Have you ever been tricked – just plain and simple – tricked? A violation of trust is ugly in any form. Look at these words: scam, bogus, fraud, swindle, phishing, fraudulent, con, hustle. Not a single one of those reminders of trickery is pretty.
I grew up hearing, “All that glitters is not gold.” Shakespeare is the best-known writer to have expressed the idea that shiny things aren’t necessarily precious things. This can be applied to the people, places, or things that promise to be more than they really are. It seems like not everything that looks precious or true turns out to be so. But I do sometimes like the “bling” of costume (fake) jewelry without the investment that fine jewelry requires! I especially like old pieces. 1920’s old.
Jewelry: The All-important Wardrobe Accessory
By the mid-1920s, costume jewelry had gained respect, thanks in large part to Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli. They designed and promoted jewelry which was created from imitation stones and plastic. They used it to accessorize the clothing they designed, and because of their use of it, costume pieces became not only acceptable but highly desirable.
For this reason, everything that glittered, swayed or dangled captured the imagination in the era of the Roaring Twenties. Vibrantly-colored glass stones and beads, and the shimmering diamante and marcasites were convincing lookalikes for precious gemstones and metals used in the creation of fine jewelry.
Art Deco Style
The first two years of the 1920s marked the beginning of the Art Deco style. Its distinction was reflected in geometric shapes and clean lines with strong color contrasts and in motifs such as airplanes and gazelles which denoted speed. The discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb on November 4, 1922, had an enormous impact on costume jewelry design. Scarabs, hieroglyphics, and pharaohs — everything Egyptian — all were the rage.
The totally essentialstrand of pearls in varying lengths added even more flair to a feminine outfit. If the pearls ended in a tassel, all the better! And lariat necklaces often swung down at the back of a woman’s dress. Large gemstone brooches were a must: they could perch on the shoulder of a dress, a jacket lapel, or be applied to belts. Often they were placed at hip level or used to embellish French cloche hats. Bracelets, bangles, and sparkling filigree rings, too — all icons of the roaring 20s — were layered in multiples to adorn bare arms and hands.
Fashion Silhouette and The Free Spirit of The 1920s
The slinky, long, straightened and flattened silhouette, known as the garçonne look, took hold in women’s fashion around 1924. The look became synonymous with the flapper.
Trousers for day wear became an emblem of the emancipated woman.
For a night on the town, the ladies donned sleeveless tunics, cut low in the back. Slits in the skirt allowed for plenty of movement. That helps when dancing the Charleston. It wasthe Jazz Age, after all! And the emphasis was definitelyon movement in the Roaring Twenties.
The Speakeasy and Prohibition
If your night on the townwas to include alcohol, the nightclub-type-of-place was a speakeasy — also referred to as a blind pig.
By the terms of the Eighteen Amendment, the US went dry on January 17, 1920, banning the manufacture, transportation, and sale of intoxicating liquors. Thus, the period in American history known as Prohibition was born. Speakeasies popped up to provide illicit liquor to anyone willing to pay for it. Plenty were.
Speakeasies came to be so-named due to the practice of speaking quietly about such an establishment in public, for fear of alerting the police. Guess what! The main character in my upcoming novel had an occasion to go inside one:
Excerpt from Eastbound From Flagstaff
Toward the last block of Griswold, a cross-street turned into an alley. Jazz trumpeted through the narrow passageway straight ahead and ricocheted off the backs of tightly packed buildings. I tunneled between mortar and brick walls, walking at a good clip. The closer I got to the music, the faster I walked, keeping step with the beat until I reached the speakeasy and went in.
Smoke hung in the air. My eyes took several minutes to adjust to the dimly lit room. The crowd was crammed in, having a fine ol’ time. Patrons sat or milled about or danced in the tiny space toward the back of the room. Stubby candles dripped on the tabletops. A small chandelier hung in solitude from the low ceiling.
I elbowed my way through red-hot cigarette ashes that dotted the air like fireflies on a June night.
On the platform near the back of the room, a trombone, sax, and trumpet were blaring. Sweat streamed down the black faces of the trio of men who played them, their bodies rhythmic, their musical instruments gyrating. Off to the side, at a hopping upright piano, sat a woman whose dark hands danced with gusto across its ivory and ebony keys.
I loosened my tie and lit a cigarette and was letting the razzle-dazzle pump through my veins when I noticed a couple of young women nearby looking in my direction. One in particular caught my eye.
Without my having expected it, a sizable gal — her mighty cleavage squirming, her bracelet-covered wrists waving, her hips swaying — sashayed across the platform to the microphone. She took hold with both hands and began to belt out a song.
I felt the floor vibrate.
The young woman who’d been seated at the table stood up and sauntered toward me. I observed her as she came closer, her dress jiggling in all the right places. She nudged my chest with an alluring shoulder and gazed up at me. Her lips puckered, hinting that my cordial reception would be welcome.
I had no idea which direction to turn.
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Maybe you’ll want to read the book — a love story based on my father. It should be available before Christmas. Stay tuned!