Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dizzy With A Dame: The Ladies of Boardwalk Empire and the Celebration of Repeal Day

Lovely female cast of "Boardwalk Empire" photo via Vanity Fair

I hate to admit that I've developed a bit of an interest in a television show that is, besides "Hoarders", which not only serves as casual lessons on how to do cognitive-behavioral therapy, but also functions as a back-up plan in case my father continues to collect antique blowtorches (He's at 200+). I started watching "Boardwalk Empire" while enjoying cable TV during a house sitting gig, primarily because the owner of said house had set some sort of recording device and I was unable to change the channel. The series has become increasingly popular from the formulaic standpoint of soap opera plot lines that appeal to both genders, the exquisite costumes, politically incorrect dialogue, a sprinkling of authentic slang, and the lionization of nostalgia that seems to equal hit TV show. Oh, and there also appears to be a contractual obligation to show off Paz de la Huerta's juggies and honey badger every episode. Jus'sayin'.

The Crusaders

The show begins on the night of January 15th, 1920 wherein Prohibition will go into effect at Midnight, and most residents of Atlantic City are engaged in a celebratory mourning of their exiled friend Alcohol. This includes people running around the boardwalk with baby carriages filled with bottles of booze, and a bash in which the viewer is introduced to the city's Treasurer and unspoken ruler of Atlantic City, Nucky Thompson, played by an actor who certainly deserves his dues, Steve Buscemi. The show is visually lovely and historically apt, however it is a little hard to drink the Kool-Aid in considering Buscemi a sex symbol...trust me once you see him humping away on de la Huerta the first thought is sure to be, "That's the dude from Trees Lounge" not a aural cue for Blondie from "American Gigolo".

The show, as stated previously, deals directly with the effects that Prohibition have on Atlantic City, and consequently, Nucky's rise in both political and gangland power over the its residents. Certain elements of side plot lines explore the birth and popularity of the KKK, the haunting aftermath of WWI veterans coming home physically and psychologically broken, issues of hidden homosexuality, and a turning point in history regarding women's political power in the form of the 19th Amendment as well. The viewer experiences a deja vu, in many respects, of a past world that is not unlike our own current age, in which xenophobic political parties vie for power, returning soldiers articulate a growing concern for PTSD, and women stand idle while their rights are whittled away by an unchanging amount of white dudes still in power. 1920 vs. 2010? Well, we have teenage fashion bloggers.

Repeal Day Celebration 1933, Chicago

One of the aspects that separates "Boardwalk Empire" from other historically-driven television series, such as say "Mad Men", is this relationship to the modern era and the similarity to our own economic crisis and looming militarism. The original Presidential candidate for "change", Franklin Roosevelt, ran on the "New Deal" ticket that would not only catapult the United States out of the Great Depression through (one economic sector) the reinstatement of alcohol manufacturing and distribution, but also drive a stake into the criminal underworld that had profited for over a decade on the illegal sale of this gut rot. On December 5th, 1933 prohibition ended thus leaving "Boardwalk Empire" with at least 12 more potential seasons of bootlegging, murder, betrayal, snitching, goons, and 9 years until the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Beautiful Twists: Margaret Schroeder and Lucy Danzinger of "Boardwalk Empire"

By the end of 1930 the majority of Americans had subsequently been effected by the Great Depression with fashion becoming increasingly influenced by a more serious and Conservative approach; rather than the light-hearted gaiety of the Roaring Twenties. Hemlines returned to ankle-length along with natural waistlines that emphasized a more "womanly" figure, in contrast to the androgynous silhouette of the 20s, and "Gone With The Wind" being credited by Vogue as the most influential film for fashion during this time period. While the female characters of "Mad Men" may have impacted the ladylike Fall '10 season, as seen most editorialized at Prada and Louis Vuitton, the diaphanous chiffon, calf-length skirts, and transparent garb that permeated the Spring '11 runways. Mark my blog, by next year we'll all be swimming in a sea of waistless beaded dresses, t-strap heels, and cloche hats. Oh wait...that was the November Anthropologie catalogue....

Fashions of 1933 (L) and vintage black velvet dress with lace bird detail (R)

To celebrate Repeal Day my guy took me out to Encore Lounge, which shoulders the Hotel Allegro (then called the Bismarck) the site of the first legal beer tapped in Chicago! The five course German-themed meal included Bavarian Pretzels with Dusseldorf Mustard, German Potato Salad, German Lentil Stew, Breaded Pork Chop with vegetables, and a lovely German Chocolate Cake. All during Hanukkah, I know! Each of the courses was paired with a special beer including one made specifically for the celebration entitled, "The Bismarck", which was a Munich Dunkel Rye. Don't ask me what that means. I don't drink beer. Instead I got Micky Finned by some delightful martinis and Beef Tenderloin mini sandwiches.
I was slightly overdressed, but when else am I going to break out the gown except when we get discount tickets to the Lyric Opera. The dress was purchased during a past life from Antique Dress who has one of the best vintage websites around...sure some of the items are completely bananas, but the woman who runs it borders on OCD information regarding each piece and has layaway. It's like the Burlington Coat Factory for vintage clothing!

Close-up of vintage pearl clutch

The entire experience was aces, and I highly recommend Encore Lounge for an ingenious balance between the modern and retro without the pretense of other downtown establishments. My guy and I walked towards the train swearing that we could make this place a haunt of ours, and I hear the manager is a real dapper fella! To repeal day, to a fancy new show on the telly, and to the fashions of a bygone era...



  1. I had never heard of Boardwalk Empire. I'll have to check it out. :) Your dress and clutch are both awesome! And the 5 course meal sounds amazing. Cheers to Repeal Day!

  2. mmmm love historical themed tv shows, my fave was carnivale i am so bummed it was cancelled. I haven't heard of this one though i'm hoping i can download it as aussie tv is really crap. The pic 'fashions of 1933' is amazing... i am so coveting all of those dresses. There's alot to be said for covering up a bit it's more sexy than wearing a short skirt most of the time. I am so glad you wore your velvet dress to the dinner. I am in the habit of overdressing as well. Australians are soooooooo casual dressing and I am always lacking opportunities to wear amazing stuff so this year i promised myself that I would wear whatever I wanted and not worry about what everyone else was wearing. hahaha! evil laugh .... I also love ur tattoos I have a big rolling stones tongue on my arm and it's always tricky to coordinate with outfits but you've done it perfectly. The dinner sounds sooooo good I am a huge beer drinker and they all sound delish!! ur man sounds like a keeper :)

  3. I love that show, too and also noticed that Lucy's boobs were in close-up all the time...
    I sorta can't handle watching hoarders honestly. I get too upset at how rude and blaming most of the hoarders become with those trying to help.