Theme parties can add a bit of sizzle, spice and variety to a party, allowing guests to dress up, role play and, for a short while, visit a different world than the one they’re used to. Theme parties can be built around a variety of different themes including different periods of time and different social environments. This article will examine theme parties providing ideas for different themes to run and advice on how best to run them.
1920’s Theme Party – “The Roaring Twenties”
The twenties were a unique time with a number of defining characteristics. Books like ‘The Great Gatsby’ give an insight into the American party scene filled with extravagant flapper dresses and stylish zoot suits. Parties were slower paced and more contemporary with a focus on mingling and conversation while champagne and gin were the drinks of choice to quench a thirst. The twenties also signified the start of the Jazz age, with musicians like Louis Armstrong and King Oliver rising to prominence.
Men in the twenties often wore black or white tuxedos paired with matching felt hats while women wore loose sequin dresses complete with feather boas, feathered headbands and pearl necklaces to spice up the outfit.
Jazz embodied the music of the twenties. Jazz artists like Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Duke Ellington and Duke Ory defined the music of the time and should be on the playlist for every 1920’s theme party.
Food & Drink
Mixed drinks, neat gin and champagne are ideal drinks to serve at a twenties themed party. Snacks like crisps and chocolate covered cherries were a mainstay of parties in the twenties and should be provided, if possible.
Set up dim lighting in the party space with candles used to create a more somber atmosphere. White table cloths should line tables and martini glasses should be used. Packs of cards can also be laid out for guests to use to play card games during the party.
1950’s Theme Party – “The Fabulous Fifties”
The fifties were a time of change. Rock and Roll started to become popular with artists like Buddy Holly and Elvis becoming household names. Style changed drastically from previous eras as casual dress became preferred over formal suits. Parties during this era focused more on extravagant dancing with dances like the Jitterbug and the Twist becoming more popular.
Male style in the fifties was defined by blue jeans, white tee shirts, leather jackets and slicked back hair. Women preferred to wear simple blouses with bright, loose dresses. Films like “Grease” and “American Graffiti” provide a number of different examples of popular fifties dress.
Music of the fifties was defined by Rock and Roll. Artists like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash should be on the playlist of every 1950’s theme party.
Food & Drink
The fifties gave rise to the diner where hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries were enjoyed. Whiskey, gin and rum were the preferred drinks of the fifties, often mixed with coca cola.
Use balloons to add a bit of colour to the party area. Table cloths should be varied with a variety of vibrant colours being used. Records and pictures of popular fifties cars can be hung up on the wall to add extra authenticity.
1960’s Theme Party – “The Swinging Sixties”
The sixties were the time of hippies and flower children. Clothes were bright and vibrant and music was becoming increasingly more radical and experimental. Anti war propaganda was at a high with people promoting love over war. The sixties was a unique period of time caused by unique circumstances – it was an exciting time to be alive.
Tie die shirts and bell bottoms were the attire of choice in the sixties for both men and women. Hair was worn long with women sometimes wearing a flower in their hair.
The sixties brought us bands like the Beatles and the Beach Boys as well as the jazz inspired music of Motown. The playlist at a 1960’s theme party should focus on these bands with additional rock and roll and funk acts, too.
Food and Drink
Vegetarianism was becoming more popular in the sixties with fresh vegetables accompanying dips being the snacks of choice. Cocktails were also drunk with gin, whiskey and rum being particularly popular.
The sixties were a bright period in time. Hang up some coloured sheets to add some colour to a room and install some multi coloured bulbs. Incense can also be burned to add an authentic hippy feel to the party.
1970’s Theme Party – “The Disco Seventies”
The seventies brought disco, and with it came a new wave of music, fashion and way of life. The peace and love sentiment of the sixties continued to grow while movies like “Saturday Night Music” defined the era. Discotheques became increasingly more popular with parties being more focused on dancing rather than conversing with other party goers.
Platform shoes, bell bottoms and hot pants were commonly worn by men in the seventies while women preferred to wear spandex outfits and jumpsuits. Women also accessorised heavily with large hoop earrings, head bands and extravagant necklaces featuring the peace sign being common.
Disco provides the soundtrack at a 1970’s theme party. The Bee Gees, Abba, the Village People and many more artists defined the sound of disco in this era.
Food and Drink
Snacks in the seventies were crisps, breadsticks or other foods that could be consumed quickly so that party goers could quickly get back to dancing. Drinks like snowballs, sherry and bitter were often enjoyed alongside gin, rum and whiskey based cocktails.
The disco ball is the most iconic symbol from the seventies – it is an essential piece of décor for any seventies party. Other items like bean bags and shag carpets can also help to set the scene.
1980’s Theme Party – “The Exciting Eighties”
The eighties were a fun period of time with a unique music and style taking over the world. Music and fashion shifted away from that of the disco times of the seventies with a crazier vibe taking over.
Denizens of the eighties wore all manner of bright and colourful clothes. Acid washed jeans, spandex and shoulder shirts were a staple of any eighties outfit, as were accessories like leg warmers and high tops. People in the eighties also liked to accessorise a lot with large amounts of makeup and jewellery being worn by women.
The eighties gave rise to a new brand of pop music with artists like Madonna and Michael Jackson rising to prominence. The playlist at a 1980’s theme party should feature these two artists alongside other eighties favourites like Prince, Bon Jovie and David Bowie.
Food and Drink
Chocolates such as M&Ms and skittles, candy necklaces and rice krispie squares were popular snack foods in the eighties. Wine coolers, punch and cocktails were the preferred drink of choice during this era.
Balloons, confetti, streamers and coloured decorations help to set the tone of the eighties – the tackier and more extravagant looking, the better.
Hollywood Theme Party
Hollywood has always been associated with glitz and glamour, with Hollywood parties considered to be amongst the best in the world. A Hollywood theme party will allow guests to escape their lives and step into the shoes of the rich and famous for a night.
Men should look smart and women should look glamourous. Suits are the preferred attire of choice for men while women should focus on fetching evening dresses.
Most music will work well at a Hollywood themed party. Choose some of your favourite CDs to set the mood or consider hiring a DJ to play spin some tunes during the party.
Food and Drink
Finger food should be served alongside cocktails and liquor.
Décor at a Hollywood themed party should be elegant and glamourous. Lay down a red carpet, if possible, and add some movie posters to the walls. Stars and movie reels can also be used to add character to the surroundings.
Western Theme Party
The ‘Wild West’ era was a unique time with its own distinctive personality and style. Sheriff’s controlled the towns while duels with pistols at dawn were a common sight. This was a dangerous time, but one full of character and excitement.
Men should focus on cowboy styled outfits with cowboy hats and boots being essentials components to pull of this style. Women should wear cowgirl outfits or dresses similar to those worn by saloon girls.
Country music should be the music of choice, with a focus on artists like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.
Food and Drink
Snacks like tortilla crisps, cheese dips and salsa are perfect for a wild west themed party. Mixers and liquor should be provided for drinks. Lagers like Sol and Corona also fit in well at a Western Theme Party.
The iconic feel of the wild west can be captured by adding horseshoes and lassos onto the walls. Cacti and wooden door curtains can also be added to add character to the surrounds.
Theme parties allow for people to step out of their skins for a night and enjoy a party with a twist. Choose one of the themes described above and throw a party for you and your friends – you won’t regret it.
by Peter Walker