Public Celebrations with Crepe Paper

The Dennison Gala Book of 1922 encouraged the creation of a unique world into which women, and some men, could escape. These saturated worlds were separate, enclosed sensory spaces intended to encourage fun and play. [1] At the same time, these settings were prime spaces for social competition, something that Dennison encouraged in its 1924 Christmas Book: “hostesses vie with one another to have each year prettier tables…[and] more original favors.”[2] The illustrations in these books indicate a fantasy play world for adults that often relied upon the potential romantic coupling between men and women.

Dennison’s Party Magazine cover, January and February 1927.

When men appeared in these instructional books, they were romantic foils,  complementary characters in costume.[3] These social spaces, described by Dennison, encouraged the idea that marriage was the ultimate goal, and that a party with a surprise announcement was one way to compete with female friends. Often, these announcements were revealed with Jack Horner pies, or a pie-shaped present that party-goers unwrapped together.[4]

There were features of these worlds that suggested a darker element, a merging of the domestic sphere with the modern space of the New Woman. In many instances, illustrations involving men and women suggested that men were looming over women’s shoulders, not as companions but as attractive yet shadowy figures. On covers of Dennison’s Party Magazine these men stood behind women or with their faces partially covered; it was only in the pages of costume descriptions that men were fully visible, though still in disguise.[5]

Dennison’s Party Magazine cover, July and August 1927.

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Pleasure or Labor?               Crepe Paper Costumes


[1]Gordon, Saturated World, 83.
[2]Dennison’s Christmas Book1924, 22.
[3]Dennison’sParties(name changed in 1929 from Dennison’s Party Magazine) Spring 4, no. 1, 1929, cover image, and Dennison’sParty Book’s 1922 cover.
[4]Gordon, Saturated World, 92.
[5]Dennison’sParties, 1929, 32-33 andParty Book, 1922, 1, and 22-23.