Art Deco 2016 (Part 2: The Festivities)

Its hard to know where to start; I had a full week of Art Deco Festival and every day was amazing. I find the best bits are usually those which were entirely unplanned; sitting on the beach in the small hours drinking rum (well I had wine), dancing in the Soundshell under the nearly full moon after the festival was over, participating in hopping races and other moments of spontaneous frivolity.

But perhaps the best way to write this is day by day, so here goes!


After my exploits in the morning visiting the gannet colony (read about it here) I was pretty worn out so I skipped lunch in favour of a nap and just managed to get myself presentable in time for a group photo for the Dominion Post – definitely a promising start to Deco! Read the full article here.

Photo Credit: Eva Bradley for the Dominion Post (Published Thursday 18.02.16)
Photo Credit: Eva Bradley for the Dominion Post (Published Thursday 18.02.16)

I wore my reworked 1925 dress, and as you can see we had great fun – although organising us was compared to herding cats.

With the photo shoot over I met one of my room mates for the week at the bus station and we then prepared for the evening soiree. I wore a kimono and an original 1930s nightdress, it was a first for me at Deco – nothing I wore that night was made by me!


A slow start after a late night.

I was joined by my partner in crime (Emma) mid morning; and success – the two dresses I made her fit perfectly!


We spent the day wandering around Napier, at that point it was still fairly empty – just another small NZ town on a sunny day. We were already in full Deco dress, but we were still in the minority.

Emma having her shoes shined
The three flatties for the week!

Some op shopping and a walk out to the new pier were in order before getting ready for the evenings event – Leisurely Lounging at the Hawkes Bay Club. I wore another original nightgown – this time with the Oriental Kimono I made last year. Well I always think its a mark of a good night if the photos are few – means we were too busy having fun to stop and pose… And we sure did have great fun!


Breakfast at Cafe Devine followed by a beach picnic!

Despite its long beach sweeping all the way around to Cape Kidnappers, Napier’s marine parade is actually no good for swimming. The combination of sharp drop off and unpredictable waves makes for a lethal dip. Luckily around by the port is a sheltered bay, so I got my first ever swim over Art Deco – 4th year lucky!

Emma and I testing the water, photo thanks to Colin and Judy

Emma and I took a moment to snap some photos of her new dress, as my first ever garment made entirely without fitting and with measurements taken over Skype I’m rather thrilled with the fit!

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Just in case swimming and eating and posing wasn’t enough for one beach picnic, races were organised as well! Nothing like spontaneous piggy back racing to get everyone laughing.

Friday night there is always dancing at the Soundshell, and this year was no exception, we spent the night flitting between that and a very special birthday party.

Emma wore one of my dresses and it looks better on her than it ever did on me. I had a play with exposures on the camera at night while she twirled and the results are a little bit magic!

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This dress was actually a mock up, but it went so well I ended up finishing it properly with piping and fringing.


I was up bright and early and dressed in breeches ready for the Bicycle Belles event, a leisurely ride around the bay from the Soundshell to Ahuriri and back. To add to the novelty I was riding on the back of an unrestored tandem bike! It was wonderful! I couldn’t touch the ground, the handlebars wobbled in directions unrelated to the way the bike was heading and occasionally the chain made a scary graunchy noise. But that was just added fun! The ride is flat, but when no gears are used even flat can seem deceptively hard work. My leg muscles were aching by the end – but it was well worth it. I’m not the worlds most confident cyclist – but on the tandem I was happily cycling along with no hands while Dave worried about navigating! If you ever get the chance to play on the back of a tandem – take it!

Photo thanks to Estelle

From cycling I had another rush change (this seems to be a theme of this years Deco – I was always rushing to change; rushing to the next engagement) this time I needed to be dressed for the car parade and costume comp. I was ever so lucky to be invited to ride in a open top 1929 Ford Model A Phaeton and it was such a thrill to be in the parade for the first time. The massive grin on my face in the photo below was impossible to remove the whole length of the parade!

In the car parade – thanks so much Hannah for the invite and Grant for the photo!

Gosh, Saturday really was busy! And ever so HOT!

Next was the costume competition, for the first year ever I had two dresses entered, and also for the first time they didn’t place – but who cares? we got to walk the catwalk! Glory Days Magazine were organising the event this year and they did a brilliant job. The catwalk was a wonderful addition – giving the crowd a chance to see the outfits up close and making us ‘models’ feel like the real thing!

Photo thanks to Fran Henricksen and Glory Days Magazine
Photo thanks to Fran Henricksen and Glory Days Magazine


This was the day that I snuck back to the room for a nap before dressing for the evening. I wore my hand beaded dress and danced away the night at the sound shell. The music wasn’t as swing-y as most years, but we still got some Charleston, Lindy and Balboa in. I also learnt to cossack dance! (The benefits of spending time with Russian re-enactors.) Well by 11ish the band had packed up, the Soundshell had emptied, and wobbly, worn out folks were meandering bed-wards. But a handful of us weren’t ready for the night to end and instead headed down to the pebbly beach with the end of a bottle of wine and a hipflask of rum.

These are the moments which I really treasure at Deco, the unplanned, unstressed moments of absolute peace and happiness. How can you not be happy sitting on a beach till 2am having interesting discussions with brand new friends?


Sunday dawned earlier than I would have liked, the combination of late night drinkies and cycling left me a wee bit achey! But we had a Hydrangea Palace to help set up! I was eager to be of assistance, but in truth hadn’t had time to help much with the planning. The Palace was made of Gazebos hung with chiffon drapes which billowed in the breeze, and were surrounded by pots of hydrangea blooms. Everyone in this tent for the Gatsby Picnic was dressed in shades of hydrangea silks. I didn’t have anything quite exactly fitting that description (there’s only so many outfits I can make!) so I made do with my old favourites the beach pyjamas.

Photo thanks to Claire of Glory Days Magazine

It was a long day hiding from the harsh sun, but filled with so many lovely people! There was more dancing, more gin, and more photos, all the things you expect of the Gatsby picnic day! But I always find the Sunday a little sad, by mid afternoon the numbers are thinning, as the tents and gazebos are packed down Napier seems to sigh and return to being a little town – worn out by hosting a nearly week long party. The central streets open back up to cars after days of being pedestrianised, and where once there were bustling crowds of dapper gents and bright young things, now the streets are empty.

But for those of us who have the time, and who don’t want Deco to end, wait! There’s more!

Sunday evening we were booked into a brand new event Deco Farewell BBQ. While it turned out to be a poorly organised fiasco, it was still better than heading home! We were dressed up and with friends, so really what more do you need?

This was the night I finally got to wear my Bias Cut 1931 Dress and good lord am I happy with how it turned out! These photos are just taken on a phone, by this time I had grown tired of dragging around the fancy camera, but even so Napier and this dress both look fantastic!


The BBQ finished with tears and arguments but it was lovely how everyone banded together in support of each other against a common enemy – a closed bar (closed early) and a lack of food! You know you’ve met the right people when they stand up for each other!

There was no band playing at the Soundshell that night, for almost everyone Deco was over. But the handful of swing dancers remaining knew how to make their own fun. We wandered over to the Soundshell where they were set up with a portable speaker, dancing on the stage as the moon rose. In bare feet I joined in – the dress swirled around my feet delightfully and it felt as though I were gliding through the steps. There were small groups of people wandering past who stopped for a while to watch before continuing on – some still in Deco dress, some in the more typical kiwi attire of jandals and shorts. I felt I could have danced all night, but these things can never last forever.

A final bike ride (on the crossbar of course!), a final cider, and bed (except I was locked out).

Until next time Napier x



5 thoughts on “Art Deco 2016 (Part 2: The Festivities)

  1. Thank you for that wonderful description of the AD week! That really does tie together all the posts I’ve seen. And that Bias cut dress is truly amazing.


  2. I absolutely adore every single one of your outfits – and everyone elses! It is so wonderful to see so many people dressed up, I hope I make it to Napier one day! I’m so excited to have found your blog 🙂

    Deco Darling


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