Our love of fashion, Disney, and Parks nostalgia all come together in perfect harmony with a relatively new but very welcome tradition called Dapper Day. The brain child of Justin Jorgensen, Dapper Day is a twice-yearly event at Disney Parks wherein guests are encouraged to look their best, in whatever vintage tradition happens to be their cup of tea. Attendees aren’t limited to a single period to draw inspiration from, but rather are encouraged to let the various retro designs of the Parks inspire their attire. After all, what could be more fun than roaming Tomorrowland in a mod 1960s cocktail dress, or waltzing down Main Street USA in a 1950s prom-style outfit. The only rule is to be chic, stylish, well-coiffed, intentional–dapper.
The beauty of the Park’s design is what first made Jorgensen arrive at his idea for the event. “In the late 90’s when I was consulting for Imagineering I was seeing all that great old concept art and I thought it was funny how everything in the illustrations became real–except for the way the guests appeared. I remember telling a friend it’d be great if for just one day everyone really dressed up when they went to the park so the whole vision would be made real.”
Knowing that there were plenty of folks out there like his friends and himself who would enjoy getting all decked out for a day in the Park, Jorgensen finally went for it in true Disney fashion. “There needs to be a day for people who enjoy fashion and dressing to be able to visit Disneyland and not feel out of place. So I put Dapper Day in high gear and with only a couple weeks notice I organized the first event in Feb 2011.”
The first Dapper Day in 2011 got impressive results, with over 100 attendees at the Disneyland event. However, as Jorgensen’s pictures from the event spread across the Internet, he began hearing from more and more potential Dapper Day enthusiasts who wanted in on the fun. “They wanted to do it again the next week! So I thought okay, I’ll do a fall event, and because it could be hot in September I’ll position it as an evening event. And that worked well so then we’d have a “spring” all-day event, and a “fall” evening event. Which nicely mirrored the fashion concepts of day and night looks and fall and spring collections.”
Jorgensen’s careful planning, coupled with his correct hunch that Disney Parks fans with a penchant for fashion would appreciate such a day, has resulted in growing attendance with each passing year: “The Fall 2011 Disneyland event had about 500 people, then for Spring 2012 about 1,200, then 4,500 for Fall 2012, and then Spring 2013 was just crazy huge with probably over 10,000.”
If you haven’t attended Dapper Day, Jorgensen describes it as the absolute best day to visit the Parks. Like going through one of Bert’s chalk drawings in Mary Poppins, adding style to the Park experience is like making the make-believe vision for each land real. “The guests become the show. Strangers will talk to each other and the park becomes one big cocktail party–but with Dole Whip and churros instead of martinis.” Jorgensen describes.
There are no hard and fast rules for Dapper Day. The official site best sums up the guidelines: “Dapper Day Events at Disney Parks are your chance to enjoy your favorite rides and attractions while looking your best. All sophisticated fashions, from vintage-inspired to contemporary chic, are encouraged.” Bow ties, suspenders, and grandmother’s pearls abound. It’s your chance to try out that retro, floral print dress you’ve had in your closet forever but never had occasion to wear–while in a setting that can match it for charm.
Dappy Day Weekend, Spring 2014 (February 22-23) should prove to be Jorgensen’s biggest outing yet. Be sure to check the official Dapper Day site for all the details on this season’s gatherings and events at both parks, and check back here for more Dapper Day news and outfit inspiration.