This past Friday at Disneyland, your average park goer looked a whole lot swankier than normal. That’s because more than 20,000 guests attended Disneyland dressed in their formal finery as part of Dapper Day, an event that happens twice a year at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disneyland Paris. It’s an independent event, organized and sponsored by outside affiliates (including the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco), that encourages Disney enthusiasts to come to the park dressed to the nines. It’s a fascinating event and something that gives off the feeling of stepping into a time machine, to a period when poodle skirts and pleated pants were more commonly seen in the park than Bermuda shorts and tennis shoes.
The premise for Dapper Day is simple: just wear sophisticated clothing. Most of this means clothing from a specific time period (post-war to the late 1950s) but can really mean anything, so long as it’s spiffy and pressed. While the official website for the event states that out-and-out costumes are “better suited for other events,” there was a lot of interesting skirting around this issue, with period “Disney bound” outfits popping up everywhere. (Our favorite was the group dressed as old-timey Avengers.) Certifiably vintage outfits were the most eye-popping looks at Dapper Day, but there were also a lot of homemade ensembles that proved just as dazzling. (Below is a gallery courtesy of Disney Style.)
And if you didn’t already have an outfit, the two-day Dapper Day Expo, held at the historic Disneyland Hotel, offered up a whole bunch of opportunities to find that perfect old school look. The Expo was like a mini-D23 Expo, with individual booth set up for whatever you needed (including booths that specifically sold hats, gloves, and other accessories). One booth even promoted a line of skirts embroidered with designs from legendary Disney artist Mary Blair (responsible for much of the look of Sleeping Beauty and the mural inside the Contemporary Resort in Florida). There was a terrific photo opportunity set up and exclusive merchandise (some of which was designed by Disney product designers). If you are a Disney fan who loves looking to the past for inspiration as to how you dress today, you were probably in heaven.
Over in Disneyland, there were a number of impromptu meet-ups, including one at the Mark Twain Riverboat. That event ended up being more crowded than originally anticipated so there were several Dapper-affiliated boat trips throughout the afternoon. (It’s here that we’ll mention the commitment to the Dapper community to their aesthetic; on Friday it peaked around 90 and if you were, like us, wearing more than one layer, it felt significantly hotter. Still: nobody complained and everybody looked great.) On Saturday, there was the first-ever Dapper Day car show at the Disneyland Hotel. And it wasn’t just Disneyland that provided an amazing backdrop for all your Dapper Day finery; we noticed many Dapper Day participants in Disney California Adventure, where Paradise Pier, Carsland and (in particular) Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Land, were flooded with dashing gentlemen and ladies. When we ate at Carthay Circle on Friday night, it was almost completely full of Dapper Day enthusiasts, which only added to the restaurant’s charmingly sophisticated old school appeal.
That’s what we mostly took away from Dapper Day: the sensation that you had become unstuck in time. It was like visiting the park long ago, perhaps during one of the incredible “Date Nite at Disneyland” soirées (where the park would be open until one a.m. and flyers would advertise “moonlite dancing aboard the Mark Twain riverboat!”) Everything felt more sophisticated and even though the park was incredibly full, it felt more leisurely paced. You could tell that people were there, not to stand in line for their favorite attraction, but to walk around and be seen (and to see other people). There was an enormous amount of positivity flowing at Disneyland, with many guests trading comments about how fabulous they looked. When you rode a classic attraction like the retro-futuristic monorail to Tomorrowland, surrounded by sophisticated vintage attire, it was positively eerie. Even more so than the actual 60th anniversary of Disneyland this past July, when the park encouraged guests to wear their best 1955-inspired outfits, this felt like taking a trip into yesterday. And my what a trip it was. In the next few weeks, Dapper Days are being planned for Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris and if you have the opportunity, put on your finest duds and try and attend. Even if you’ve been to the parks a thousand times, we promise you that you’ve never been to them like this. We can’t wait to go back next spring.