How to Decorate a Table in a Forties Theme

The 1940s produced some of the most interesting visual elements in U.S. history. A decade dominated by war and new American identity, these iconic images colour the way many people remember this era. If you're decorating a table with a '40s theme for an upcoming party, let these graphic elements inspire your table decor. From the artwork to the music of the day, there are plenty of elements from which to choose that will help you decorate your '40s theme table in style.

Lay down a red or blue tablecloth. Because of the patriotism caused by World War II, the stars and stripes played a predominant role in the visual iconography of the '40s. The colour sets the tone without overpowering the table with the stars and stripes of the flag.

Photocopy the sheet music of Glenn Miller's compositions onto stationery paper. Look for paper that's slightly yellow in colour to give the impression of old parchment paper. Have the photocopies enlarged to about an 11-by-14 inch size and get them laminated. Use these as place mats.

Roll the silverware in linen napkins in the opposite colour of the tablecloth, so if you selected a red tablecloth, choose blue napkins.

Clip old black-and-white photos of '40s movie stars onto a picture tree. These could include Charlie Chaplin, Betty Grable, Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper and Betty Davis. Place this in the centre of the table to form the basis for your centrepiece. Another pictorial alternative is to make copies of the artwork that Norman Rockwell did for the covers of the "Saturday Evening Post" and clip them on the picture tree.

Make decorative elements to flank the centrepiece. Get some desktop flag holders and insert miniature American flags in the holes. Place one arrangement on each side of the centrepiece.

Look for accessories such as miniature biplanes and miniature instruments such as bugles and drums. You can most readily find these in the Christmas ornament section of the store. Place these on both sides of the flags.

Make '40s style place cards for your guests by having them send photos of themselves ahead of time. Convert them to black-and-white in a computer program and print out on card stock paper. Paste the photo onto a piece of card stock that you fold in half to make a table tent. Write quotes by famous people during that time such as Winston Churchill or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Use a fountain pen to write the quotes.

Things You'll Need

  • Tablecloth
  • Sheet music copies
  • Linen napkins
  • Silverware
  • Photo tree
  • Black-and-white pictures
  • Norman Rockwell pictures
  • Miniature flag holders
  • Miniature U.S. flags
  • Miniature biplanes
  • Miniature drums
  • Miniature bugles
  • Card stock
  • Glue
  • Fountain pen
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About the Author

Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.