The world may or may not be ending in 2012, but it can certainly seem like it’s going backwards. This weekend, for instance, we visited Governors Island for a Jazz-Age Lawn Party. Visitors, bedecked in 1920′s attire (to varying degrees of authenticity), danced to a live band, shopped for vintage clothing, and admired historic cars. The event has rapidly grown since its launch three years ago from a small party to a weekend-long soiree with hundreds of attendees.
Meanwhile, up the street from our office in Soho, Banana Republic is promoting a collection inspired by the 1960′s styles of Mad Men. The company teamed up with Janie Bryant, the show’s costume designer, to develop a line of men’s and women’s wear, featuring period-appropriate items such as knitted vests, dolman cardigans, and accessories like money clips and scarves.
Mad Men’s success has also spurred the development of other shows set in the same time period, including ABC’s Pan Am and NBC’s The Playboy Club—not too shabby for a show that’s not even on the air currently and boasts just 2.9 million viewers.
We can’t imagine Lawn Party attendees truly long for the days of Prohibition—especially since the event was sponsored by two alcohol brands—or that the women wearing Mad Men outfits to work think their place is in the home. (In fact, we are skeptical that either group would give up their smartphones to go back even 10 years in time.) So what’s causing this intense interest in these earlier eras? Just like we tend to gloss over negative events in our memories, recreating these decades lets people celebrate the highlights while ignoring the less savory aspects of the time period. This carefree past is especially sought-after in the tumultuous and economically uncertain present.
Also, who doesn’t love wearing hats?