Costume casual may be standard dress for some New Orleanians — party to attend or not — but nothing compares to getting dolled up for a well-done theme party. If you are thinking about adding a little flair to your next affair, here are a few party pros to help you navigate this year's trends.
Of fantastic beasts and Fembots
Fanciful creatures like unicorns have influenced trends such as hair colors (combinations of pink, purple and blue dyes) and even coffee beverages all over the country, so it's no surprise that they are popping up at parties.
Susan Zackin, planner and designer at Z Event Company, recently attended an event where guests were directed to wear their best mermaid attire. That leaves a lot to the imagination, she says, "but gives you an idea that it is tropical, pool, whimsical and fun versus an invite that tells guests to 'Wear a white sundress.'"
National party trends such as color blocking and neon are making their way to designers' mood boards, but trends are shape-shifters, and can impress party hosts — and their guests — in different ways. Neon, for example, can conjure scenes of epic nerd-dom, with periodic table wall coverings, glow sticks and music inspired by the elements ("Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey and "Helium" by Sia come to mind). But to someone else, a neon party can mean '80s and '90s pop fashion, Holi-inspired color powder fights and dance music. Hosts can specify, but it can be fun to let partygoers get creative.
Food and drink always are trendy themes, especially in New Orleans. For a recent soiree for the New Orleans Museum of Art, Zackin planned a "Bubble Bash," where patrons were surrounded by "Champagne bubbles," achieved through strategic lighting and lots (and lots) of balloons.
"My background is interior design so I have a lot of knowledge about space and [lighting]," she says. "It gives me a little more freedom to create knowing that it will actually work."
Popular films are another go-to party plan. Zackin threw an Austin Powers party, complete with caged dancers and Fembots dancing behind a scrim. Hosts can provide costume boxes with accessories that guests can throw on if they want to enhance their party looks or (shame!) they show up out of costume.
Go with what you know
New Orleans is a motif in itself, and it's no wonder that themes done here possess a life of their own. Jill Lambert, senior account executive at BBC Destination Management, finds fete inspiration in "our natural surroundings and what is happening in our city."
"We have clients that have bizarre ideas ... it is our job as a team to brainstorm and make it happen," says BBC account manager Megan Hebert. The company has a creative team and a design department with a production studio for prop fabrication. Swamp-themed soiree in a swamp? Sure. Or, if you don't want your guests dancing in the mud, BBC can build a swamp-like atmosphere to throw a "Southern Louisiana Nights" themed party.
Aspects of New Orleans' culture such as Storyville and Voodoo are also popular party themes, especially with out-of-town guests. Partiers at a recent BBC event were swept away to a darkened Voodoo temple — the design team constructed a large-scale model of a Voodoo altar, complete with candles and a framed portrait of priestess Marie Laveau.
In a city that attracts and cultivates creative types, whatever your plan, any theme goes.