10 Ideas for a 50s Theme Party That’ll Shake, Rattle, and Roll

This isn't your traditional sock hop. From decorations to food, these ideas will help you create the ultimate 50s vibe for your bash.

Published July 28, 2023

Break out your bobby socks and saddle shoes, we're heading to the 1950s. Where's the fun in hosting a 1950s-themed party and just buying a bulk lot of bright teal and pink decorations? Instead, get right to the heart of the atomic age with these 50s party ideas your grandparents would approve of.

Pull Out the Plates and Potpourri: We're Getting Formal


The basic party decorations you can find on Amazon just don't cut it if you want to really feel like you're jabbing and jiving in 55. Checkerboard and bright teal are cute for an elementary classroom, but they don't scream special. Instead, take hints from old photographs. Pull out tablecloths, candlesticks, actual dinnerware, and cocktail glasses. Buy some fresh flowers to complement the season.

To transform your house into a party Don Draper would be willing to attend, play up the formal aspect. We're going for authenticity here, not pop culture pizazz.

Rent a Classic Car for the Ultimate Photo Backdrop


If you've ever gone to a parade or county fair in your area, you'll probably see a classic car or two. Classic cars from the 50s are a popular collectible among car enthusiasts, and there's a ton of collectors or businesses that rent them out for events. Instead of slapping together a cardboard or balloon backdrop, rent a classic car for the ultimate social media shot.

Recreate the Diner Aesthetic With Soda Glasses & Food Baskets


Diners boomed in the 1950s, and that aesthetic's still going strong with haunts like Steak 'N Shake emulating the style's glory days. You can bring a little retro diner action to your 50s party by serving up classic diner food and milkshakes or floats in soda fountain glasses and bright red food baskets.

Bonus: this catch-all type of plating will also make clean-up super easy.

Set an Evening Dress-Code, Pantyhose and All


In the 1950s, there was a strong culture surrounding appropriate dress for events and occasions. You wouldn't be caught dead going to a get-together in your favorite fluffy pjs or sweats. To get everyone hyped for the coming party, send out a dress code list. Try to stick with typical 50s fashion as much as possible but encourage people to put their own spin on the fun styles.

Some 50s fashion options to consider are:

  • Wiggle dresses
  • Sweaters + pencil skirts
  • Pleated trousers + bowling-style shirts
  • Dungarees + fitted tees
  • Blouses + circle skirts

Serve Trays of Delicious Vintage Hors d'Oeuvres


When it came to parties in the 50s, a few trays of delicate hors d'oeuvres were a must-have. Think spinach puffs, cocktail weenies, deviled eggs, and cucumber sandwiches. If you've got a few weeks to plan your party, think about browsing real vintage cookbooks to see what unique recipes you can find to cook up for your guests.

Having Jello Molds Is a Must


We couldn't talk about 50s theme parties and not bring up the elephant in the room -- jello molds. If it could be slapped inside a gelatine mold, it was. Now, some of those Jello recipes need to stay in the past -- we're looking at you spaghetti and hot dogs mold cake -- but you can put together cute dessert molds for people to snack on.

Whip Up Classic Cocktails Like Manhattans & Martinis


Take one peep into Mad Men and you'll notice how alcohol's everywhere. Drinking was a huge pastime in the mid-century, and a bunch of classic cocktails got their big break in the decade. Some retro recipes you can serve up are:

Learn the Hand Jive and Other Popular Dance Moves


Dancing was a huge party activity in the 50s and still is today. What can we say? Humans love to get down and boogey. Instead of bumping and grinding or whatever new TikTok dance is circling its way across the internet, try your hand at these 50s staples.

And while you're at it, explore the best music the decade has to offer. From Doris Day and Connie Francis to Elvis Presley and The Flamingos, there's an artist for everyone to love.

Get an Outdoor Projector for That Drive-In Vibe


By the 1950s, movie theaters weren't the fantastical havens they used to be. So, to switch things up a bit and lean into the booming automotive culture, the drive-in was born.

Bring a taste of the drive-in theater experience to your party by setting up an outdoor projector and play a few classic 50s films on it. And, if you've got the space, you could even pull your cars up for a real drive-in simulation.

Bring Out the Hula Hoops for a Merry Competition


One wild activity that feels timeless but is actually rooted in 1951 is hula hooping. And what better way to celebrate the decade than by enjoying one of its innovations?

So, head to your local sports accessories store and stock up on hula hoops. And if you really want to relive your childhood days, you can even start a hula hoop competition.

Your Party'll Shake, Rattle, and Roll


A themed party beats out a non-themed one, hands down. There's fun in the planning, the hosting, and the attending. And the 1950s have such iconic styles and cultural touchstones that it serves as a great treasure box potential party hosts can rifle through. But if you can't find anything to your liking, we've got these inspired ideas to get you started.

10 Ideas for a 50s Theme Party That’ll Shake, Rattle, and Roll