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Planning a Retro Theme Party, 1920s 1940s


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If you're thinking of throwing a party with a “retro" theme (pre-1950s), then you're probably looking for ideas to get you off to a great start! Each decade is so distinct that it can be hard to know where to begin, so here are a few ways to get started:

1. Choose the decade for your theme

1920s - Think flappers, chin-length bob hairdos, headbands with feathers, cigarette holders, and low waisted, knee-length dresses for women; flannel trousers, tweed jackets, baggy knickers, and pipes for men. Your room theme could be a good ol’ prohibition-style speakeasy. Jazz and ragtime music will complete the theme.

1930s - Think close-fitting, below the knee dresses, matching tweed jackets and skirts, shirt-waist style dresses in linens and florals, and hats and gloves for daytime; long dresses in silk crepe, chiffon, taffeta or velvet, along with hats and gloves for evening. Short, finger-waved hair. For men: Suits, ties, and hats for daytime; full dress with a tail coat or dinner jacket and hat for evening. For music, from jazz-age dance bands to the early sound of swing.

1940s - During wartime: Suits consisting of a jacket, blouse, and below-the-knee skirt; wide-legged slacks (think Katharine Hepburn and Rosie the Riveter); and lower-heeled, comfortable shoes. Hair worn curled high on the head in front and worn to the shoulders in the back. After wartime: Feminine dresses with long, full skirts, tight waists, and high heels. Zoot suits were all the rage for men. Big band swing music from names like Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and Arte Shaw, just to name a few, was the popular music of the day.

2. Make a guest list, then choose a location based on the number of guests

If you have a small budget, consider inviting fewer people and hosting it in your home (if this is appropriate). You can create a great “retro" atmosphere in your own home just by playing the music of the decade and having everyone wear the fashion of the day.

If you have a larger budget, consider spots such as hotels and museums, historic venues, or restaurants that reflect your chosen era. You can most often hire a band or DJ to play the music of the time, and many places have dance floors to enhance the fun.

3. Choose the perfect invitation

The invitation you send to your guests is the first impression they will have of your party. Make it a great one!

Be sure that the style and quality of the invitation is appropriate for your event - “flyer-type" paper invitations may be fine for a very informal gathering, but the classier your party, the classier your invitation should be. Keep the level of formality in mind when deciding on paper stock, fonts, and embellishments. All of these elements are important factors in the party-planning process as the invitation sets the stage for the entire party.

Visit your local card and/or stationery stores. Depending on the store, they will have boxed invitations to choose from, books to search through and order from (usually for quantities of 25-50 and up), and/or theme laser paper (for a more informal look). You can format and print most store-bought invitations on your home computer in any word processing program, but many stores also offer in-store printing services for a reasonable cost. If you are not so computer-savvy, this service will save you time and potential frustration in formatting and printing.

If you don't find a suitable invitation for your chosen theme (this may be difficult, depending on your decade of choice), then consider going online for an array of excellent choices. There are many websites that offer custom printing services, and you are sure to find an invitation that will wow your party-goers. If you don't see just what you want from a website you like, email the company and ask if they will create something custom for your event - They just might be willing to create the perfect invitation for you (for a fee, of course). It never hurts to ask. . .

For an array of retro invitations, visit

To view fashion ideas for your retro party theme, visit


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