If you’re planning a 1920s party, hen party, tea dance, or even a low budget village hall wedding or dry hire 1920s wedding, what do you do for decor? We’ve been running Charleston Dance and Vintage Hen Parties since 2010, and so I’ve picked up a lot of roaring twenties decor ideas on my travels to many a vintage hen party and vintage wedding. Here are some of my favourites that don’t cost the earth.
1. Choose decadent colour schemes and pattern for 1920s decor
I take my inspiration here from Neile Wright’s annual Vintage Tea Dance at the Rising Sun Arts Centre in Reading. The building is painted in dark colours, so decadent schemes work particularly well for that venue.
So many people adopt a pastelly, shabby chic look when they do ‘vintage’. Personally I’m not a fan, especially for 1920s. Neile creates a far more interesting look with dark coloured and patterned cloths on her tables contrasted with lace, and bright silks behind the bar. You’ll create a 1920s artist’s salon feel, as if you’re at someone’s home in an elaborate and lushly decorated house.
- Collect tablecloths from charity shops with florals on a dark background, interesting patterns and motifs (Neile has one with fans on), tassles and even some gold an silver embroidery. They don’t need to match. It’s hard to show the effect you get across lots of tables with just a few pictures, but in an old building it looks great.
- Collect shiny fabrics to drape in an area with lots of light.
- Collect little lace cloths, such as those that our grandparents from the 40s and 50s used to use on top of their dressing table. These are great on a naked table, or on top of another cloth for contrast.
2. Painted backdrops with a 1920s Charleston theme
If you have a creative member of the family or friend, why not copy and scale up 1920s dancing postcards and paint backdrops. Simply the colours into large planes of colour, leave out the detail. One of those shown before is a particularly art deco looking one, reallly stylish. The other is an English style Charleston cartoon. Both are great fun.
3. Stand oriental fans and paper parasols in window frames
Neile has combined this with trailing fairy lights to create a lovely effect behind the band. 1920s egyptomania was the influence of ancient Egypt on fashion and Art Deco style after the discovery of King Tutenkhamen’s tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter. Orientalism was also a big fashion influence. See the photo of the giant fan in the flapper style illustration below and the oriental silk robe.
4. Collect vintage artefacts as decorations for side tables and windowsills
Hang on, Shimmy-lin, I hear you say – isn’t that expensive? The gramophone is the luxury item here. You can pick up a 1930s one like the one above for about £85 – in my opinion, something like that is worth spending a little extra on, as you can play a few records during the day at your wedding when guests are milling about and get years of fun playing with it after. If you want to play the gramophone, don’t forget to buy packets of medium or loud play needles depending on how big your party room is. The records can be bought in charity shops or online for £2 – £10 depending on how good the music is. The records make great decor in themselves and a talking point for your guests.
You can pick up Home Chat 1920s – 1930s magazines for an affordable amount, £5 – £10, and it’s fun for guests to browse through the articles on women’s beauty and adverts for clothing and home products!
Other things you can use on side tables that can be found very cheaply in bric a brac stalls and antique and vintage shops would be:
- Beaded lampshades
- Vintage photoframes from a charity shop with a vintage photo inside (use reproductions of old postcards, or or stars of stage and screen, old photos you’ve found online, or something from the family photo album is a lovely touch for a family party or wedding, if you’re lucky enough to have some old black and white photos from the 20s or 30s.
- Vintage glassware
- little vases, glass or metal
- a vintage clock
- an art deco bottle opener like the one pictured here
5. Other homemade 1920s decor – decadent 1920s bunting and art deco motifs
Bunting isn’t usually suitable decor for a 1920s party. Pretty, floral bunting suits a later era of vintage wedding or hen do tea party. However, I had an idea to make Neile some decadent 1920s bunting that was gold and chiffony and dark and lacy, to go with her decor and the feel of the vintage tea dance.
- I used black cotton tape instead of a light colour. For fabric, I cut up past-it dresses that had a chiffon or lace overlay, no longer wearable as they had stains on.
- I cut up an old tablecloth with sturdy string lace on that was too stained to use. I’m sure my grandma used to have it on a dresser in her house, but it had been hiding in a garage getting damp in an old suitcase. I cut out all the lace motifs. Some people said that they look a bit like knickers, but at least that’s a talking point! I had some red shiny fabric and bought a few sequinned motifs from my local fabric shop and bits of lace, and sewed them on.
It depends how smart your party or wedding is, but Neile has simply used black card or sugar paper to create this art deco motif above a doorway and I think it looks great.
I think you could use these ideas from the tea dance for an unconventional dry hire wedding in a venue that’s a little past it’s best, a little down at heel, to great effect. Or at your 1920s house party.
Lastly, a couple of ideas from other events:
6. Tall feathers in vases
This idea was from a 1920s company Christmas party that we sent dancers to. They’ve chosen white fluffy feathers, but you could go for black and white, or black, purple and peacock feathers, or any colour scheme you wish.
I like their touch of naming the tables after of stars of stage and screen from the era, a great idea for a vintage wedding or evening party alike.
7. Have a 1920s dressing up table
Great for an evening party or hen party. Include fascinators, spare feathers, long beads, beaded headdresses, turbans, cloche hats, trilbys and top hats for the gents, or 1920s floppy golfer boy caps. 1920s flappers and floppers, heh heh… See our dressing up table at one of the hen parties above.
Best dressed contest
Neile always has a number of prizes on a table for the best dressed at the party out on a table, which are picked up second hand, little bits of vintage jewellry, vintage sets of playing cards, compact mirror, vintage binoculars… These are then awarded at the end of the party for the best dressed guests.
8. Novelty items – 1920s cake toppers
I’m not into buying novelty decor items from fancy dress and party suppliers usually, as they tend to be tacky, but I like these Charleston dancer cupcake toppers from a 1920s themed 21st birthday party that we sent our dancers to. I’m sure you could fine them online, or make your own…
9. Black and white colour scheme
Black and white can work well for 1920s theme, especially if you want a smarter and more clean cut look. As demonstrated by the photobooth that we ran at a 1920s 21st birthday party. This lovely family party even had a black and white dance floor.