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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

03.20.2003

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get swanky
how to throw a swingin' cocktail party
by Yee-Fan Sun |
1 2 3

Dashingly handsome men dressed in crisp black tuxes or elegantly-tailored suits, impossibly elegant women sporting immaculately-executed updos, necks and wrists dripping with pearls as they manage to perfectly balance a canapť in one hand, a martini in the other. The swift rattle-rattle-rattle of ice sliding back and forth, back and forth, in a stainless steel cocktail shaker, Sinatra crooning innocuously in the background, the clink of crystal mingling with the low ambient buzz of self-consciously clever conversation and droll laughter. Thereís something so intimidatingly adult about the classic cocktail party. Which is why that kind of party isnít my kind of cocktail party.

The traditional two-hour, pre-dinner, everyone stand around acting stuffy and chic sort of cocktail fete is just a little too hoity-toity-ostentatious for my taste. But what I do love about the cocktail party is that stripped down to its essentials Ė and allowed to expand and evolve into a full-fledged dance-till-the-wee-hours party instead of arbitrarily cut-off at some pre-designated time -- itís a great excuse for you and your guests to show off your most fabulous, gorgeous selves, and indulge in an evening of beautiful food, elegant drink, and good conversation, the tingling undercurrent of unspoken flirtation dancing through the air. Check out part one of our two-part guide to throwing a stylish, swanky cocktail soiree thatís high on fun, low on pretentiousness Ö

dressed to the nines
Naturally, of course, the prime reason to throw a cocktail party is to give everyone the all-too-rare opportunity to get dressed-up and looking gooood. Unless you happen to inhabit a manse, however, chances are high that your buddies are going to think you have a lot of gall forcing them to go out and rent a tux or buy a pricey cocktail dress just to hang out in your tiny, humble, none-too-luxe abode for an evening. Dressing up should be fun, not stressful, so itís best to encourage ingenuity and a little silliness over high-fashion couture. Never out-and-out require people to dress black-tie: itís a good way to ensure that itíll turn some folks off if it looks like youíre getting all snooty about it. Instead, keep your definition of formal a bit tongue-in-cheek Ė encourage guests to arrive in creative fancy dress or thrift store formal, and give them some specifics on what you actually mean by that. 

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