Quick Party Tips from the 1920s, 1930s
Make your next party successful and low-stress
Guest List, Attitude, Beauty
Make your next party successful and low-stress
Guest List, Attitude, Beauty
Do you have a party coming up? Are you the host/hostess or a guest? Maybe
|New Year's Eve Party 1917|
Back then like today, it was as much a matter of scheduling and our mindset as it is today. The following pieces of advice, quotes and paraphrases are taken from articles from the style and beauty sections of 1920s-30s film magazines.
It seems as if there are fewer guides, ideas and rules now but judging by the morning after a party, the 'what not to wear' and 'walk of shame' columns, the lists of what is 'age appropriate,' we realize that there will always be rules out there. We can find help or inspiration in those that move us.
The guest list
|Sylvia Sidney, James Cagney|
Blood on the Stone
"Sometimes bores are simply unavoidable, and if such a dilemma faced me I'd obviate it by gathering all my bores in one basket and sequestering them at one table, for instance or see to it that they were seated together.
"The result? Each would believe himself to be the one brilliant member of the party, so they'd all have fun and be subtly flattered besides."
-- Sylvia Sidney 1936
The best personal announcements and invitations will get attention, be saved, remembered and attract guests to actually attend your event. Will you be funny, traditional, choose that old Hollywood theme, add photos?
Don't skip a party because you think you might want to leave early! Devise a clever get-away plan. Actor Ned Sparks used his bulldog, Betsy as an excuse when he wanted to take off from a dull party, or even if he wanted to refuse the invitation altogether.
"Oh I don't know what Betsy will think of me I was out last night," Ned will say when he wants to decline an invitation. Or when he wants to leave a party early he will explain, "Don't know what Betsy will say to me, I'm so late!" Not everyone knew just who Betsy was, but it didn't seem to matter.
In the 1933 Alice in Wonderland with Charlotte Henry, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and W. C. Fields and Edward Everett Horton Ned Sparks was
|Billie Burke de-stresses before the party|
Gloria's Romance 1916
Before we consider hair, make-up or clothes "here is a personality point worth more than a big bouquet of orchids or an ermine wrap. This is the business of getting yourself into a party mood. Work up the spirit of expectancy.
"Deliberately plan to enjoy yourself, no matter what and see that others enjoy themselves. This is practically a failure proof plan for a lovely evening. Though you may secretly long to walk off with the handsomest man of the evening and be the whole pivot of attention submerge it in the idea of a good time for all and see what happens."
One article proclaimed, "If you don't have a good time it's your own fault. Join in games even if you know you're a dub at them and laugh at your own mistakes but don't make any more than you can help. If it's an informal party offer to help your hostess serve if you know her well, but don't use it as an excuse to show off your housewifely skill to prospective husbands. Men see through that sort of thing."
New Gadgets Developed for Cocktail Hour 1935 Universal Newsreel; Offer them a cool adult beverage
"You perhaps think about yourself a great deal and in time that leads to under valuation. But don't communicate that viewpoint to others. It's fatal to popularity. If you find yourself growing self conscious jerk your thoughts away quickly and ask your partner something about himself.
"A good way to overcome shyness is to seek out other bashful men and women and try to put them at ease."
It was on a season of The Next Food Network Star, that I first heard someone use the term, resting bitch face.
It's along the same lines of the old standby, "If you're having such a good time why don't you tell your face?"
|Joan Crawford 1927|
A 1930s article by Joan Crawford talked about facial manners, how to be aware of how our expressions and the way dwelling on something can be bad in more ways than one.
Joan Crawford was very conscientious in studying her own face on the screen. Too often we rely on make-up to accent our faces and make them come alive. ... Most bad facial manners are unconscious of course.
"I will wager that if you will glance at your face in any passing mirror you will hurriedly change your expression to a pleasanter one!
"Here are the commonest bad facial manners. Frowning, squinting, screwing up any part of the face are not only ugly in themselves but leave unlovely lines in their wake. Sulking is bad manners, social as well as facial and will spoil the loveliest face.
"Pouting distorts the mouth. Watch for these things yourself in your mirror. Don't copy the little grimaces of your friends. ....
"Be careful of the thoughts you think. As sure as you're alive they will be written on your face. And you can't cheat at this. Your social manners may be perfect. You may say pleasant things to your hostess while thinking what a dull time you had. But you cannot think hard, cross thoughts over a long period of time and not keep a record of them in your face."
|Bebe Daniels in the bath 1920|
Beauty for a party
|Bette Davis sprays |
eau du Cologne onto
"The wall-flowers at any party are the ones who didn't take the trouble to make themselves extra-attractive for the big occasion. Don't be like that!"
(Pretty up! This reminds me of Barney's saying Suit up! on How I Met Your Mother.)
"Be smart with your party preparations and you'll be a sensation not a wall-flower. Accent your eyes so they won't fade out wearily under the electric lights."
Vintage style updo tutorial
"Tint your cheeks with a new rouge.
"Treat your eyes before you make them up, removing any bloodshot traces.
"Flatter yourself with a facial before starting to make-up.
"Most girls use a scent of some kind if only a mild sachet powder rubbed right on the skin.
"Perfume your whole body by sloshing a perfumed cologne over yourself or by patting it on with a square of cotton after you step from the tub."
Actress Constance Bennett prepares for an evening out in the 1930s
|Marie Wilson Up-do Hairstyles|
"Curl the ends of your hair and pile them high on your head for one of those pre-war coiffures.
"Pin those high-piled curls in place with springy bobby pins, choose some that will hold their shape and are practically invisible once they're in place.
"If you wear your hair nice and straight like Bette Davis with the ends only slightly fluffed have you ever tried eau du Cologne to make them curl? Bette finds it works beautifully when sprayed on.
"Ida Lupino does a patch-up job on unruly curls by setting her hair with cologne. She dampens her hair with cologne and rolls it up into a pin curl. It will dry in a few moments.
|Art Deco Hair: |
Hairstyles from the 1920s-1930s (Vintage Living)
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What will you wear??
If you sew cleverly, you can make a gown that might have come straight from a Hollywood designer then you don't need any advice about party clothes. But cheap materials and amateur dressmaking show up more quickly in formal clothes than in everyday garments. ... Wear something appropriate to the event and something that represents you.
|Tallulah Bankhead Feather Headdress |
Ziegfeld Follies Girl Photo Pinup Cheney Johnston
"And I beg you don't choose party clothes for their practicality ... A dashing becoming gown, good grooming and poise are your best introductions to strangers.
"At a big affair it is a good thing to be identified as 'the girl in the red dress,' or 'that stunning blonde in the black and white.' The main thing is to be noticed and remembered favorably. Names are sometimes forgotten at first meetings but visual impressions remain."
A fashion show at a chic nightclub 1933
"Even if your escort isn't exactly the Prince Charming of your dreams pretend he is for that evening and it will make you both happier. Let him think he is helping to provide a wonderful time for you. That will encourage him to do his utmost to make it so. There aren't any rules for having a good time at parties or anywhere else."
Find some great music from the era.
Have a good time at your party! Fats Waller - Ain't Misbehavin' - Stormy Weather (1943)
What do you think of the advice dolled out to the ladies in the 1920s and 30s? Then, as now columnists and pundits disagreed and trends changed.
Related pages of interest:
Group games for parties, holidays for young people and adults
Hollywood hosts, hostesses party, decor menu 1930s
Dressing Male Stars of the 1930s and 1940s
Sources include articles, interviews, snippets from magazines:
Hollywood September 1938
New Movie Magazine July 1924
Photoplay December 1930
Screenland March 1935, November 1938