How to Throw a 1940s-Themed Party


You or a few of your guests might be donning knee-length summer frocks, pearls and Cuban heels, with your hair upswept in victory rolls, but if the party decor doesn't say "1940s," the historical experience will wane. But don't stop with the attire and decorations; create a theme that appeals to all the senses.

Note to Guests

When you're throwing a 1940s party, the right pre-made or handmade invitation initiates the bash's tone. If you plan to use your printer for the project, use light yellow or gray paper, or something made to appear old. If you're emailing invites, use a swirly, curly, mood-setting font. Either way, good old-fashioned letter-writing manners or social correctness goes a long way.

Polish the Silver

Shine your old silver and dig out the doilies for a 1940s-inspired table setting. You might be serving steaming bowls of pleasantly herbed soup, quiche, casserole or meatloaf, and a cheese plate, but it's the vintage or vintage-looking dishware that stimulates an authentic experience.

Replace the Curtains

Don't let the home's modern fabrics spoil the 1940s effect. In the main party area, take the curtains down and lay them over a bed for wrinkle-free keeping -- maybe it's a good time to launder them. In their place, hang lacy sheers or something with a muted-rose print -- shop secondhand for bargains.

Cover a too-contemporary-couch with a dusty-rose or brown striped slipcover or bed sheet and the tables with off-white linen tablecloths. For a Hollywood glam birthday party, let the decor and guest of honor "shine." Opt for not just plenty of satin and velvet linens and throw cushions throughout, but photo-booth movie props -- feather boas, tilt cocktail hats, French mustaches, feather hair clips -- for keepsake snapshots or 8-millimeter-quality video skits.

Tuck Away the Accessories

Clear the area of modern accessories and hide contemporary components:

  • Replace abstract art with thrift-store finds: oil-painted seascapes, painted portraits or Old-World gardens. 
  • Hang a tapestry over the TV.
  • Fill the space with colored glass or crystal Art-Deco-style vases of peonies, roses or sunflowers for glamor.
  • Bring any antiques out of storage, displaying them safely on a mantel or high shelf or in a hutch or curio cabinet. 

"Chattanooga Choo-Choo"

Whether you blow the dust off a few old records and set up an antique or replica turntable, or download some period tunes, the right background music helps put everyone in the mood. Replace bright bulbs with soft yellow-tinted ones for dance-floor glow -- often, it's the little details that make big differences.

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