Theme parties and events offer an entertaining twist on the ordinary get-together. But they present a daunting challenge of “what to wear.” I have several specific theme events on my calendar for the next few months, including Mad Men Hawaiian and James Bond. (I’m going to envy those of you who have upcoming Downton Abby parties.) In any case, it’s always most fun and respectful of the host to at least makes an effort to achieve a look in keeping with the theme.For the ladies, I would offer the following advice and admonitions. (For the gentlemen, apologies to omit you in this round.)
Get a dress that has the right shape and colors of the suggested period or look by paying attention to details such as neck line, sleeve type, waist, length, types of fabrics used, and other important design and print details. It can really detract from a period look to get an important detail wrong. I can’t tell you how many “1920s flappers” I’ve seen over the years in fringed, form-fitting mini-dresses, feathered headbands, long flowing hair, and pointed-toe shoes.
But I’ll use the Mad Men party to illustrate my points. This season’s Mad Men picks up in 1969, I hear. So, I am on the look out for a shirt-dress or simple A-line mini-dress evoking that time period (and appropriate for a Hawaiian cocktail event), perhaps in vibrant rainbow hues or prints, like citron, orange, bubblegum pink, or sky blue. Those aren’t the only options, but it’s helpful to have a few ideas in mind before you shop. (Hmm, what would “Megan Draper” wear?!)
As you can see from this page McCall’s 1969 pattern book, such a dress might be sleeveless, but the shoulder edge looks nearly flush with the actual shoulder and the armscye is fitted. I’m also paying attention to the length of the dress – mid-calf – and the modest v-neck (or perhaps a boat or slightly scooped shape would work, too). The style also covers the entire back and seems to have a high scoop neck. Unlike shirt-waist dresses and other available styles available during this era, the aforementioned McCall’s dress de-emphasizes the natural waist, which is subsumed in the over-all A-line, or triangle shape. The material, woven or knit, should have some weight and body to maintain that stiff A-shape and should not be at all flimsy or drapy.
Finding a dress to approximate the late 1960s and that evokes a Hawaiian party will be a challenge, I expect. In addition to vintage clothing shops, such as Amalgamated Classic Clothing and Dry Goods in Del Ray, Alexandria, I will also look for mod-inspired looks in stores like Target and Mod Cloth. Online shops on Etsy and elsewhere are an excellent option, if one pays careful attention to garment measurements. Sewing a dress for the occasion has its merits, too.
Viewing the rest of the 1969 look, I notice the long, straight or slightly waved hair smoothed over a hair bump (whether over back-combed hair or over a Bump-It or other object). For shorter hair, I would recommend forming the bump, about which there are many YouTube tutorials, and then pulling it all back in a false ponytail, which can be found easily at beauty supply shops or on Amazon. Other sorts of hair falls or wigs could work well.
As for make up, it looks like bright or chalky lips in pink or orange were de rigueur in 1969, along with false eyelashes. Make up artist Lisa Eldridge did a splendid, simple 1960s eye tutorial recently. I would choose a blush and nail varnish to match my lipstick color, or may consider altering pale pink and orange. For jewelry, I would have chunky, geometric earrings, bracelets and rings in mind to complement the dress. For shoes, I would look for low, chunky-heeled shoes, perhaps with a round or squarish toe. Or maybe sandals.
Other themes may be more difficult or even prohibitive to achieve. But many 20th Century looks can be done with a bit of effort on a small budget in exchange for a big effect.
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