Nestled along the scenic shores of Hawke's Bay, Napier in New Zealand becomes a time capsule every year during the much-awaited Art Deco Festival, the 2024 edition running from 15-18 February. This vibrant celebration takes visitors on a nostalgic journey to the Roaring Twenties and Thirties, an era of elegance, glamour, and exuberance.
Over four days, the festival takes over the streets, restaurants, cafes, bars, theatres, galleries, music venues and parks of Hawke’s Bay with hundreds of events to choose from. It’s a summer festival like no other! The festival brings to life the sights, sounds, and spirit of this bygone era, with a wide array of activities that transport attendees to a time of jazz, flapper dresses, and classic cars.
Dressed to Impress: Embracing the 1920s and 1930s Fashion
The Art Deco Festival is a visual feast of fashion, and women's attire from the 1920s and 1930s takes center stage. Attendees embrace the elegance and boldness of the era, with flapper dresses that are adorned with intricate beading, sequins, and fringe. These dresses typically feature dropped waists, short hemlines, and layered textures, capturing the spirit of rebellion and liberation that characterized the time.
Accessories play a crucial role in completing the look, with cloche hats perched at a stylish angle and long strings of pearls adding a touch of sophistication. Women often wear feathered headbands, carrying the signature style of the time.
Makeup and hairstyles reflect the evolving beauty standards of the era. Women sported dark, smoky eyes and bold lipstick shades, while hairstyles ranged from sleek bobs to intricate finger waves.
Men sport dapper suits with slim lapels and high-waisted trousers. Bowties and fedora hats are essential accessories, adding an air of sophistication to their appearance. The use of suspenders, pocket watches, and two-tone shoes further completes the look, allowing attendees to relive the golden age of men's fashion.
A Dazzling Affair: Dinners and Dances
At the heart of the Art Deco Festival are the elegant dinners and dances that recreate the opulence and sophistication of the 1920s and 1930s. The festival's opening night sets the tone with a series of grand dinners and dances that harken back to the glittering soirées of the Jazz Age. The Grand Ballroom, adorned with art deco motifs and glimmering chandeliers, becomes the focal point of the festivities. Attendees, both locals and tourists, arrive in exquisite attire, eager to immerse themselves in the allure of the past.
Dapper gentlemen in impeccably tailored suits escort their elegantly adorned partners onto the dance floor. The air is filled with the melodious strains of jazz music, as couples sway and twirl to the rhythm of a bygone era. The ambiance is electric, an enchanting blend of nostalgia and merriment that transports everyone back to a time when dance halls were the heart of social interaction.
Bathing Belle Beauty Contests: A Nod to Vintage Glamour
On the sun-drenched shores, a scene unfolds that pays homage to the carefree charm of seaside escapades from days gone by. The Bathing Belle beauty contest is a whimsical and delightful affair that captures the essence of the 1920s and 1930s. Contestants, adorned in vintage-inspired swimwear, channel the spirit of vintage seaside pageants. With parasols in hand and genuine smiles on their faces, they evoke the elegance and grace of a time when beach culture was at its peak.
As the contestants parade along the waterfront, they embody the spirit of the bathing belles who once graced the very same shores. Their confidence and poise are a testament to the enduring allure of an era that celebrated beauty in its many forms.
Concerts and Authentic Cars: A Symphony of Sights and Sounds
The festival's nights are alive with the soulful melodies of jazz music and the energetic tunes of swing bands. Open-air concerts fill the air with rhythms that set feet tapping and hearts racing. The music, a true reflection of the era's spirit, is a reminder of the integral role that music played in shaping the culture of the time.
Adding to the spectacle are the authentic cars that grace the streets, each a magnificent masterpiece of automotive design from the 1920s and 1930s. Gleaming in the sunlight, these vintage automobiles offer a glimpse into a time when craftsmanship and elegance were paramount. The car parade is a visual feast, a symphony of classic curves and polished chrome that adds another layer of authenticity to the festival experience.
A Timeless Experience: The Art Deco Festival’s Lasting Impact
The Art Deco Festival in Napier is a mesmerizing journey back in time, where the spirit of the 1920s and 1930s comes to life through a captivating array of activities. From enchanting dinners and dances to playful beauty contests and vintage car parades, the festival captures the essence of an era known for its glamour, elegance, and exuberance. Whether you are an avid Art Deco enthusiast, love the romance of a bygone era (and a good dress up) or simply want to kick back and have a great time with family and friends, this festival is the place to be. And one thing is guaranteed, you will be back for more.
NB All ladies in the photo's wear dresses from La Vie Delight.