Apr 13, 2012

Elegant Entertaining :: Jazz Age inspired Cocktail Party

Rather taken with the notion of throwing a cocktail party
with a jazz age theme,
after researching the history of cocktails for our series
and finding lots of wonderful inspiration from the 1920s.
Martinis, jazz, a devil-may-care attitude, treasure hunts
 and lots of dancing.
Sound like fun?

We'll be needing the right setting for our cocktail party,
and I'm thinking Tivoli House,
built in the 1920s on Sydney's beautiful harbour
may just do the trick.

Yes, plenty of room for dancing
and the piano will be fabulous for the jazz musician.

Now this era was all about the youth movement.
Tossing out the sensibilities of the Edwardian ideals
and the reasons they saw as folly for going to war,
the young generation was really more interested in kicking up their heels.

As a celebration of the spirit of her new-found freedom,
the New Young Woman of this decade
loved nothing more than to fill the hours between
afternoon tea and the theatre with 
the amusing diversion of a cocktail party.
So our party shall start at the cocktail hour - at 6 pm.
And finish at 8, in time for the evening theatre performance.

In the early 1920s, the wealthy young generation of England,
the most audacious of whom earned the title the Bright Young Things,
and largely had nothing else to do,
thought it most amusing to play out characters in fancy dress theme.
Especially for cocktail parties.
This fast set included Cecil Beaton, Nancy Mitford & Evelyn Waugh,
with Noel Coward sometimes part of the group.
So they shall form our muse.

Which, ironically for us,
means that our fancy dress, a Jazz Age theme itself,
is right in keeping with their notion of dressing up for a party.

But it doesn't have to be too literal.
It's more about embracing the sense of freedom, spirit, glamour
and embellishment of the era.
If there is one word to sum up a Jazz Age cocktail party,
it would be extravagance.
Perhaps turban wrapped hair fastened with glittering brooches...

...figure-skimming dresses of rich fabrics, glittering with sequins...

...or voluminous ropes of beads + pearls,
trailing feather boas and long gloves for the girls.
If a little is good, a lot is better.

And for the boys...it's the elegant dandy,
with satin bow ties,
black suits...

and a debonair air.
This is the part where I always get distracted....!

Back to our party plans, however. 
The entrance to our 1920s house is aglow with 
 fancy lights.

And the sultry notes from the double bass are calling us to the dance floor.

All that dancing means the guests will be getting hungry.
What shall we serve?

Remembering that this is after afternoon tea,
but isn't dinner,
some of those newly-fashionable, eaten with the fingers,
hors d'oeuvre & savouries will be suitable.
Stuffed anything
(mushrooms, olives, crepes) will be in vogue.
And seafood - crab, lobster, caviar - too.
This is all about excess.

And then there will be cakes.
If ever there were a decade dedicated to the sweet life,
the 1920s were it. 
Available again in plentiful supply after the war,
sugar was consumed with gusto,
with ladies journals extolling fabulous new recipes with each issue.
after all this,
the guests will be served little morsels of Welsh Rarebit.

And the all important cocktail?
What shall that be?

The drink of the decade: the martini.
But stirred, not shaken (just hold on, Mr Bond)
and made with a lot of vermouth. 
In fact, some recipes from the 1920s 
call for equal amounts of gin & vermouth.
First sweet, or Italian, vermouth was used.
Then as the decade progressed,
the dry, French vermouth was increasingly used,
which lead to the original term
"dry martini".

Did I mention a treasure hunt?
They were very popular during the Jazz Age parties,
with items either hidden in the host's house,
or even in the surrounding streets,
with witty clues handed out to guests to keep them guessing.
This would be a fun idea to include & a fabulous way to break the ice.
Giving guests "favours" became wildly fashionable 
in the 1920s,
beginning with flowers for the ladies,
but then becoming more elaborate with gifts of silk cushions,
cigarette cases, feathered fans & porcelain figurines.
So perhaps the treasures on our hunt could be little cellophane bags
of dark chocolate almonds - that's decadent & delicious!

So here's a toast to the flamboyance of the Jazz Age,
the absurd antics of the Bright Young Things,
and the fun that can be had with a cocktail party inspired by it all.

jazz club // lady drinking martini // martini artwork blue fruit // tivoli house //


  1. Hello Virginia:
    How fabulous! Simply fabulous! And what a splendid collection of images. We are completely at one with you over this - the cocktail party must have a renaissance and where better to start than here!

    But of course we must all have somewhere to 'go on to' afterwards. Dinner and then a night club, perhaps?

    Kellemes hétvégét!

    1. Oh yes indeed - dinner somewhere fun then a night club certainly. Or the wonderful theatre - I never tire of going to live theatre!

  2. I'll be over by the hors d'oeuvres if you need me! I wish I could travel back in time, it would have been a-mazing!love the images, I always learn something new when I visit glamour drops.
    have a fab weekend Virginia,

    Sar x

    1. Mmmm....they do sound rather yummy! A bit different from food now, but I would love to try it all. Good spot to be Sarah!

  3. Wow, that would be nice and something different!

    Have a great Friday!

  4. Virginia, fabulous post, fabulous images and what better name for a hostess than Virginia Blue! I look forward to receiving my stiffy for the mantelpiece.

  5. Looks so much fun! Beautiful people and clothes. I loved fashion and the dancing in the movie 'The Artist'. I think even someone as unco-ordinated as me could learn those steps!

  6. How gorgeous! I've been toying with the idea of a 20's themed party too...my inspiration was the film Midnight in Paris, sooooo beautiful.

  7. That would be heavenly. I would love to host a party like this one day. Everything you described is perfection!!!

  8. A-MAAAAZ-ING! lovely - wish all the dresses and hats were mine....

  9. I'm on my way....Don't start the party without me!!!!!!

  10. Lovely, lovely blog!
    Thanks for leading me here with your sweet comment!

  11. Dear Design Elements - I am so sorry but I have accidently deleted your comment by mistake! My sincere apologies. (Lesson to self - do not use ipad for comment moderation. Eeeks.)

  12. I LOVE the hat in the first picture! and wish I had the nerve to have even a portion of the 20's flamboyance - but maybe it was just the martinis!

  13. Hello Virginia - WHOA so fab I'd love a party like this - please invite me if you ever throw one :)
    Happy weekend sweets,

  14. lovely, lovely feel and images in your post. I enjoyed every bit of it and found myself wishing I was living in that earlier era. a great piece! donna

  15. ciao,
    it's not so frequent to find some nice post to read . Thanks for sharing ! I've enjoyed ...so chic !

    have a nice Sunday


  16. I love this post, I am fascinated with that era and you always find the best images!

  17. I have been saving this for a time when I could take it all in and see the images on a bigger screen--and I am so glad I did!! What an absolutely stunning post. It makes me dream!!! Though I don't have the right figure for those flapper dresses, lovely as they are. I guess I'll just have to wait until Hollywood cocktail party of the 40s! ;) Bisous et merci!


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