Dapper Day at Disneyland Paris

Visitors dress in retro fashions of the diesel era.

Dapper Day Disneyland Paris France
Dapper Day at Disneyland Paris, France, September 26 (Hilde Heyvaert)

Many people into fashion, Disney parks or dieselpunk know Dapper Day. The US initiative where on some days Disney Parks in California and Florida are turned into a veritable congregation of people dressed in retro fashions of the diesel era and contemporary chic and rockabilly styles. In the US they are huge, they are the bees-knees, there are even Dapper Day Expo events, and now they started bringing them to Disneyland Paris also. Albeit in much more modest form.

Let me start out by saying that whatever negative point I have to say about Dapper Day has absolutely nothing to do with the people that were organizing it from Europe. They did the best they could, and under the circumstances they did a fine job and I applaud them for all the time and effort they put into making the event fun. I had a good time at every part of the program I participated in. That said, there was room for improvement (although not from their part).

Of course, everyone assumed that it wouldn’t be as grand as in the US. How could it be? Dapper Day does not have the same fame, nor pull as it does in the US, and while in the US I imagine quite a few doors open for the organization, the means to pull off the event here were much more limited.

It did of course, not help that the organizer was several hours behind due to time difference in the US and insisted on ok’ing everything, rather than having some more trust in the European team, who, on the day itself proved to be more than capable of sorting things out. It was great that they were able to organize a sizeable group on the spot, but because of the on the spot organizing of doing rides together and extra group shots some missed out, as these were not listed on the program. A shame for sure, but not the fault of the people sorting things out on the day itself, as they did start out on the program allotted time and simply took things from there.

Dapper Day in Disneyland Paris itself is a fun affair, albeit quite tiring if you’ve spend the entire day in the park (I must admit I conked out in the hotel and utterly slept through all the meet ups from 9pm onwards, several of which were arranged the day itself, but the group made sure to inform everyone on of them that they saw, doing their utmost in making sure no one got left behind).
You can see that quite a few people do travel down from it (we came down from Belgium with a group of 6, but there were also groups from the UK, people from the Netherlands, and so forth), so there is interest for it, and the core group that goes for every Dapper Day does their very best to make it work.

And let’s be realistic, unless you are able to shell out the masses of money needed to visit a US Dapper Day, this is the best alternative you’ll get, for Disneyland Paris is a beautiful park, and the people at Dapper Day really are a swell crowd.

That all aside, I think that the Paris’ Dapper Day could become much bigger if both the mothership in the US and Disneyland Paris would do a better job in promoting it. Again, I’m not pointing fingers at the people in Europe organizing it, they did what they could, and went above and beyond. But Disneyland Paris and the US are another matter.

First of all, Disneyland Paris could communicate a hell of a lot better. For instance, on the first weekend of September, there was a rock and roll fest in Disney Village, which would have matched perfectly with Dapper Day. So that weekend would have been a much better choice. Allowing the event on a block-out date for Francillien and Fantasy annual passes was also a poor choice. Furthermore prior to the event, most of the staff that would have to deal with Dapper Day was utterly unaware of Dapper Day. And they failed to add the event to their events page. Sure, it’s not an event by Disneyland Paris, but adding it to the page would draw more people to the park(s), which in turn is good for them too. Poor marketing choices right there. There was also a complete lack of communication when it came down to closures. Two different items of the program had to be changed, quite last minute, one even in the Dapper Day week, because of sudden unannounced closures (that mostly ended up being found out about by accident via fan forums).

This said, the organization of Dapper Day in the US is not blameless either. Far from. If you follow the Dapper Day tumblr account, you can notice how the US parks are very much prioritized and the French event is point blank treated rather like the inferior steph child. Sure it’s on the imagery listing future events, and it gets a mention, in a text mostly advertising upcoming US events. Point in case: several photos from the September events in the US have been posted, but to date only one photo from the Paris one.

If Dapper Day in Paris wants to become more successful, it needs much more support from the home base in the US. And yes, it’s hard to get volunteers, but they clearly already have their web staff in place, so there is no excuse for the poor communication about Paris. Especially not seeing there are photos online they could reblog on tumblr.(And FIY, if people talk about volunteering, they don’t want to be made to feel like they are applying for some kind of job, if you expect them to travel down and work for free, make them feel appreciated, it really helps in getting staff together ;))

Even though Dapper Day in Disneyland Paris is a bit flawed due to many factors (again, none that can be helped by the European staff that organizes on the day itself!), it is also a very fun event. I’m glad I attended (even though I missed chunks of it due to circumstances), and if time and money allowed I would attend it again, because people supporting it is the only way to get it to become bigger.

But on the other hand I completely understand that people look at the photos (because there are photos online, mainly on Flickr pages of attendees) and choose not to bother and save up to visit US parks instead (can’t blame them there).

If your budget doesn’t allow a US Dapper Day, or you simply don’t feel like going to the US, Paris is a worthy substitute in my eyes. The people from the bunch are friendly, they do their best to organize a fun day of hanging out together, the parks are beautiful and full of Art Nouveau, Victoriana, steampunk, deco and dieselpunk gems left right and center and you know, it’s always fun to be able to dress up for a day out.

And don’t worry if you don’t speak French, there are enough people that speak English and are willing to step up as translators so everyone can still communicate with each other.

For more photos check my Disneyland Paris set from this particular trip (more than just Dapper Day, so you get to see the resort as well, plenty of steampunk and dieselpunk and Disney all around!)


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