5 Tips for Throwing a 1950s Dinner Party

Pick Up Etiquette from Another Era
When in doubt, offer more canapés.
When in doubt, offer more canap├ęs.
George Marks/Retrofile RF/Getty Images

"Emily Post's Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage" (1950) included mannerly advice for middle-class women who -- without the high-society aid of hired help -- acted as cooks, waitresses and hostesses of their own dinner parties. They were encouraged to greet their guests warmly and remain gracious under all manner of circumstances, from fallen souffles to uninvited attendees. Guests, meanwhile, were expected to arrive exactly on time and be pleasant participants in whatever activity the host offered, from photo album perusal to post-dinner party games.

"Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette" (1957) was also full of instructions -- right down to second helpings: "If only one guest has taken seconds, when the platter is passed to you, it's sociable to take a small amount to 'keep him company.'"

Post and Vanderbilt weren't the only pundits offering life guidance -- many 1950s cookbooks did, too. The 1956 edition of "Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, Revised & Enlarged" offered pithy instruction on everything from cleaning your home ("If you feel tired, lie down on the floor on your back, put your hands above your head, close your eyes, and relax for 3 to 5 min.") to personal outlook ("Every morning before breakfast, comb hair, apply make-up, a dash of cologne, and perhaps some simple earrings. Does wonders for your morale").

These days, what with our ever-evolving, increasingly hectic social lives, it's no wonder we're sometimes nostalgic for a time when the rules seemed crystal clear.

Related Articles


  • AskAndyAboutClothes.com. "Cracking the Dress Code." (July 19, 2011) http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/Clothes%20Articles/cracking_the_dress_code.htm
  • Atomic Fantasy.com. "Party Planning Mid-Century Style." (July 19, 2011) http://blog.atomicfantasy.com/2011/05/party-planning-1950s-style.html
  • Better Homes and Gardens. "Vintage Tablecloth." (July 19, 2011) http://www.bhg.com/decorating/vintage-tablecloth/
  • Crocker, Betty. "Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, Revised & Enlarged." McGraw-Hill Book Company. 1956.
  • Degroff, Dale. "The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks." Clarkson Potter/Publishers. 2008.
  • Disarray, Jen. "Morbid Curiosity Thursday: Stuffed Frankfurter Casserole." March 10, 2011. Persephone Magazine. http://persephonemagazine.com/2011/03/morbid-curiosity-thursday-stuffed-frankfurter-casserole/
  • EmilyPost.com. "Party Etiquette Tips for Hosts and Guests." (July 19, 2011) http://www.emilypost.com/social-life/hosts-and-guests/466-party-etiquette-tips-for-hosts-and-guests
  • Foodtimeline.org. "Popular 20th Century American Foods." (July 18, 2011) http://www.foodtimeline.org/fooddecades.html#1950s
  • GardenWeb.com. "1950s Theme Party: Any Ideas?" Dec. 11, 2008. (July 19, 2011) http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/cooking/msg120912295965.html
  • Gourmet.com. "Coconut Punch." (July 19, 2011) http://www.gourmet.com/recipes/1950s/1957/03/coconut-punch
  • Gourmet.com. "Grasshopper." (July 19, 2011) http://www.gourmet.com/recipes/1950s/1956/01/grasshopper
  • Gourmet.com. "Pimm's Cup." (July 19, 2011) http://www.gourmet.com/recipes/1950s/1957/08/pimms-cup
  • Maggie's Dinner Dates. "Hawaiian Dinner Party." Hawaii-luaus.com. (July 19, 2011) http://www.hawaii-luaus.com/entertainment.htm
  • NASA.gov. "Are Tang, Teflon and Velcro NASA Spinoffs?" (July 19, 2011) http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/spinfaq.htm#spinfaq12
  • SpaceAgePop.com. "Martin Denny." (July 18, 2011) http://www.spaceagepop.com/denny.htm


Dinner Party Invitations

Dinner Party Invitations

In order to have a party, you first need to invite some guests. Here is a great way to personalize and hand-deliver your dinner party invitations.