsby Summer Afternoon tickets this year will not be available at the gate, so make sure to purchase in advance.

For tickets and more information click here.

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Barbara Jefford as Lady Lydia Eliott. Note Lydia’s collar, reminiscent of the 17th century Ruff.

She spends all that money on clothes and she still manages to look cheap. No doubt her latest young man tells her bad taste is all the rage.

Lady Lydia Eliott, fictional character played by Barbara Jefford in the British television series The House of Eliott.

A little “mean girl” humor.

The House of Eliott is one of my all time favorite British series. Created by Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs), it features two sisters who face hardships as independent women fashion designers in 1920s London. I own the entire series on DVD and I watch it when I’m feeling low or just need an escape. Of course I pulled it out in Pandemic Year 2020 and that’s when I happened to catch this funny line.

I’m quite fond of Lady Lydia. She’s so biting, she’s hilarious, and Ms. Jefford is wonderful at balancing the cattiness of Lydia with her vulnerability. I think a good snooty character is great fun.

Click here for another post I wrote on The House of Eliott.

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It was a mask. Aggressively dazzling in self-protection. The first day I came to see Allendy I wore a draped costume and a Byzantine hat, and I succeeded in intimidating him by my strangeness … A desire to be more interesting, more accentuated. A role. I played the role of a sophistication which was not truly my own. In all this he seemed so right. I began to see how much of an armor my costumes had been. I remembered that to please Henry I wear for him softer and more youthful things, and that I hated when he decided to take me to Montparnasse to meet people in these puerile clothes. I wanted so much my draperies and Russian hat. Like an armor.

Anais Nin (1903-1977), French author.

This quote is taken from the diary of Ms. Nin written in 1932. I found it in an article by Gwendolyn M. Michel titled “A Woman with a Hundred Faces: The Dress and Appearance of Anis Nin, 1931-1932, published in Dress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America.

Ms. Nin refers to her therapist Dr. Rene Allendy, with whom she discussed her body image issues. She felt she was too skinny, flat chested, and not curvaceous enough. (Ironic, as she had the 1920s ideal figure.) Ms. Nin at the time was having an affair with American author Henry Miller, while also she was quite intrigued by his wife June. For a short time she tried to emulate June’s less fashionable more bohemian style. It didn’t work for her.

I think many of us use clothing as armor one way or another. When we dress-up or at least dress differently from the norm, we perhaps intimidate; prompt glances from afar but no actual communication. When we dress as everyone else does we blend in, hiding among the crowds. Both are a sort of protection.

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This one was among my first and best purchases while I was still a college student. At that time there was a vintage shop called Emporium located on Campus Corner near the university. My friend and I would go in regularly and I also tended to stop by on my way home from classes. I was pretty broke in college so I had to be careful but, when I saw this clutch I didn’t hesitate. I don’t even recall how much I paid but I do remember that this shop was very reasonable with their pricing.

The bag is from the 1920s, made of leather with whip stitching on the edges and gold metal inserts. Inside there are several different size pockets, including one just the right size for business cards. (There are still a few of my cards tucked into that pocket as I had a small business making brooches and bolos out of vintage buttons and watch faces.) It expands to hold surprisingly quite a lot and I really like the option of using the strap at the top. It was and still is in excellent condition.

I used it often back then for evenings out to plays (I reviewed plays and movies for the college newspaper) or dinner. It was just the right touch to make an outfit pop.

We are rolling along and tomorrow is day eleven. What will our handbag be? Come back to find out.

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Like many other happenings this pandemic year, Gatsby Summer Afternoon has been cancelled. This annual event, always held the second Sunday in September at the picturesque Dunsmuir Mansion in Oakland, is produced by the Art Deco Society of California and is one of the most popular period costume gatherings of the year. It attracts close to one thousand attendees all dressed in attire appropriate to the Art Deco era, 1920s-1940s.

To forgo this favorite event is disappointing, but safety is a priority! So, while we stay safe at home how about a visual revisit to Gatsby Summer Afternoons of the past?

We all look forward to gathering again in person hopefully next year. Save the date: Sunday, September 12, 2021.

This just in: The ADSC has announced a virtual version of Gatsby Summer Afternoon, complete with the usual contests and photo ops. Click here for the full scoop.

UPDATE: Due to unhealthy air quality, the virtual Gatsby Summer Afternoon has been rescheduled for next weekend, September 19-20, 2020.

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Gatsby Summer Afternoon at Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate.

Another Gatsby Summer Afternoon has come and gone. The 35th for the Art Deco Society of California and the very first for many attendees. This event is growing in popularity as more and more people want to experience the grace and elegance of the past.

Over 1000 enthusiasts gathered at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate in Oakland for a picture perfect sunny day of dressing up, dancing, picnicking, and meeting other like-minded people.

As a picnic site judge I don’t have much time for snapping photos but I managed some and here they are. Enjoy!

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Winners of the Best Grand Picnic Site.

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Winners of the Best Petite Picnic Site. Fifteen-year-old Brendan dressed himself and his parents. He’s been collecting all things vintage for four years and is currently taking Charleston dance classes, hoping to enter a future Gatsby Summer Afternoon Charleston contest. For his picnic, he baked ginger bread using a 1934 recipe, which was Walt Disney’s favorite.

Congratulations to all the contest winners and to the ADSC for another successful year. It’s a lot of work to put on this event. Thank you Event Chair Diana Brito, Heather Ripley Former Chair and Advisor, Heidi Schave, ADSC President and Advisor, and Marie Riccobene, Former Chair and Advisor. Thank you also to the ADSC board members and the dozens and dozens of volunteers who make the day possible.

Save the date for the next Gatsby Summer Afternoon, September 13, 2020 (always the second Sunday in September).

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2016 Gatsby cover art - final

Image courtesy of the ADSC.

The Art Deco Society of California’s Gatsby Summer Afternoon is right around the corner Sunday, September 11, 2016. Time to start planning!

New to Gatsby Summer Afternoon? Well simply put, it’s THE period event of the year. Attendees arrive at Oakland’s Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate decked out in 20s to 40s attire and set up picnic sites using only vintage gear and vintage-style food. The afternoon includes a display of vintage cars, music by Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, dancing, croquet lessons, touring the Dunsmuir mansion, and contests for: Best Car, Best Costume, Best Charleston, Best Picnic Site.

This marks 32 years for the ADSC’s popular event and leading the way for us is Heather Ripley as the event chair. A member of ADSC since 2000, Heather says, ” … what I found with the ADSC was a very passionate group of people with a shared interest in keeping the Art Deco era alive. It felt like I was coming home.”

Part of keeping the Art Deco era alive is events like Gatsby Summer Afternoon, which is as close to time-travel as we can get.

Heather works at Larkin Street Youth Services where she is special events manager. Those work skills have proved handy – this is her fourth time up as chair of Gatsby Summer Afternoon but she’s quick to point out it’s a team effort with many volunteers helping her to make the magic of the day happen.

Heather and I recently had a Q&A via e-mail chatting all things Gatsby Summer Afternoon:

When was your first Gatsby Summer Afternoon and what stands out about that experience?

My first was in 2001, I believe. I went with my high school friend, Julie who came up from Southern California. She made her own dress and I got mine at Dress Barn, but we had the best time putting together our outfits and packing our simple picnic lunch. It was a glorious day and we were in heaven watching all the pretty people go by while lounging on our blanket on the lawn. We then handed out “It’s-It” ice cream sandwiches. That was our volunteer task. We had such a wonderful time and I’ve been “hooked” ever since.

How did you go about planning your outfit for the day?

I think I just looked at some fashion history books from the library. I was a theater major. In fact, Julie and I had both done some stage work and we both loved old movies, so it came somewhat naturally. I had a small collection of vintage items from my mom and I had loved going to antique and second hand stores to find interesting items for special occasions. A great way to learn about tips and tricks is at the How to Gatsby lecture.

Thanks, Heather. The How to Gatsby lecture is coming up on Sunday July 31st, 2pm at Bellevue Club in Oakland.

Speaking of tips, as a former picnic site winner what tips would you offer to a new or returning attendee?

First, don’t expect to be awarded your first year, it can take some time to collect pretty items. Be sure they are things you like and reflect you and your personality. The one thing we keep in mind with judging is to bestow the award to “classic” picnics that do not fall too strongly into the “theme” category – like western, gypsy, or circus. We tend to favor pure era picnics. Plus keep in mind it’s not just about the plates and linens if you are into winning, it’s also important to prepare appropriate food from the era and possibly dress in the same colors. And having a sense of humor and creativity does not hurt. Think about it, the judges have a very difficult time!

As a former and current picnic site judge, I agree that we sure do have a difficult time! But it’s also great fun to walk the grounds and meet so many interesting fellow Art Deco lovin’ people. 

at Gatsby 2007

Heather enjoying Gatsby Summer Afternoon in 2007.

Gatsby Summer Afternoon is a full day of activities and time goes by quickly, what would you say is a definite Not To Be Missed?

We do provide printed programs with the events of the day listed so you won’t miss anything. But I would say four things this year:

  1. If you have never done it you really should go on the house tour. They are free from 3-4pm in the beautiful mansion. It’s nice to get away from the sun and appreciate the collection of items lovingly displayed.
  2. This year we are hiring a “DJ” Tanoa “Samoa Boy” on the porch area of the mansion who will be playing vinyl records with songs from the 20s and 30s! We wanted the folks closer to the mansion, who typically cannot hear the stage entertainment, to have an enjoyable experience.
  3. Stop by Stookey’s Club Modern tent to refresh with an authentic cocktail and/or enjoy tastes of delicious wine at the Le Vin Winery tent.
  4. Finally, the day would not be complete without the lively Decobelles performance at 3:30. Be sure to line up early since it can be challenging to view.

Yep, the Decobelles are always a big hit and I would add don’t miss the crowning of 2016/2017 Miss Art Deco, which happens right after the Decobelles performance.

Thank you, Heather for this chat and for all you do putting Gatsby Summer Afternoon together.

Click here for tickets and more information about How to Gatsby and Gatsby Summer Afternoon.

We’ll see ya there!

 

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This is Paco Delgado’s second Oscar nomination, having also been nominated in 2013 for Les Miserables. This time around he’s up for The Danish Girl.

Mr. Delgado is from the Canary Islands and now lives in Madrid. He studied set and costume design but he initially worked mostly on sets, not intending to become a costume designer. However, small playhouses with tight budgets often needed his help and he’d put the costumes together as well. He enjoyed the challenge and people liked his work so he stuck with it.

The Danish Girl tells the true story of Einar/Lili (Eddie Redmayne), who is known as the first transgender woman. The year is 1926 and the place is Copenhagen and Paris. Einar and his wife Gerda were both artists, and so Mr. Delgado started his research by looking at the couple’s work and photographs of the pair. He also studied the popular fashion designers of the era, such as Chanel and Poiret.

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Very much aware of the subtleties of costuming a transgender person, Mr. Delgado said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar:  Our point of departure was always to think that Lili was trapped in a body that didn’t belong to her. Therefore we had to create almost a prison-like idea, where she was in prison in the masculine body and that’s the reason we created this sort of very restricted [costume] in the beginning of the movie.

Since it was difficult to find actual 1920s clothing that wasn’t too delicate and/or too small for the actors, Mr. Delgado used material from antique dresses and built new ones to fit.

A job well done, I’d say. Good luck to Paco Delgado.

Come back tomorrow for some reading on Jenny Beavan, costume designer for Mad Max: Fury Road.

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Sure, marry me and bury me in this suit!

Sure, marry me and bury me in this suit!

You can be married or buried in a quality suit.

– Madame Fleuri, designer/fictional character on the PBS show Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries.

Now that we’ve crossed over into November, the chilly weather is perfect for suits.

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Gatsby Summer Afternoon 2015.

Gatsby Summer Afternoon 2015.

The Art Deco Society of California Gatsby Summer Afternoon 2015 was a big success with a record-setting crowd of over 1100. The weather was late-summer perfect (after a week of horribly high temps) and the Don Neely Royal Society Jazz Society Orchestra was in top form. The only thing was, “It ended too soon,” I heard people say as they wistfully packed away their vintage linens and picnic gear.

For me it was kind of unexpectedly special. Year after year I enjoy putting together outfits for Gatsby Summer Afternoon. With a collection of vintage from many eras I often cobble together looks from my closet but I have also gone shopping the season before at the Vintage Fashion Expo.

This year I decided to sport something I had been saving. It’s a dress that my older brother made back in the 80s and gave to me for my birthday one year. My brother and his wife started their fashion business Kiss of the Wolf in the late-70s and quickly became known in the wearable art world for their unique hand-painted silk clothing for women.

A simple sheath, I knew my dress had the right silhouette for the 1920s. Even though the colors of light violet and mauve are very 80s as is the diamond pattern, the combination worked just as well for the 20s. To emphasis the proper era, I took the accompanying silk sash and tied it below my waist at an angle. I added navy blue shoes and an actual 20s cloche hat, donned my grandmother’s long beaded necklace and I was Gatsby ready.

I knew it was an acceptable outfit for the very discerning crowd but I didn’t think it was anything more than that. Hey, I was wrong. Never before in all my years attending Gatsby Summer Afternoon have I received so many compliments. Both men and women made an effort to come up to me and say how fabulous they thought the dress was and how authentic. One woman said I should have won the costume contest (thanks for that!) and another commented that the whole outfit matched illustrations from 1920s fashion magazines. I mentioned, of course, that the dress actually was designed and hand-painted in the 80s by my brother, who died at a young age from cancer. People really understood then that this was indeed a very special dress.

I think my brother would have gotten a kick out of how I wore his dress and how timeless it is. I know he would be pleased that people were interested and appreciated his work.

Thanks to all the individuals who took the time to talk to me – you made my day!

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