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Gangster Fancy Dress Party Ideas

Gangster Fancy dress is becoming more and more popular. The ‘Roaring Twenties’ was the birth of cool as the jazz age came swingin’ into town, but Prohibition-era America is probably best known for its gangsters, especially Al ‘Scarface’ Capone and Lucky Luciano. They, and other gangsters of the time have been immortalised in many films and books over the years and this is probably one of the reasons why we have romanticised the period, whilst forgetting how brutal they could actually be.

During prohibition, gangsters realised there was a heavy demand for blackmarket alcohol, and many made their fortunes trading cases and bootlegging, often smuggling rum from the Caribbean, or bringing liquor over the border from Canada.  The government assigned a task-force of prohibition agents to chase down the runners, but more often than not they were badly trained and easily susceptible to corruption and bribery from gangsters.  Speakeasies were the hideouts provided by the gangsters where the normally law-abiding citizens could go to drink and socialise without fear of being admonished by the law.

The Gangster theme is something that has stayed with us since the Twenties and it is a time that seems to have been etched indelibly into our national psyche.  Although we know that gangsters were hardened criminals, and known to be extremely violent, as time goes by we see them more as loveable rogues, just living their life on the wrong side of the law. With many movies and books over the last few decades, the 1920’s is a place most of us would like to visit if we had a time machine.  A perfect example of this is the movie Bugsy Malone, and although all the characters are played by children, the actual plot is spot-on for the period, although of course the custard guns used by the children were a direct replacement for the murderous Tommy gun!

The gangster icons and characters of the period are still enduring, a Gangsters-and-Molls themed fancy dress party is one of the most popular choices for a fun evening.  The outfits are simple, but instantly recognisable, and gangster fancy dress is always a popular choice.

For the guys, you can’t go wrong with a grey pin-stripe suit or a zoot suit, fedora or flock hat, pencil tie and moustache and of course a pair of shiny shoes or spats. Throw in some essential accessories, like a big fat cigar and a spiv moustache and you can emulate your gangster heroes with ease. For the gals and gangster's molls, the classic, sexy ‘Flapper’ style dress, usually red or black is a good start, but accessorising with a headband with a feather, long pearl/bead necklaces and feather boa adds authenticity to the outfit. So that’s the costumes sorted, but you can’t leave it at that!  Below are some ideas you might consider, to make the evening more authentic, and ultimately, more fun.

Firstly, you should consider turning the party venue into a drinking den, or ‘speakeasy’; a place for your guests to escape the prohibition enforcement officers. Back in the day, a password was required for entry, so you should incorporate this in your invites. To make your den more believable, using moody, dim lighting is a good start, and keeping the colours as close to black and white as possible will help set the scene.  Playing silent movies in the background, or perhaps even some jazz from the era will also help to lend ambience.

Another idea you might consider is to host a Murder Mystery evening; assign your guests a character, choose the ‘murderer’ and then watch as they lie, blackmail and deceive the other guests on their way to a solution!  This is a great game for 8 or more people, and can generally be played within 2-3 hours.  It’s a great way to ensure all your guests interact with each other over the course of the evening, too!