Flapper culture in NYC

If you like hot jazz, cool vintage clothes, stiff cocktails and loose morals we've got the era for you--the 1920s.

Not all flapper threads are worn as costumes, relegated to Halloween and the occasional themed soiree. “These are our regular clothes,” says Michael Arenella, leader of the Dreamland Orchestra (dreamlandorchestra.com), a hot jazz dance band that plays weekly at Prohibition-themed bars like Apotheke (9 Doyers St at Pell St; 212-406-0400, apothekenyc.com) and the Clover Club (210 Smith St between Baltic and Butler Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn; 718-855-7939, cloverclubny.com). “This is how we live and approach life—it’s an integral part of who we are.”

Arenella’s spirited Jazz Age Lawn Parties have become core sartorial events of New York City summers for the past five years, turning the shady officers’ green on Governors Island into a scene befitting The Great Gatsby. Wearing natty cloche and silk flower hats from flea markets and shops like Ellen Christine Millinery (255 W 18th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves; 212-242-2457, ellenchristine.com), these flappers do a mean Charleston. Join in yourself: At the August 28 and 29 party (Colonels’ Row, Governors Island; dreamlandorchestra.com; 11am--6pm; $10), jazz band Drew Nugent & the Midnight Society will join the Dreamland Orchestra onstage; Roddy Caravella of the Lindy Hop All Stars will lead dance lessons beforehand. While you whirl around the island, keep an eye out for a 1920s motorcar exhibition and a parade of hats.

On the last Saturday of every month, Wit’s End parties (clubwitsend.com) celebrate the Jazz Age and raise more 1920s spirit at former speakeasy Flute Bar (205 W 54th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves; 212-265-5169, flutebar.com; July 31 7pm--midnight; $12). The mingling crowd comes to dance the balboa, a close-embraced shuffle, and sip classic cocktails like gin rickeys and French 75s. This month’s party is Paris-themed, featuring Gypsy-jazz band the L.E.S. Hot Club, and evening wear is required.

Don’t have the duds? You can still don modern threads and soak in a Jazz Age vibe at the Museum of the City of New York’s summer speakeasies, Wednesdays through August 18, where you can nurse drinks on the Fifth Avenue terrace while listening to live music. Piano-vocal duo Gelber & Manning play old-time jazz at this week’s fete (1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St; 212-534-1672, mcny.org; 6--9pm; $15, includes one drink). If you’re not sure you’ll fit in without the dance moves and fringed clothing, just reread Gatsby and order a few more Manhattans. It’s as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: “Can’t repeat the past?...Why of course you can!”

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