Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Any excuse for a hat - The Cocktail Party

This summer has been a weird one in Tokyo with crazy heat followed by lashings of rain with one cyclone after another swamping us in humidity.  Great for mozzies not so much for hat wearing.  That partnered with a month long visit from my mum and a spattering of visitors in-between has meant that sitting down with a needle and thread to get hats made has been a pretty irregular thing (yay to being your own boss).

To compensate I have been throwing myself in to life in Tokyo.  Moving to a new city in your mid 20-30 somethings can be hard especially when you are working from home as most new friends are made in the office, so I decided to go hunting for friends instead and joined lots of groups including the British Chambers of Commerce Japan which handily threw a big party the week after I joined to celebrate the birthday of William Shakespeare.  Yay, new friends and a reason to wear a hat.

My Titania themed flower hat and Kiichiro all kilted up

This was my first big fancy cocktail party in a Loooooong time which got me to thinking; why don't people throw cocktail parties anymore?

As a milliner I constantly hear people say; "I love hats but I have nowhere to wear one", the thinking being that hats can only be worn at weddings and the races, but I say lets start thinking of excuses to wear our hats and if we don't have anywhere to wear one then throw the party yourself. 

Cocktails parties at home are a symbol of the fifties.  Peoples houses were big enough to entertain their friends and housewives had enough time and cash to impress their mates with fancy cocktails and finger foods.

Cocktail parties were also a lot easier to organise than a full dinner party as there was less food and more people to add to the party atmosphere and help everyone mingle.

Yay to dishwashers and modern men who know how they work

The same still stands true.  A cocktail party is easy to organise, lets you get together a mix of your friends so you can finally set your sister up with the guy from your office, only lasts two hours so no chance someone can get really drunk or annoying and ruin the whole thing and you get to wear your favourite hat and sky high heels without having to worry about wind and rain killing your hat and walking home barefoot because your blisters hurt so much.  Win, win, win.  And don't worry that your friends won't be into it, set the right move from the start and everyone will have fun dressing up, even the blokes.

fun and funky

simple and chic

So where to start?  A text message telling your mates to meet at the pub at 7 is all good and well for a pint after work but for your cocktail party you want to set a classy tone from the start to get everyone in the mood.  How?  Good old fashioned invitations.

Remember a cocktail party is usually pretty small at around 20 people so invites won't break the bank but will set the mood and, by putting a dress code and finishing time on the invite, they let everyone know what to expect and what is expected of them.

Next food.

Cocktail parties aren't about impressing people with fancy recipes and stuffing them till the burst.  They are a gathering in-between meals so you only need to serve nibbles, giving nervous people something to do with their hands and those that didn't eat beforehand have something to soak up the cocktails.  Keep it simple but well presented and it will add decoration and a homely touch to your party.

Cocktail parties are named such for a reason, the cocktails.  People will expect a well stocked bar so gather up all the half bottles of stuff that linger at the back of your liquor shelf and the cocktail shaker we have all been given as a present at some point and hit up google for cocktail recipes to Wow.  Choose a signature cocktail to serve as everyone arrives or go for the classic punch bowl for a vintage vibe.

Send the invites, stock the bar, go and dust off your favourite hat and give your friends a reason to dress up.  Loads of fun, loads of laughs and hopefully your mates will pick up the baton and you will get an invite through your door soon enough giving you another reason for a new hat.

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