Cocktail parties were a popular social event for the middle and upper classes on both sides of the Atlantic throughout the Fifties. Here we have some top tips from how to dress for a cocktail party , to invites, entertainment as well as food and drink.

The invite
Send out your invites by post with a request to rsvp as a party hostess would have done during the Fifties when formality and social etiquette mattered greatly.

The food
Buffets were seen as a lazy option, so impress your friends with hot and cold finger food passed around by a helperĀ  – women would go as far as hire someone for the evening during the Fifties. Bacon wrap-arounds, deviled ham-cheese dip, fruit kebabs, pineapple slices, anything in aspic and crackers and cheese were popular choices.


The decor
A cocktail party would have been an excellent opportunity to show off your home and immaculate housewifely skills. Fresh flowers or seasonal greens would have been a popular deco choice, think flower bouquets or holly for Christmas. Use cloth napkins – ideally embroidered with your own initials – for a real Fifties touch.

Smoking was immensely popular throughout the Fifties and party guests would have gathered around fancy ashtrays. To smoke cigars, men would have gone to a dedicated smoking room.

The drinks
Most Fifties homes would have had an alcohol cabinet – recreate the feel by putting together a drinks trolley. Mixers and cocktails were all the rage such as Martinis, Side Cars, Vodka Highballs or Whiskey Sours. Any beer or wine would have been decantered beforehand, and it was important that each drink was served in the correct glass, so have a full range ready at hand. For the ultimate Fifties drink, make a fruit punch and serve it in vintage punch bowls!

50s cocktail party

The music
Get your record player (or Spotify playlist) ready with some Sinatra or edgier jazz by Miles Davis. You can find excellent playlists full of mid-century lounge music over on Cocktail Nation.

The outfits
Cocktail parties were formal affairs so women would wear evening dresses, often strapless, full-circle frocks worn with petticoats, high heels and paired with up-dos such as the chignon. Top tip: make Mad Men’s Betty Draper your style inspiration.

Men would have worn an evening suit paired with a tie and a pocket square.

betty draper


4 Responses

  1. Bunny

    LOVEEEEEEEEEE this post! How clever of you! I have to share this on all my social network sites NOW! xox

  2. Hayley

    I did this for my 18th birthday and it was wonderful, the best party i’ve ever had. I had a dress code and everyone made an effort ( even though they don’t like vintage!) It was perfect!

    • Lena

      Thanks Christine! I would think it was fairly early in the evening, my guess 8pm?