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Mad Men Cocktail Hour

With the season premier of Mad Men just over two weeks away, it’s time to start planning for an early ’60s rumpus inspired by the Drapers and all your friends at Sterling Cooper.  It will be an evening of civilized indulgence, fabulous fashion, and toasts to the atomic era, so shine your pearls and line up your good scotch glasses; it’s cocktail time!

Mad Men Party Invitations

Personal calls are a must for your swingin’ Mad Men cocktail hour.  Channel your inner Betty Draper, pick up the phone, and use your polite, hostess voice to invite your social circle over.  Try this: “Hello, Peggy, it’s Betty Draper.  Don and I hosting some friends for drinks at our home tonight, and we’d be delighted if you joined us.”

Mad Men Party Decor

As with any complicated party, the key to easier decorating is to divide and conquer.  Assign a Mad Men sub-theme to each area of your party space: the Sterling Cooper office, the Draper residence, and a fancy lounge or supper club.

Set up your version of the Mad Men office in a space that currently has little in the way of furnishings; transformation will be easiest with a clean slate.  Most offices on the show are actually quite sparse, so start by clearing out clutter.  You’ll only need a few big pieces to suggest the Sterling Cooper offices, including a desk (any kind will do, just make sure it is totally cleared), a sofa (the cleaner the lines and lower the profile, the better), and a desk chair (steal from your dining room for a more period, non-ergonomic look).  The rest can be filled in with props.  Of course you’ll need a workable bar: a few bottles of undefinable liquor, an ice bucket with tongs, and several lowball glasses.  A vintage typewriter  or telephone and a pad of plain paper will do wonders for the desk.

Focus on late ’50s and early ’60s knick knacks to decorate in the style of the Draper home.  First, clear away all the normal clutter of 2010 –  bills, photos, DVDs, current books and magazines, travel souvenirs – and replace it with Mad Men versions.  Hit a mid-century antique shop if you’re looking for items to keep afterwards, otherwise, twenty dollars at the Goodwill will go a long way here.  Pick up a couple of older-looking, classic books; a vinyl record of Dean Martin; several chunky ashtrays; a TV tray; and a hefty table lamp.  The thrift store is also an excellent place to grab plain decanters for your alcohol, and, if you’re really committing, you’ll always find two-tiered, blonde wood coffee tables there for cheap.  Just donate it all back to the store when you’re finished.

The key to decorating the supper club/lounge will be lighting.  Whereas the Draper home will be fully lit (everything is happy all the time!!), the lounge should be dim to the point of comedy; it represents the seedy underbelly of Kennedy-era life.  Go ahead and set up shop in your dining area. Iron a white table cloth and some linen napkins, fully set the table with your best stuff (all the classy places are pre-set), and light one, sputtering candle in the middle of the table.  Gather your houseplants (real and otherwise) to round off the corners.  Finally, if you’re graphically inclined, mock menus make you a superstar (here‘s a classic, supper club menu from Musso and Frank – a filming location for Mad Men – to get you started). Oh, and don’t forget the matches and ashtrays!

Mad Men Party Food and Drinks

You’ve got a lot of food options for a Mad Men party.  Get classic with a full pot roast dinner followed by chocolate cake, or whip up standard snacks from the era, like Chex mix, nuts, cheesy spreads, and dips. Retro Happy Hour by Linda Everett should point you in the right direction.

It goes without saying that lots of liquids are in order for your Mad Men cocktail party.  Nothing fruity for this get-together, it’s gotta be the classics made with top shelf ingredients.  To set an authentic scene, you’ll want martinis, Manhattans, and old-fashioneds, plus plenty of smooth solo acts.  Serve them all up in plain glassware (no logos) with small, square cocktail napkins in plain white.  For lighter libations, soda in bottles is perfect.  Serve with straws.

Mad Men Party Music

Here is yet another occasion when the Ultra Lounge set will serve you so, so well.  Wild, Cool, and Swingin’ is apropos, as are Space Capades, Cocktail Capers, and Bongo Land.  Can you just play Frank and Dean and get away with it?  Sure, but remember that perfection and subtlety often go hand in hand, and what you want to give your guests is atmosphere, not just music.  Spin the sultry tunes in your lounge/supper club area, and save the happy ones for the Draper home and the office.

Mad Men Party Costumes

The internet is crammed with sites devoted to Mad Men fashion, which is a good thing, since we consider ourselves fashion challenged when it comes to creating a legit look.  Here are a couple of good places to start:

Whether you’re creating the look of a specific character (we favor Joan and her womanly swag) or the Mad Men version of yourself, use the fashion rules of the show.  In general, ladies want a perfect fit and a feminine skirt or dress silhouette: for Betty think full, for Joan go curve-hugging, and for Peggy stay inbetween.  To achieve the look of period hair, a wig will save you the hassle of hot rollers and foreign styling techniques.  For the men, masculine, clean cut, tailored looks accessorized with thin ties and dapper hats are best.  Try if you’re shopping for a new outfit, but avoid looks with a peak-a-boo slip. And remember, pulling off a period look is largely about how you carry yourself.  Walk, sit, and move like a stifled, early 1960s woman – not like your liberated self.

Unique Mad Men Party Ideas

If you’ve got die hard fans on your hands, consider amping it up with a fete inspired by an event in a particular episode, such as the pivotal Kentucky Derby party, a California beatnik bash reminiscent of Don’s escape, or a Kennedy-Nixon election returns party.

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