Designer Justin Jorgensen and friends launched Dapper Days as a dream-within-a-dream—or a dream-electroplating-a-dream. Harking back to the not-so-long-ago convention of dressing up for a day out (even at a theme park), Dapper Days are organized opportunities for Disneyland visitors to wear their very best.
Dapper Days have grown in scope and popularity every year. Held twice annually, in spring and autumn, the events now include discounted rates at resort hotels like Disneyland’s Grand Californian, lectures on fashion, books on style and etiquette, and pop-up shops where the discerning stylisto or stylista can purchase vintage dresses, suits, hats, eyeglasses, ties, suspenders, and costume jewelry.
The primary point of Dapper Days is for visitors to be fashionable and well-groomed, a goal primarily met by wearing vintage threads, accessories, and hairstyles. One can wear stylish contemporary clothes, but most participants skew vintage, sporting fashions of 1910 – 1960.
Dapper Days are a heady experience. In a space where oversized mice wear costumes and are beloved by millions, where one of the world’s largest train sets circles the park, where pirates still sack the Spanish Main, where a pixie soars eighty feet over a fairy tale castle, and where an elephant really flies, in the midst of a land already given over to fantasy and imagination, the influx of thousands of elegantly turned out visitors in period clothing introduces yet another level of the fantastic.
A young woman in a cloche hat and flowing Depression-era skirt evokes an image of early Nancy Drew. A man in top hat and vest strolls arm-in-arm with a woman twirling a parasol. A soldier in dress uniform is accompanied by a woman sporting red lipstick, a 1940’s pompadour, and 1940’s dress and heels.
There are older participants, but most are young, aged between twenty and thirty-five approximately, clear evidence, should any be required, of the younger generation’s fascination with history. There are solitary dappers, but most navigate the resort in pairs or packs.
They move as graciously as they have dressed, queuing politely in a monstrously long line to ride a riverboat by the hundreds. Once aboard, they stand at the rails of the riverboat, waving in a genteel, smiling manner to the visitors below as the riverboat glides along the shore. It is a grand dream image: Stylish young people of every era of the 1900’s, standing at the rails of
a majestic riverboat.
Justin Jorgensen and his colleagues are to be praised for introducing another layer of hallucinatory beauty to spaces already rich with fantasy and symbol. In such ways do designers, dreamers, and visionaries enrich the simulacra in which we increasingly exist.
If you missed Disneyland’s spring Dapper Day, mark your calendars for September 12, 2014. This is an event you must experience personally, your perceptions combining with the whimsical images to create a world of imagination that is all your own. (www.dapperday.com)