Party Planning: What Austin Powers Taught Me

Girl dressed up for party in Austin Powers inspired costume.

I’ve been busy this week getting ready for a dinner party I am having this weekend. I love party prep almost as much as the actual party. I am really excited about it and plan on sharing part of my process with all of you next week.

To get you all in a party state of mind (and to give you a good laugh), I want to share a story with you. It’s about my first experience as a newly minted adult attending my first grown up party.

It was the summer of 1999 and I had just graduated from college in Washington, DC. The boyfriend I had at the time told me that a manager from his office had invited us to an “Austin Powers Party”.  It was to be held on the rooftop garden atop his swanky apartment building in Georgetown. I was suitably impressed, intimidated, and excited. The party was in two short days.

I had never seen an Austin Powers movie. Never one to shy away from a challenge or a theme, I didn’t waste any time getting ready. I researched the movie’s plot and era, rented us both costumes, and made an appointment to get my hair and makeup done on the day of the party.

The night of the party, we stepped out of the taxi in front of the luxury apartment building – me in a black and white mini-skirt with matching top, white go-go boots, and hair coiffed to 60’s perfection, complete with white cat-eye eyeliner and my boyfriend in a perfectly repulsive pair of brown bell bottoms and hideous orange top. We had done it – we had embraced the theme and were ready for our foray into grown up parties!


As we made our way through the lobby to the elevator that would take us to the rooftop deck, we passed a life-sized cardboard cutout of Austin powers.  We looked like we could step right into the movie or out of a time machine.

We stepped off the elevator into a glass foyer that opened onto the venue. I took a deep breath, stood up straight, and told myself I would do great socializing with real grown ups. We made our way outside.

We were met on the other side of the glass door with a sea of people who, one after the other, stopped talking, turned towards us, and dropped their jaws.  EVERY single one of them was wearing the typical, conservative DC office uniform – a black, navy, or charcoal suit. Let me be clear – they were in their normal work clothes.  Let me be even more clear – this was not a costume party!  In fact, it didn’t appear to be an Austin Powers party in any way, save for the cardboard cutout downstairs.  Oh, and us.

There was not one element of the entire party reminiscent of  Austin Powers or the era -not the food, the decorations, the clothes – nothing, nada.

I realized that we were either going to sink or swim and decided swimming would be much less awkward. I put on my bravest face and starting walking up to people and introducing myself with some self-depreciating line about not reading the invitation very well. Soon we were the hit of the party and people were lined up to take their pictures with us. We became the theme and the entertainment.

Though I made the most of the circumstances that night, it was not a party I would ever try to replicate as a host or wish to attend again as a guest.

Next week on the blog I will talk about choosing an occasion, setting the mood, and embracing a theme.

Until then, get your domestic arts fix by following the Mrs. B Facebook page!

Happy homemaking,

Mrs. B Signature

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Through Mrs. Barnstable’s School for the Domestic Arts -  its blog, guides, and other resources - I will help you create a home you love to be in, show you how to host a party with panache and ease, and guide you through how to manage it all without feeling overwhelmed.

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