So you are thinking about throwing a rockin’ 1950s party? Great choice. There is nothing quite like the roaring 50s, from the adorable poodle skirt to the coolest cars we have ever seen. But putting together a retro party can be a bit of a challenge. There are so many different ideas, how can you make sure you are throwing the best party without skipping a beat?
What are the best decoration ideas for a 1950s retro theme party? Decorations will depend on the type of party you’re throwing, either fabulous or classic. However, you can expect to use a lot of classic car, vinyl record, jukebox, and diner decorations.
If you need some help with your upcoming 1950s party, we have you covered. We are going to discuss everything your party needs, from the coolest wall decorations to must-have centerpieces, the attire you should consider wearing to food that should be served, and everything in between.
First Things First: Decide What Style Retro You Want
The best way to determine what decorations you should use at your 1950s themed party is to decide what kind of retro party is right for you or your audience. There are two styles when it comes to 1950s retro parties: Fabulous 50s or Classic 50s. So what exactly is the difference?
The Fabulous 50s party idea is going to be dedicated to the fun-loving, poodle skirt wearing gals that loved to relax at the milkshake shop. With a more fabulous style retro party, you will be looking at a whole lot of pink, poodles, and ice cream flavors, as well as the ‘boppy’ music from the times.
Need something a little bit more gender-neutral and hip? You will want to go the route of the Classic 50s style. With this type of theme, you have more leeway and options. Classic 50s pulls its inspiration from burger joints, casual diners, and jukeboxes. Here you will find a whole lot of reds and blacks to suit your style.
After you have decided on what type of party to throw, you can start pulling ideas from our treasure trove of decoration ideas for 1950s retro parties!
Fabulous 50s Party Decoration Ideas
So you’re a lover of the side ponytails and milkshake shops, huh? Perfect! We are going to show you all of the must-know ideas that will turn your room into a flashback of the most popular milkshake shop on the block. With these decoration ideas, you will be stepping into the past and loving every minute of it.
Your room needs to resemble a milkshake shop to a tee, but how? The best way to ensure you are getting your point across is to start with some awesome room decorations. These decorations can be placed around the room to give your guests the best ambiance and true spirit of the 1950s.
Room decorations you will want to consider include:
- Milkshake Cutout – This adorable cutout of a larger-than-life strawberry milkshake will not only give your space a big burst of the theme but also works as the perfect prop for your guests to enjoy photos. (Don’t forget to let your guests get in on all the action and look the part with these adorable photo props.)
- Poodles, of course – You can’t forget to place pink poodles on any table, booth, or organized space to spruce up the decor.
- Classic Car – This fun 50s photo prop features a classic pink car that should be waiting to be utilized by your guests. It sets the scene and, again, can be used for some over-the-top photos that are bound to be all over Instagram in no time. #1950s
- Diner Stools and Tables – If your budget is limited, skip over this bullet point and keep reading. If, however, you have unlimited funds and you want to simulate a fabulous 50s style party, outfit your room with sundae style bar stools and matching tables. You could also consider these stackable, more affordable bar stools to get more bang for your buck.
- Gigantic Vinyl Record – A massive 5-foot record will certainly not go unnoticed for your 50s party. We love the pink found in the middle, which ties into the rest of your fabulous style color theme perfectly.
- Bathroom Mat and Shower Curtain – Don’t forget about the bathrooms. Depending on the length of your party, the bathroom will undoubtedly get significant traffic. You could consider this retro bubblegum advertisement inspired bath mat and curtain combo. Don’t forget the toilet confections for a nice touch that your guest will most certainly remember.
Having some sweet cutouts, props, and accessories around the room is a must, but that isn’t going to be enough to make sure your party isn’t unforgettable. You’ll want to touch up the walls so that your guests can get immersed in the fabulous 50s atmosphere. We found these selections to be top-notch and will get the job done:
- Customized Sign – A customized ‘Welcome Sign’ is a quick and simple way to add a hefty dose of retro, while also setting the tone as the first impression for the rest of the party! Not to mention another excellent photo opportunity!
- Long Wall Backdrop – This soda shop background is what you would have found over 50 years ago at your favorite malt shop. It features bright bubblegum pink and baby blue colors in a retro design that you and your guests will adore.
- Vinyl Records Banner – We’d prefer you find some 1950s vinyl records at a thrift shop or yard sale and string together to form a banner. It’s more authentic and less cheesy, but if that isn’t an option and you’re pressed for time, consider these for the wall along with music notes that can be taped for filler space.
- Diner Backdrop – Want a wall decoration that has it all? This rockin’ 50s backdrop is an easy way to completely transform your room into the milkshake 50s party of your dreams. It’s as if a picture of a milkshake shop was taken and tossed into the 2020s.
- Jukebox Door Cover – If you know anything about the 1950s, then you know that jukeboxes are everything. You have to have at least one. Why not throw it on your door? This fabulous 50s door cover is a colorful and fun jukebox surrounded by trademark checkers.
Table decorations are a must! Everyone will be enjoying their milkshakes and desserts, so naturally, you’ll want to make it look like the real deal. We found these tablecloths and tableware sets to be the most fitting and require little time to get right. Remember, you can always opt for a solid color (like white or pink) tablecloth if you’re on a limited budget.
- Tablecloths – This tablecloth features the same iconic colors, but on the sides, you will find some adorable 1950s inspired milkshake bar stools that are too cute to ignore.
- Balloons – The more, the merrier our eyes. Just ensure the balloons match the color scheme of baby blue, pink, white, and blank. Tie weight and place in the middle of the table, or attach to the ends of tables or chairs as you deem fit.
- Food Displays – Classic Thunderbirds from 1956 in a lovely pink shade and filled with a tasty ‘burger’ are an excellent option for sprucing up your table. After all, who doesn’t love a good classic 1950s, Ford? It’s a sight everyone will be happy to see. Disclaimer – We want to make sure you know these are cardboard, which is why the price is at $20.
- Fabulous Tableware – This set of fabulous 50s tableware is your go-to for table decorations. The plates, cups, utensils, and the like, all come with the trademark pink and blue coloring and a beautiful design that will bring your table together, quickly.
- Confetti – Sock hop confetti can spruce up a bland tabletop or tablecloth. If you’re on the fence with how much you need, go big. Confetti can be used in many places aside from the table. The ones we recommend can be personalized (sorry – you’ll have to remove the “Happy Birthday” ones if they don’t apply).
- Guest Checks – No Venmo or Apple Pay, huh?! “Old School” handwritten checks were the norm in this era, and what better way to add a pad or two to each table to drive home the feel of the 1950s. Consider writing some great sayings or quotes from the time that will keep your guests enthused while they wait for their milkshake.
Last but not least, you should finish off your tables with a prized centerpiece. We love these ideas:
- Milkshake Glasses and Bottled Rootbeer – A box case with milkshake glasses, empty ice cream cartons, and some IBC rootbeer bottles is a unique idea that can be downright beautiful for you crafty people out there. Don’t forget the biodegradable paper straws!
- Rollerskates – You may need to dig around for rustic pairs of matching rollerskates, but they will be well worth the effort and cost (roughly $15-40 a pair). Rollerskates are easy to display and pair well with other small accent decors.
- Vinyl Records – Rock and roll records are always going to be an eye-catcher in the middle of the table, and they are entirely on-theme. You may be able to get more authentic and purchase a lot at local yard sales, but people are more in-tune with their value these days.
- Radios – This 1950s retro-inspired faux wood radio is quite a sight and relatively affordable for a centerpiece. This radio may be more in line with matching the color patterns of the Fabulous 1950s, however.
- Sock Hop Dancers – It’s all about the sock hop when it comes to milkshake shops in the 1950s! So, pull out the sock hop dancers and plaster them in the middle of the tables for a cute, fun twist that will make everyone want to start dancing.
What to Serve
If you are hosting a retro birthday party with a focus on milkshakes, guess what you need to provide? Milkshakes!
If you want to make it a little bit more fun and not so obvious, you can set up a full-fledged sundae bar. Allow your guests to pick what type of ice cream flavor they want, then fix it up with the toppings you offer. Strawberries, peanuts, hot fudge, whipped cream, sprinkles – you name it! Just don’t forget the sundae glasses that coincide with the time. A nice touch!
What to Wear
It’s not enough to decorate perfectly. You have to look the part, too. You should plan to wear something like this:
- Ladies – Poodle skirt, pink jacket, cat-eye sunglasses, chiffon neck scarves, saddle shoes. Wear your hair in a side ponytail.
- Gents – Plan to wear a bowling shirt with a pair of slacks and saddle shoes. To style your hair, consider doing a greaser pompadour or gelling the hair down and combing it off to one side.
Classics 50s Party Decoration Ideas
Want a little less pink and a bit more Grease? Then you are going to want to opt for the Classic 50s party! This party revolves around classic cars, vinyl records, burger joints, and diners. For the most part, this type of party is going to be a little more ‘tough guy,’ although it is, of course, still fun-loving and one-of-a-kind.
Props are going to be big room statements when you are setting up for a classic 50s party. We have found these 4 to be the best options on the market, with the ability to completely transform your space in a split second. Check them out:
- Jukebox, Jukebox, and more Jukebox – Every classic diner from the 1950s has a jukebox. If you don’t have the real deal (with a modern twist), the next best option is to provide a classic looking jukebox cutout in your party room!
- Classic Car Couch – these are not easy to find and may cost the same as a new car, but a restored rear 1957 Chevy Bel Air with a built-in couch would be the centerpiece of the room. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about the price!
- Classic Car Cutout – if you can’t afford the real thing, this is the next best option! The 1950s put a big focus on their cars, which we now know and love as classic cars. You need to have a larger-than-life car standee like this! In traditional all-red coloring, it’s the ideal car cutout that pairs well with the rest of your theme.
- Diner Display – If you are going the diner route, then you need a standee that is going to seem authentic. This retro diner standee looks like a picture taken from the 1950s themselves.
Your walls will not only encompass your guests with warmth and shelter, but it’s also going to provide them with a setting that blasts them into the past. If you want your guests to get a classic 50s vibe, then you are going to need one of these as your wall decor:
- Diner Backdrop – With red and white every which way and a retro design, this serene 50s diner backdrop is the ideal choice for any classic 50s party. The product can be customized with your party name and comes in a variety of sizes. Also, you can add a Table Banner and Menu (different sizes available) to complete the ultimate package.
- Posters or Signs – Perhaps a Pinup Poster (depends on your audience) could turn some heads and spruce up the room with vibrant colors, mainly if they feature classic cars. Metal/Tin Signs come in all different styles (Cars of the time, motor oil, gas stations, diner related, beer) and are relatively inexpensive.
- Wall Art – Having artwork that showcases some of the iconic things of the 1950s is not off-limits, and during the mid-to-late 50s, similar prints may have hung in diners and homes across America. Not many people were more popular than Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe during the 50s.
- Electric Guitars – We’re not saying to run out and pick up a Gibson Les Paul, Fender Stratocaster, or a Gretsch White Penguin while taking out a second mortgage. But, an electric guitar replica from the time may be an amplified and different approach to decorating your space.
For the table, you should focus on checkered patterns and trying to toss in some reds, blacks, and trademark diner favorites like records and classic cars. Here are some great ideas for setting the table:
- Checkered Tablecloth – A black and white checkered tablecloth may seem simple, but it is an easy way to add a retro theme to your meal space.
- Checkered Balloons – Keeping with the checkered train, almost every party needs to have balloons, and these should meet your expectations with a Classic 50s theme. Caution, you will probably have too much black and white if you go with the checkered tablecloth and balloon combo.
- Matchbox Labels – Instead of confetti this time around, substitute matchbox labels for filler space on your tables. Smoking grew in popularity during the 1950s (didn’t peak until the mid-60s), and the artwork is sure to get noticed by your guests. American labels are a bit more challenging to find (most of what is on eBay, Etsy, and the like are European), so be sure not to throw these away post-party as they may be collector’s items in the future.
- Tableware – When it comes to tableware, you have options. Lightweight plastic baskets with a red/white wax paper sheet are ideal for serving food and make cleanup a sinch. Paper popcorn buckets (don’t forget the popcorn) are also symbolic of this time and style. Last, your tables won’t be complete until you have a simple and appropriate condiment caddy.
Last, you can’t forget the center of the table, which helps tie the whole theme together.
You have options when it comes to this piece of the puzzle, too. You can pull out some of your favorite records and throw some balloons in red, black and white in the middle of the table, or do something like this:
- Coca-Cola Crates – Coca-Cola was extremely popular (still is) in the 1950s, and these crates from Etsy are circa the 1950s. They are legit vintage (and anything with the coca-cola brand that is over 60s years old will hold value in the future), but feel free to look around to find something more retro, modern, and less expensive. Crates can be stacked, flipped on their side, or be filled with say real coca-cola bottles for your guests to enjoy without waiting on the bartender.
- 3-Slot Payphone – 5, 10, or 25-cent slot payphones in a few different colors would be a fantastic vocal (pun intended) point to the center of your table. How else did you let your friends know you were at the diner?
- Jukebox Records– This idea is only for the crafty and patient. It also comes with some risks. Some vendors will sell lots of jukebox records (50+ at a time), but you’ll have to sort through to find ones that pertain only to the 1950s. Some of your guests may have never seen a jukebox, let alone the 45RPM, 7-inch size records that were most commonly stored/played. You could ask the sellers to keep it to only 1950s artists, especially if they want to move the product. Up to you.
- Record Jackets – Similarly, you’ll need to be creative and patient to find the right record jackets and create a fun centerpiece out of them. We like boxy’ shapes and think finding six record jackets and gluing them together to form a cube placed in the center of the table would be unique. From there, you can always dress up with smaller accent decorations, but what guest wouldn’t want to pick them up and turn them around.
- Replica Cars – We know we already mentioned this in the Fabulous 50’s Table Decoration ideas, but classic cars would be a great centerpiece to any table. We think 2-4 cars, showcased the right way, would be enough to wow your guests. They come in a variety of different models and colors. To help, consider the Ford, GM, or the Mix lot to ensure you have enough cars for your shindig.
What to Serve
When you are going the 1950s burger joint/diner route, you need to make sure you have staples from these restaurants. Here are some of the best suggestions for what to serve your guests at the party:
- Hamburgers and hot dogs are a must
- French fries
- Milkshakes and sundaes
- Pineapple upside-down cake for dessert
- Fruit cups
- Grilled cheese sandwiches
- Devilled eggs
- Celery and cheese whiz
Thinking of serving alcohol at your party? These were the top drinks in the 1950s:
- Mint Juleps
- Whiskey Sours
- Champagne Cocktails
For non-alcoholic options, consider coca-cola, juice (in a variety of different flavors), pink lemonade, and water.
What to Wear
When going to a classic 50s party, you have plenty of options! The most popular choice for women will be the poodle skirt and scarf combination, paired with signature saddle shoes.
Men may want to take inspiration from Grease and wear a white t-shirt paired with blue jeans. Loafers are acceptable with this outfit. Just make sure you don’t forget to grease up your hair when you are finished. Settle for a simple greaser style or try your hand at the trademark pompadour.
Whether you are going the fabulous or classic route with your retro 1950s party, the biggest thing to remember is that you need to encompass the room with your decor.
Pay attention to the details. Every square foot of space is an opportunity to decorate.
Fabulous parties should focus on a whole lot of pinks, blues, jukeboxes, and poodle skirts, while a classic party can take more inspiration from red and black checkered diners, greaser looks, classic cars, and records.