Sunday, June 22, 2008

"The Middle West now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe"

"Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it?"

I personally don't, but Daisy Buchanan, the main female character in F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby always watched for the longest day of the year and missed it every year. This year, there was no way I could miss it because Kevin Doyle, our own history buff/literary enthusiast, decided to become Jay Gatsby for a night and host a spectacular solstice party, complete with 1920s costumes and prohibition-era cocktails.

Theme parties can be a bit of a gamble: you can never tell if people will actually embrace a theme or not. Doyle felt pretty confident with this party that at least five people would go all out: himself, me, Amanda, Dr. Mark, and Charlotte, all of whom are fans of the novel and enjoy playing dress-up. Much to our delight, every guest but one showed up in some form of a costume.

We picked Jordan Baker as our inspiration for the evening

Most impressive was how the boys stepped up to the plate. None of them went as far as Doyle (who donned a seersucker suit and a straw boater during the day but changed to a full tuxedo when darkness fell) but almost every man there had on some variation of the striped pants/bowtie/old-fashioned hat combination...and they all looked fantastic.

There are no bowties left in New London

Girls costumes are a little bit more elaborate, of course. The easiest thing to do is probably wear the fringed flapper dress commonly found in costume shops. And while that is a very fun costume, Amanda and I were going for a slightly different vibe, the Daisy Buchanan or Jordan Baker vibe - more society girl than flapper.

Mingling with costumes and cocktails

Well, thanks to Amanda's extensive googling, we were able to do it right. We ordered our dresses from Unique Vintage, which specializes in reproductions of vintage clothing. It's a little more expensive than buying the flapper costume, but these dresses are beautiful - good quality fabric, exquisite bead work, and if you follow the measurements on the sizing page, they fit really well. Accessories were collected through a couple trips to Peacock Feathers (the vintage store here in town) and Kohl's, of all places (which is actually where most of the guys bought their hats).

Finding headgear to go with a gold beaded dress took a little work. Amanda lucked out and found a great hat at Peacock Feathers, but while we saw a lot that were period-appropriate, none really matched my dress. I settled for making a sequined headband. One glue gun and a few cheap feathers later, I ended up pretty satisfied with the results.

I have to give mention to Dr. Mark's friend Charlotte for putting together a beautiful costume of mostly vintage pieces. Charlotte looked more like Daisy than any other other girl at the party. Her hair and makeup were perfect as well.

Doyle, Charlotte, and Mark

While we did not receive five crates of oranges and lemons from a fruiterer in New York (nor does Doyle have a juice machine in his kitchen) we did mix up some delicious prohibition-era cocktails and served them in fancy glasses. (We were almost sidelined by the fact that Doyle did not own a zester, but that problem was eventually solved.) One particularly delicious drink Amanda made was the Monkey Gland (weird name, I know) - a version of the recipe appears below:


  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1/4 oz grenadine
  • 1 dash absinthe
Shake the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, then strain into a martini glass. We garnished with maraschino cherries, but you could probably use an orange slice or peel as well.

It's pretty yummy. If you can't get absinthe, Pernod would probably work.

Of course, elaborate cocktails get to be kind of pain after a while, so after a couple we switched to gin and tonics or similar simple beverages.

As far as entertainment, Doyle set up a croquet set in his yard and we had bocce ball. He also downloaded some jazz-age music in case anyone knew the Charleston (no one did). But most of the enjoyment came from wearing awesome costumes, exclaiming over other people's awesome costumes, quoting lines from the book to the people who hadn't read it, and just enjoying the company in general.

I hope Doyle makes this party an annual event, because I will be watching for the longest day of the year from now on and I'll be very sad if I miss it now that I know how fun it can be!

Me and Amanda

Amanda, Kevin, Noe, me


Jennifer said...

Still waiting for Amy's top 10 (or 20) books to read.

Alison said...

That's such a cool idea. You're right, the theme party is a big risk. I tried it for Brad's 30th birthday, and it didn't work out so well -- and that didn't even require spending any money!

doyleke2 said...

"The east was haunted for me now. Distorted beyond my eyes power of correction. I had lost my capacity for wonder. We were all from the middle west: Tom and Gatsby, Daisy, Jordan, and I and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us inadaptable to eastern life."