As The Great Gatsby hits, the ’20s are trending in H-Town.
Houston is ready to roar! Everything from home design and cocktail culture to art exhibits and fashion shows are turning up ’20s this spring. The Jazz Age is back, with help from the buzzed-about release of filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. With swanky parties, flowing drinks and flashy style, the spirit of the original “Me Decade” lives again.
While functions like the Pinstripes and Pearls fundraiser for an LGBT scholarship fund last month adopt flapper chic as a theme, and with ’20s-set Thoroughly Modern Millie having just wrapped at Miller Outdoor Theatre, new and classic restaurant-bar haunts also offer a taste of the era. River Oaks’ 30-year-old Backstreet Café (1103 Shepherd Dr., 713.521.2239), for its part, touts a patio under bright stars and hanging twinkle lights. On the menu is seasonal American cuisine, like pan-seared duck and thick-cut steaks of the caliber Mr. Gatsby would feed his guests. And, at the intimate bar inside, spirits guru Sean Beck serves up a brand-new drink called “The Fitzgerald.”
“Fitzgerald loved his gin, but he was known to be a lightweight,” says Beck. The gin and lemon concoction is basic and sweet with a kick, calling on the cocktails of yesteryear. “I make it with an Old Tom Gin. It makes it sweet and sour and takes the edge off.”
Meanwhile, new burlesque bar Prohibition (in the Galleria, 281.940.4636) is a speakeasy smash. Fast-paced mixologists move with precision as they toss together drinks of the bootleg-booze era, like a Victoriana Slapstick, made from gin, lemon and apricot brandy liqueur. Fire-breathing, fancy-free showgirls take the stage in the club’s “Moonlight Show” dinner experience.
For a sweet tooth, Midtown’s BlackFinn (1910 Bagby St., 713.651.9550) serves up a tangy pineapple upside-down carrot cake that nods to the chicness of the Islands in the 1920s. (The era saw a jolt of Hawaiian romance as hula skirts, tiki torches and pineapple cocktails made their way into the social scene.) BlackFinn cooks slap a heaping dollop of house-made cream-cheese whipped cream on top.
Montrose’s La Colombe d’Or boutique hotel (3410 Montrose Blvd., 713.942.1073), built in 1923, offers an authentic taste of the era: a posh resort-type experience in the middle of the increasingly bustling neighborhood. The Southern French architecture, rambling suites and darkly clubby bar harken back to the days the building was first erected, when it was the private home of one of Houston’s forefathers, Walter Fondren. “The country was booming at the time,” notes the property’s owner, Steve Zimmerman. “Everyone was partying.”
The hotel’s elegant and high-toned Restaurant Cinq, whose kitchen is newly under the direction of chef German Mosquera, features serious continental fare à la Escargots Bourguignon and filet mignon, as well as original creations such as braised octopus with avocado aioli and chorizo, and cast-iron-seared scallops with grapes and pomegranate vinaigrette. And its in-house art gallery touts prints by early 20th century masters Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. Just blocks away, by the way, the Museum of Fine Arts’ landmark Picasso Black and White exhibit runs through the end of this month.
Toast the trend with very same Champagne featured in the movie, Moët & Chandon (moet.com). The bubbly is widely available in town, including at all locations of The Tasting Room, where Moët sent reps from France earlier this spring to officially launch its 2004 vintage.
While knowing where to eat and drink like a flapper is handy, putting together the look is key. If readers get anything from Fitzgerald’s novel of lost love and posh parties, it’s that the party people knew how to dress.
No less a superstar than Miuccia Prada did the costumes for the film. Prada worked with costume designer Catherine Martin to re-create dresses covered with crystals, fringe and sequins, in shades of emerald, jade, topaz and gold. And for Leonardo DiCaprio’s impeccably dressed Jay Gatsby, Martin re-created actual suiting from the era from Brooks Brothers, dressing the mysterious millionaire in double-breasted tuxedos, crisp suits in shades of ivory, and cool shirts of apple green, lavender and salmon.
As early as last year, designers put out their own roaring revivals of ’20s fashion. Ralph Lauren, whose Galleria boutique is among his most successful, and who helped design costumes for the 1974 Gatsby adaptation with Robert Redford, was among them. Recall those short and loose dresses, wide leg trousers and creamy shades of white?
This year, Emilio Pucci designer Peter Dundas revisited the time period—as well as the 1974 movie, which meshed authentic Jazz Age style with disco chic—to create looks for the pre-fall 2013 line. Think geometric dresses and shorter hemlines, available at Neiman Marcus. Additional designs, like the Allegra dress from Parker, available at Nordstrom (in the Galleria), also shine and shimmer with brilliant beads, tassels and feather details.
Houston wedding boutiques have even cast their eyes to the bygone era. Highland Village bridal salon BHLDN (4056 Westheimer Rd.) carries classic gowns and accessories for a period-inspired wedding. Trimmed with pearly beads, the silk charmeuse Lita dress emulates original wedding pieces from the time.
Across the street, the Joan Pillow Bridal Salon (4001 Westheimer Rd.) offers Jenny Packham’s Azalea dress. The floor-length, ivory gown is a stunning re-creation of post-World War I elegance with a beaded finish and a V-neck front. “I think the 1920s have always had some draw for various designers,” says owner Joan Pillow. “It’s a very romantic look as well as comfortable due to the lack of structure.”
1920s lavishness also wouldn’t be complete without the jewelry that could be seen jangling from the wrists and twinkling from the ears of the thoroughly modern mavens who danced through Gatsby’s blue lawns. Tiffany & Co. (in the Galleria) has reintroduced many of its classic, era-specific pieces, including diamond-studded headbands, bracelets
Meanwhile, River Oaks-area antique jeweler Past Era (3433 W. Alabama St.) also features feted frippery from the time period—actual vintage pieces. Art deco diamond rings, emerald earrings and plaque pins are regularly on hand. Owner Marion Glober takes trips every few months back to her native England to treasure-hunt. “Pieces have recently become more desirable because of Gatsby,” she says. “But everyone loves that time period, because the jewelry is so beautiful with its strong colors and geometric shapes. They’re very architectural and industrial.”
For the well-appointed man looking to channel the vaunted era, Past Era touts mother-of-pearl cuff links. And a gentleman’s ensemble needs to be topped off with a smart-looking hat. Miller Hats (millerhats.com), an online hat company based in Northwest Houston for more than 30 years, carries custom-made headwear for men, similar to the fedoras and straw boaters seen in the new film.
Haute at Home
The good-life-loving trend is hitting home, too, as home shops offer both new and antique furnishings recalling the era. “Interior design often mimics fashion, and that was very apparent in the ’20s with the fondness for geometric shapes,” explains Houston interior designer Marie Flanigan. “The ’20s still make such an impact on home design.”
With an array of furniture pieces specific to the period, Kirby Antiques (2927 Ferndale Ave.) has everything from sleek buffets to wrought iron chandeliers straight from the era. Owners of the Upper Kirby store make trips to Europe, bringing back original pieces. Highland Village’s Mecox (3912 Westheimer Rd.) and another Upper Kirby antique establishment, Antique Pavilion (2311 Westheimer Rd.), also take cross-Atlantic trips—and advise art deco lovers to be vigilant and act fast as the never-hotter pieces are flying out of their shops.
For its part, new Arhaus (5000 Westheimer Rd.) carries fresh takes on classic pieces. Think new furnishings like deep leather armchairs, pin-striped table lamps and brass-based end tables, all with vintage ’20s flair. “Bold, dazzling dreams inspire any remarkable design,” adds Flanigan, “and, lucky for us, they never go out of style.”