The 1940s were a time of great juxtaposition. Hollywood glamour was in its heyday with gorgeous movie stars in sparkling gowns and movies like "Casablanca" taking Americans to far-off places. For the rest of the country, though, the 1940s were a time of rationing, of working for the war effort and hoping not to get drafted. Watch some Humphrey Bogart movies for inspiration and invite your friends over for some '40s-style fun.
Send vintage-inspired invitations in time for guests to plan ahead and piece together an outfit. Find 1940s wartime posters on postcards to use for your invitations or make your own. Encourage guests to dress in 1940s fashion. Unless you're going specifically for a more particular theme, just asking that they come in 1940s attire will probably bring everything from army uniforms to zoot suits, movie-star attire and bobby socks and saddle shoes, making your party truly represent the decade.
Plan the menu. Look into what foods were rationed in the 1940s and what foods were new. Tootsie Rolls were introduced in the 1940s, as were M&Ms, Fritos, Junior Mints, V8 juice and American cheese. Popular party snacks included shrimp cocktail, vegetable plates, cocktail sausages and bacon-wrapped pineapple. Popular drinks included highballs, Manhattans, martinis (always stirred), daiquiris and old-fashioned cocktails. Serving drinks in their proper glasses was always a must for any proper party, so if you want to stock only one type of glass, make it champagne flutes and serve champagne to your guests. Sparkling apple cider will make a perfect substitute for guests who choose not to imbibe.
Play big band and swing music by Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, the Andrews Sisters, Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman and Ella Fitzgerald. Stock up on a balanced mix of ballads and big-band dance hits from the '40s to keep your party on its feet. Encourage guests to dance and have anyone in attendance who knows a few authentic swing moves show everyone a thing or two to get them started.
Play party games of the 1940s. A fun spin on the game "hot potato" is to write a fake draft letter and play hot potato with it. Whoever has the letter when the music stops is "drafted" and is out. You could also have 1940s trivia throughout the night with prizes for the winners. Buy replica war propaganda posters or movie posters of "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Casablanca" online and get DVDs of famous movies from the 1940s to give as prizes.
Take photos of your guests with their friends and dates all decked out in their 1940s attire. Before the party is over, print the photos in sepia tone by either using the sepia setting on your camera or a photo-editing tool on your computer. Send your guests copies of their "antique" photos after the party or, if you have a photo-quality printer at home, print them for your guests to take with them when they leave.