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How to Dress for a Speakeasy Night in LA


Welcome to the glamorous world of speakeasies, where the echoes of the roaring twenties still resonate through the vibrant nightlife of Los Angeles. At Secret Fun Experiences, we're your guides to an era of hidden bars and secret cocktails, wrapped in an ambiance of mystery and style. Dressing the part is more than just an option—it’s your ticket to stepping back in time.

The Essence of Speakeasy Fashion

As you prepare to step through the concealed doors of LA’s most secretive venues, knowing how to dress can transform your night from ordinary to unforgettable. Speakeasy fashion is all about the dapper details and the flapper flair of the 1920s—a time when fashion was both a statement and a rebellion.

1. Understanding the 1920s Style

The 1920s were a pivotal decade for fashion, characterized by its distinct break from the more conservative styles of the past. For men, think sharp suits, waistcoats, and fedoras—a look that whispers confidence and charm. For women, the flapper dress reigns supreme, with its dropped waistlines, intricate beading, and fringe details that sway with every step you take on the dance floor.

Men’s Attire: The Dapper Gentleman

To truly embody the spirit of a 1920s gentleman, start with a tailored suit. Pinstripes are a classic choice, offering a nod to the quintessential gangster chic. Pair your suit with a crisp white shirt, a waistcoat, and a tie or bow tie. Don’t forget your fedora or a newsboy cap to complete the ensemble. Leather shoes, preferably Oxfords or brogues, will polish off your look with perfection.

Women’s Attire: Flapper Elegance

For the ladies, the flapper dress is your canvas to shine. Choose dresses with layers of fringe, sequins, or feathers—details that catch the light and create movement. Accessories are your best friends: a headband adorned with feathers and gems, t-strap heels, and statement jewelry like pearl necklaces or chandelier earrings will elevate your outfit. A beaded clutch for your essentials is not just practical but stylish.

2. Dress Code for Bars: Navigating Modern Requirements

While we revel in the historical charm of speakeasy attire, it’s essential to align it with the modern dress codes of bars in Los Angeles. Most speakeasies and hidden bars today appreciate smart casual to formal attire, so while a full 1920s getup is admired, it’s not always required. For a subtler approach, men can opt for dark jeans paired with a dress shirt and a vintage vest, while women can mix contemporary fashion with 1920s accessories.

3. Nightlife Attire Tips: Comfort Meets Style

Navigating the cobbled streets and hidden alleyways to LA’s speakeasies means your outfit should not only be stylish but also comfortable. Ladies, while high heels are dazzling, consider the venue's location and opt for shoes you can walk (and dance) in comfortably. Men, while layers add to the authenticity of your 1920s look, choose breathable fabrics to stay cool throughout the night.

4. Sourcing Your Speakeasy Wardrobe

Finding the perfect 1920s outfit might seem daunting, but Los Angeles offers a plethora of options from vintage stores to online boutiques that specialize in period attire.

Vintage Shops and Rentals

For those who want to go all out, vintage shops in LA, such as The Way We Wore and Playclothes, provide authentic pieces from the 1920s. If you're looking for a budget-friendly option or don't want to commit to a full purchase, consider rental services that offer genuine flapper dresses and dapper suits for your night out.

Online Boutiques

Online stores can be treasure troves for reproduction 1920s clothing that looks the part without the wear and tear of age. Websites like Unique Vintage and Wardrobe Shop offer beautifully crafted garments inspired by the era. Here, you can find everything from sequined dresses to the perfect bar accessories, ensuring your outfit is as stunning as it is authentic.

5. The Devil is in the Details: Accessorizing Your Outfit

The right accessories can transform your outfit from contemporary to timelessly chic, encapsulating the essence of the roaring twenties.

For the Gentlemen

  • Pocket Watches: A classic pocket watch not only serves as a practical accessory but also adds a touch of historical elegance.

  • Cufflinks and Tie Clips: Choose art deco designs to complement your outfit and add a hint of luxury.

  • Hat Choices: While the fedora is iconic, consider a bowler or a panama hat depending on your suit and personal style.

For the Ladies

  • Feather Boas and Shawls: These not only add to the flair of your outfit but also provide some warmth if the night gets chilly.

  • Art Deco Purses: Look for clutches with geometric designs and metallic finishes to hold your essentials.

  • Makeup and Hair: Opt for bold lipstick, dramatic eyeliner, and a hairstyle like finger waves or a chic bob to complete your look.

6. Nightlife Etiquette: Blending Old-World Charm with Modern Manners

Understanding speakeasy etiquette can enhance your experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the atmosphere without stepping out of bounds.

  • Speak Softly: Speakeasies were all about secrecy, so keep your voice down and avoid drawing unnecessary attention.

  • Understand the Bar’s Rules: Some speakeasies have unique rules, such as no photos or a password for entry. Respect these guidelines to enhance the authenticity of your experience.

  • Tipping: Tipping was as customary in the 1920s as it is today. Ensure you tip your bartenders and servers generously for the best service.

7. Embracing the Full Speakeasy Experience

A night out at a speakeasy isn’t just about dressing up; it’s about stepping into a world of history and culture.

  • Learn the Lingo: Familiarize yourself with some 1920s slang to truly get into character. Phrases like “bee’s knees” (excellent) and “cat’s pajamas” (also excellent) can add a fun twist to your conversations.

  • Choose the Right Company: Speakeasies were about enjoying intimate conversations and clandestine meetings. Invite friends who appreciate history and good cocktails to join you on this adventure.

8. Choosing the Right Venue

Selecting the right speakeasy is crucial to your experience. Los Angeles boasts a variety of hidden bars, each with its own unique ambiance and history. Do some research or check out our guide to LA's hidden bars to find a spot that suits your taste and attire. Whether it's a luxurious bar reminiscent of Hollywood's Golden Age or a more laid-back, jazz-infused spot, your choice of venue can significantly enhance your themed evening.

9. Transportation: Arrive in Style

To keep the spirit of the 1920s alive from start to finish, consider booking a vintage car for the evening. Services like Classic Limos offer antique vehicles that can transport you to your speakeasy destination in style, making your arrival part of the experience. Alternatively, for a modern twist, opt for a discreet rideshare to maintain the mystery of your destination.

10. Documenting Your Night

While maintaining the secrecy of the speakeasy's location and respecting any photography restrictions, consider documenting your attire and the non-restrictive parts of your evening. Capture the essence of your outfit and the general ambiance of the night for a memorable keepsake. If photography inside is permitted, a few tasteful snapshots can serve as a beautiful reminder of your journey back in time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What should I wear to a speakeasy if I don't own 1920s attire?

Look for modern clothes in your wardrobe that mimic the 1920s style. For men, a simple suit and tie can suffice when paired with a fedora. For women, a knee-length dress with some fringes or beads can work well. Accessorize appropriately to enhance the vintage feel.

Are there any specific colors or fabrics that are best for speakeasy attire?

Velvet, silk, and satin were popular in the 1920s for their luxe appearance. Dark, rich colors like maroon, emerald, and navy, or classic black, help create a suitable evening look. However, don't shy away from bold patterns or metallics that can add a dash of period-specific flair.

Can I wear modern footwear to a speakeasy?

While vintage shoes are ideal, modern footwear can also fit the bill if styled correctly. Women can opt for T-strap heels or anything with a vintage silhouette. Men should stick to classic leather shoes, such as wingtips or Oxfords, to maintain the old-school charm.

What are some common mistakes to avoid when dressing for a speakeasy?

Avoid overdoing it with too many accessories or wearing costumes that feel more like fancy dress than fashion. The aim is to evoke the spirit of the 1920s, not to look like you're attending a costume party. Aim for elegance and subtlety in your outfit choices.

Is it necessary to match with my partner for a speakeasy night?

While not necessary, coordinating outfits can enhance the overall aesthetic and make for wonderful photographs. Consider harmonizing elements of your outfits, such as matching colors or complementary styles, to visually connect your looks.

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