Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out
Strut down the street and have your picture took
Dressed like a dream your spirits seem to turn about
That Sunday shine is a certain sign
That you feel as fine as you look!
You can hear "Put on your Sunday Clothes" every single day along Disneyland's Main Street USA, but there is no time during the year when it feels quite as appropriate as during Dapper Day.
Dapper Day is an event that takes place in spring and fall at The Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World, and Disneyland Paris. It began in 2011. Designer and brand consultant Justin Jorgensen was inspired by the concept art created by Disney Imagineers. He wanted to bring the illustrations to life by populating the park with people dressed as they appeared in the artwork. You won't see anyone wearing cut-off blue jeans, T-shirts, and Crocs in those illustrations. The artists populated their concepts with people dressed in their Sunday finest. The ladies are in full skirts with gloves and hats. Gentlemen wear suits and ties. Children look like Jane and Michael Banks on an outing to fly kites with their father.
That first year about 100 people joined Justin in the park. The concept took off and now thousands of smartly dressed participants come for a full weekend of fun at three Disney resorts.
Not only do attendees enjoy the parks, but the Dapper Days organization hosts a free expo during the event at Disneyland. The expo includes seminars and dozens and dozens of vendor selling any and everything one might need to complete an outfit. It's a full weekend of high style and stepping out.
Scanning the crowd feels a lot like thumbing through the pages of a picture book on fashion history. Everywhere you turn couples walk hand in hand in coordinating outfits. Families push mid-century baby strollers with young ones wearing Davy Crockett coonskin caps and gnawing on turkey legs. Groups of girls sit together at tables on the Mark Twain checking their hair and makeup. If you allow yourself to pretend it's like being in a different place in time.
Years ago I stumbled into a Steam Punk event during a visit to The Queen Mary in Long Beach. Steam Punk is a form of cosplay and I can't imagine a setting much more perfect for them than an ocean liner built in 1934. The decks of that great ship were brought to fantastical life that afternoon. When done well, the attendees at Dapper Days are also perfectly placed within the magical worlds of Disney theme parks. The organizers say in on their website that there is no attempt made to recreate any specific point in time. The only line they ask participants to stay away from is wearing costumes. Here is what they say on their website's FAQ section – "Are these costume events? No. We want to see your personal style at our events. There's many other opportunities to wear a costume or cosplay. DAPPER DAY events are meant to feature you being you!"
This is my second time attending Dapper Days. I don't dress up, but as a photographer this is one of my very favorite events of the year. The parks are the perfect backdrop for the thousands of people who have been working months to prefect a look. Everyone I asked to photograph not only agreed, but often seemed thrilled that someone was showing admiration for their efforts and choices.
The SoCal Select Annual Pass will not allow entry during either the spring or fall events. Don't let that stop you from attending. You don't need to flip a turn style to enjoy Dapper Days. The Expo takes place at The Disneyland Hotel and admission to the Expo is free. You will see as many smartly dressed folks there as you will in the parks. Dapper Days also gives another outstanding excuse (as if one needs an excuse) to visit Trader Sam's tiki bar. It's located poolside at The Disneyland Hotel. Indulge in a cocktail, a snack and enjoy it all surrounded by dozens of the most authentically dressed tiki enthusiasts anywhere.
Check the Dapper Day website for the dates and details on upcoming events in Anaheim, Orlando and Paris. Like me, you can go in comfort clothes and simply enjoy seeing others. You can dip your toe in the pool by dressing in your favorite nice suit or dress, or you can dive in head first and completely commit to a look. No matter what you choose, give it a try. Dapper Day is a really great event.
Upcoming Dapper Days:
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Walt Disney World
Tokyo Disney Resort
2017 Best Park Winners