When a man dressed like he's from the Jazz Age talks about Orange Is the New Black on the Mark Twain Riverboat…well, doesn't that tell you all you need to know about Disneyland's awesome Dapper Day tradition? Add a young woman who resembles a 1950s Hollywood actress taking iPhone selfies to the mix and it becomes not just apparent, but clear.
This past Sunday, visitors showed up in cloche hats, World War II army wear, and full-on Audrey Hepburn getups, all to celebrate the art of being well-dressed (and most of the time, with a nostalgic twist). It's become such a part of the Disneyland landscape, that you're forgiven for not knowing it's a relatively recent phenomenon: Just since February 2011, each spring and fall, as well as unofficially on other days.
Teresa, a hostess at Ariel's Grotto who wears vintage-inspired clothing year-round, believes that "when people interpret 'dapper,' they make it their own. It's a whole different world you can explore."
Though not everyone is dressed up, it's clear that those who did have their own idea of applying "dapper" to their personal style. While some have committed to certain time periods, others are Disneybounding–that is, color-coordinating their dapper outfits to resemble Disney characters.
One group of girls Disneybounded as Alice in Wonderland characters, with one representing Alice in a blue dress and the rest representing the Queen of Hearts, Playing Cards, and White Rabbit in red dresses and distinctive accessories, like bunny ears. Another group dolled themselves up as the Disney princesses, coordinating the colors of their bright, puffy dresses.
Robert, Rose, and Selah, a family of three celebrating their first Dapper Day, wore outfits inspired by a theme, too: the Haunted Mansion ride. All of their outfits were handmade: Rose sewed the purple outfits she and her husband wore, and the dress their young daughter Selah had on (which borrowed its print from the Haunted Mansion's wallpaper) was handmade from Etsy. As other people who dressed up walked by, Rose complimented them, saying "Nice dress!"
Near the Partners Statue, a young woman named Natasha wore an all-black outfit inspired by Darth Vader. She chose Darth Vader to model her outfit after him because she's excited for the release of Star Wars: the Force Awakens later this year. Her ensemble included Legos-constructed stormtrooper earrings she made herself and a black Darth Vader bucket from Halloween she used as a purse. "I saw another girl with a Dumbo bucket and we took a picture together!" she says.
Next to her was Fernando, a gentleman in a purple collared shirt, black vest, and Ursula pin–yep, he was Ursula from The Little Mermaid. "I chose Ursula because I'm a little nasty. Just kidding; that's a line from one of her songs," he said. "It's because I love the movie." Natasha butted in: "I think it's 'cause purple looks good on him."
In front of Little Red Wagon, home to Disneyland's famous corndogs, were dapper Thor (who wore a gray suit that matched with his hammer, Mjolnir), dapper Black Widow, and dapper Scarlet Witch. They told me the rest of the dapper Avengers were dispersed around the park — in other words, they "haven't assembled yet."
Dapper folks also celebrated over in California Adventure. Some waited in line to take a picture with a 1937 Packard 120; others waited for a portrait with dapper Mickey. At Paradise Garden Bandstand, the Ellis Island boys played upbeat jazz music as couples in dapper gear swing danced together.
As the sun set, it became harder to distinguish between the folks who didn't dress up and the folks who did. Back at Disneyland, men in newsboy caps and women in suit dresses rode King Arthur's Carrousel for what was called "the Dapper Derby." Because it never rained as forecast, people began using their umbrellas as canes like they planned it with their outfits all along — showing that "dapper" isn't just a way of dress, but an attitude.