How to plan a fun 1940s theme party

Written by matt rauscher
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Throwing a 1940s theme party will catapult you and your guests back to the days of film noir, when hard-boiled detectives and double-crossing dames schemed and plotted against each other for ill-gotten gains. In the process, they looked fabulous, and with the appropriate get-ups so will your guests. A few preparty swing-dancing lessons wouldn't hurt, and dust off the record player before the evening begins. With the right food, costumes and music, your '40s party will linger in people's minds like a song from the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Buy 1940s clothes from a vintage shop and encourage your guests to do the same. Consult with the store owner about the right look for your outfit. Ladies wear long skirts and dresses with bows, pearl necklaces and hair sculpted with setting lotion. Add a small hat with a veil. Watch a '40s movie to get ideas for hair and make-up. Another option for ladies is a Marlene Dietrich look, with long trousers and a blouse. Guys should wear double-breasted or zoot suits and brimmed hats. A trenchcoat completes the look.

  2. 2

    Play music on an old record player. Visit used-record stores and stock up on old favourites from the '40s. Choose from big band, boogie woogie, jazz and bebop, or play all of them. Allow room for swing dancers to take the floor and show their moves. Dance in couples and leave an open wall for wallflowers. Gentlemen should ask ladies to dance.

  3. 3

    Cook popular food from the '40s. Serve appetizers from the period, including shrimp cocktail, stuffed celery stalks, canapes, sardines, Melba toast and cocktail wieners. Serve hearty American fare (remembering that food rationing was a reality in the '40s), such as meat loaf sandwiches, baked beans and hamburgers. Fancier parties can have pairings of dinners with cocktails. Serve perch dinners with gin martinis, or veal scallopine with sloe gin fizz. Make another favourite from the '40s: liver and onions.

  4. 4

    Arrange a bar in the living room and have a friend work as a server. Have him wear a tuxedo and use '40s lingo with the guests. Popular drinks to serve include Manhattans, mint juleps, daiquiris, whiskey sours, highballs and hot buttered rum. Stock the bar beforehand with plenty of martini, highball and cocktail glasses.

  5. 5

    Play a film noir movie throughout the night. Favourites such as "Double Indemnity" or "I Wake Up Screaming" can be played with or without sound. Stream the movies from a video service to provide a continuous flow of shadowy noir thrillers. For a grittier effect, play the films from an old VCR.

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