I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a dress-up party. To begin with, it’s so much fun putting together a costume, meeting friends, listening to familiar music, and doing the old dances. As a result, more people attend and get into the festivities. To be sure, a theme party by the decade can be a great ice breaker. Especially if you have a mixed crowd of old and new friends. There are so many things you can do.
Theme Parties by the Decade
- The Roaring 20s
- The 1930s Dancing in the Great Depression
- 1940s Big Band, Swing, Jazz, Patriotic
- 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll
- 1960s British Invasion, Hippies, Beach Party
- 1970s Disco, Hustle, Line Dances
- 1980s Flashdance, Break Dance
- 1990s Early Hip Hop (Sugar Hill Gang “Rapper’s Delight”), Country Pop (Billy Ray Cyrus, Shania Twain, Reba McIntire, Brooks & Dunn)
Costumes for Dress-up Theme Parties
- 1920s Flappers, Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone (gangsters), F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein, Greta Garbo, Coco Chanel.
- 1930s Hobos (Brother, Can You Spare a Dime), bankers, stockbrokers, Salvation Army types.
- 1940s Military, fancy suits & dresses to wear to nightclubs, Lindy Hoppers wore short swingy dresses with dance shorts and men wore Zoot suits.
- 1950s Greasers, jocks, bobbysoxers (any character from the “Grease” movie), idols or movie stars (Elvis, Buddy Holly, Marilyn Monroe, pin-up girls.
- 1960s Teddy boys, hippies, beach outfits.
- 1970s Glitter, platform shoes, Nik-Nik polyester shirts (tight, please), bell-bottom dress pants, ladies cropped tops, jumpsuits or rompers, long earrings, big (mostly metallic) jewelry.
- 1980s Flashdance leotard & legwarmers, Break Dancers wore tracksuits, wrist bands & sneakers, oversized chains, medallions, and extra-large hoop earrings, boombox, Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, David Bowie.
- 1990s Hip Hop (there is so much to choose from – Google it!), Country pop singers wore tight clothes and big hair.
Music for Theme Parties by the Decade
Obviously, the music at dress-up parties for ballroom dancers is a big deal and will need to be prepared well in advance. To this end, keep in mind how long the party will run, and make sure you’ve got it covered. Don’t forget to test the music system before the event.
Keep in mind that, since this is a ballroom dance party, the music has got to be easy to dance to. In addition, a line dance, or karaoke would be great for when you want a change of pace.
When hosting a theme dance party, it’s a good idea to include some songs that are familiar to the dancers. In fact, if this is a studio event, you’ll likely have a mix of newbies along with more experienced guests. Be that as it may, a song list with dance choices for each song would be helpful.
Refreshments – drinks and treats for your theme party by the decade.
Food: Deviled Eggs, Shrimp Cocktail, Oysters Rockefeller, Cheese, Olive, and Mixed Nuts platters.
Drinks: Gin Fizz, Gin Rickey, Mint Julep, Planter’s Punch, Bathtub Punch, Absinthe, Moonshine, and Champagne.
Food: Creamed Mushrooms on Toast, Crab Stuffed Celery, Bacon Wrapped Chicken Liver, Smoked Salmon or Sardine Canapes, Pinwheel Sandwiches, Chili, Soups, and Stews.
Drinks: Bourbon, Rye, Scotch highballs, Dubonnet & Gin, Bee’s Knees, Fallen Angel and other cocktails that used bathtub gin during Prohibition.
Food: Barbecue Weenies, Stuffed Olives and Celery, Cheddar Cheese Log, Cheese Straws, Belgian Endive Spears with Curried Crab Salad, Rumaki, Crab Rangoon, and good All-American Deep Dish Apple Pie.
Drinks: French 75, Ward 8, Ramos Fizz, Millionaire Cocktail, Green Dragon, Maiden’s Prayer, Grasshopper, and Vesper.
Food: Swedish Meatballs, Burgers and Hot Dogs, French Fries, Celery with Cheese Whiz, Devilled Eggs, Fondue, Souffle, Fruit Skewers, and Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Drinks: Manhattan, Gin & Tonic, Champagne, Gin Fizz, Whiskey Sour, Tom Collins, Black Russian, and Bloody Mary.
Food: Jello Molds, Onion Dip made from Lipton Soup mix, Meatballs with Grape Jelly, Stuffed Celery and/or Cherry Tomatoes, Pigs in a Blanket, Asparagus Rollups, and, of course, Shrimp Cocktail.
Drinks: Martini, Tom Collins, Old Fashioned, Brandy Alexander, Campari, Gimlet, Mai Tai, White Russian, Sambuca con la Mosca, and Bloody Mary.
Food: Tuna or Peanut Butter Stuffed Celery, Cocktail Weenies, Assorted Chips, Guacamole, Chicken Drummies, and Crab Rangoon. In addition, Veggie Platter with Hidden Valley Ranch Dip, Watermelon with Fruit Display, Rumaki, Clams Casino, Potato Skins, Melon Wrapped Ham, and Hash Brownies (lol).
Drinks: Cold Duck, Sangria, Boone’s Farm Wine, Tequila Sunrise, Harvey Wallbanger, Kahlua ‘n’ Cream, White Russian, Black Russian, Daiquiri, and Margarita.
Food: Potato Skins, Spinach Dip in a Bread Bowl, Glazed Crock Pot Meatballs, Cheese Nachos, Seven Layer Dip, and Ranch Pasta Salad. Equally important, Dirt Cake and Jell-O Poke Cake.
Drinks: Blue Lagoon, Alabama Slammer, Tequila Sunrise, Harvey Wallbanger, Long Island Iced Tea, Sex on the Beach, and Fuzzy Navel.
Food: Bagel Bites, Pizza Rolls, Hot Pockets, Top Ramen, Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit By the Foot, Bomb Pops, and Dunkaroos.
Drinks: Appletini, Cablecar, Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Seabreeze, Jello Shots, Smirnoff Ice and Sourz.
Contests for Dress-up Parties
Remember this, at dress-up parties you can’t go wrong with a costume contest. Categories could be for most creative, most authentic, and overall best. For it to be a contest, you’ll need judges. Pick a few impartial guests to help you out. Accordingly, they could make their choices throughout the evening or you could even have a parade of costumes.
Dance Demonstrations at Theme Parties
In keeping with theme parties by the decade, some pro demonstrations of dances such as Charleston, Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, Hustle, or even a little breakdance demo would be awesome. To illustrate here’s a sweet demo or Lindy Hop using lots of Charleston moves, “Charleston Dance Demo“.
Hopefully, you get a chance to check out this Dance Safari post, “Why Baby Boomers Love to Dance – Hint: Great Music“. As you can see, Baby Boomers, in particular, love theme parties. Furthermore, they’re not the only ones who enjoy them. To be specific, this post, “Why Theme Parties are Always Better Than Normal Parties” is about how much fun college students are having at theme parties.
Finally, use your imagination as you challenge yourself and your guests to create a memorable event. Using these decade-related themes, you might also learn a bit about the history of entertaining in the U.S.
Above all, I look forward to hearing your thoughts about dress-up parties, especially theme parties by the decade, and what has worked for you.
I’ve attended many decade style theme dances, Barbara, and they are, as you’ve said, such fun. I’ve been involved in a parade of costumes as well as ‘hidden’ judges choosing their faves – all very good fun and entertaining.
P.S. You’ve made me feel quite hungry with your gastronomy choices per decade: I love them all… 🙂
Thank you, my friend. In my opinion, theme parties are a blast to put together and a blast to attend. The food and drinks brought back memories and opened my eyes to new possibilities. You’ll have to excuse me now as I’m off to make some canapes and bathtub gin. lol
lol… Enjoy! 😂
Sounds like IDEA!🤗
Glad you like it. I believe these themes will work for non-dancers as well, don’t you?
I’m enjoying the dress up part😁, drinks and conversation with people is good as well, even you don’t dance you still can have fun🤗
I would really love to go to one of these, especially the 1940s. Great post! I can tell from your blog that you are an expert in all different types of dance. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and ideas.
[…] you choose a studio that does theme parties, all the better. Read Dance Safari’s post, “Theme Parties by the Decade for Ballroom Dancers” for some […]
[…] “This sounds like a great party, Barbara. What else do you have up your sleeve?”. For the answer to that question, check out this Dance Safari post, “Theme Parties by the Decade for Ballroom Dancers“. […]
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Grape jelly stuffed meatballs? How good do those taste? Eek. And what exactly is the function of a wrist band? Just to look cool?
I grew up in the 1980s, and it wasn’t until two decades later when I found out that legwarmers didn’t actually have a significant function.
First off, I can’t comment on the tastiness of the grape jelly meatballs. Not my cup of tea. As far as wrist bands go, before they became an ’80s fashion statement they were used as event admission ids. And, of course, even if they were just for show, movies like Flashdance helped legwarmers into the spotlight and the hearts of dancers everywhere.
Thanks for stopping by.