Turning FORTY and You’re Invited…

…to my IMAGINARY party (or how I would have planned my birthday if I was indeed having a party this year). So, welcome to my virtual soirée…or a glimpse at my “dream party” mood boards.

Indeed, on November 18th, I’m leaving my thirties behind and entering my FORTIES! * Gasp * Ugh * Sigh * Although I’m not exactly thrilled about the notion that I will be 40 years-old…I am so very grateful to be alive, to be healthy and strong, and to have this opportunity to enjoy everything that I’ve been blessed with in my life – an amazing husband and our two wonderful boys (these three are my whole world); a close and loving family (my sisters and our extended family are the raddest people EVER); terrific and supportive friends; my artistic passions; and the work that I love.


I don’t FEEL 40!!!

(I hope) I don’t LOOK 40!!!

I don’t want to ACT 40 (if there is a “standard” for this age group)!!!

If I had to give myself an age to match how I feel, (think I) look and act…I would say (er, wish) 30? Go ahead, you can tell me that too, I’ll let ya (wink-wink). No, really…PUH-LEEZ tell me that, it would be the best present ever! If I can figure out how to work 40 like some of my favorite style icons (Gwen Stefani, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Rachel Weisz, etc.), then I’ll gladly join the club…because those beautiful, intelligent, talented, awesome ladies ROCK, hard! But until then, I’m not really cool with this whole aging thing yet…and I’m trying to fight it every step of the way.

My husband had his 40th birthday in August…and with my birthday just three months later, we thought it would be fun to possibly combine our birthdays and have one big party. I really, really, REALLY wanted to have a big, celebratory bash. I seriously LOVE parties…the planning and styling, color schemes and themes, over-the-top invitations (but, of course), amazing food-drinks-sweets, loud music and activities…but most importantly, seeing my friends and family having a good time. It just makes me happy to see my vision come together as I enjoy a night to remember with my favorite people.

And with a milestone birthday like the BIG FOUR-O, I felt a huge celebration was in order. Earlier on in the Summer (when this party was still a possibility and we were starting to plan it), I was brainstorming party themes with my sister, Julie, who suggested that I do a “Forties” theme for our 40th Birthday Soirée. THAT WAS IT! No need to toss around other ideas. I LOVED it!

1. Gene Tierney; 2. Veronica Lake; 3. Jinx Falkenburg, Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth; 4. Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner; 5. Marilyn Monroe.

Envisioning 1940’s Hollywood glamour, an elegant affair with everyone dressed to the nines and dancing cheek-to-cheek, sipping champagne while Big Band/Swing music played in the background…yeah, I could totally get into that. Especially if it meant that I would be all dolled-up and looking fabulous like a silver-screen siren, with my dapper leading man by my side. I’ve always been into the retro-vintage vibe and especially love pinup girl and Hollywood starlet style of the 1940s, as evidenced by the look I was going for in these two photos (the one on top from a company Christmas party when I was in my mid-twenties…and the one on the bottom from a “boudoir” shoot a few years ago when I was 37, photographed by the talented, Desiree Hayes).

My current color crush is BLACK and GOLD, with a pop of CORAL. Lately, everything I’ve been pinning shows my obsession with this color scheme. You can check out my Pinterest board for our “Forties” Birthday Soirée inspiration, as well as links for the original sources…or scroll down for the mood boards I’ve put together for each category of this “imaginary” party. Most of the images compiled below are taken from my Pinterest boards. For some of the categories, I’ve numbered the items and they are described in the caption, but you’ll need to go to Pinterest for links.


Before I even knew what the theme would be, I was certain I wanted “specific” wording on the invitations, regardless of how pretty or elegant the design or papers. I knew I didn’t want “oh lordy, look who’s forty!” or anything “flirty and fabulous 40” about it (sorry, those are just too cliché for me). It was going to be simple, crass, and with a sense of humor that expressed my sentiments about aging…(excuse my French) “FUCK, I’m FORTY?” or “WTF…40!” or “Fuck it, I’m 40.” With an emphasis on typography, ornamentation and retro lettering styles from the early 1900s, I wanted the invitations to combine a vintage elegance aesthetic with modern day slang and expletives in the wording. I fantasized about gold foil or letterpress printing, gilded edges on thick stock, coral colored handmade paper for accents and envelopes liners, and black envelopes with decorative calligraphy in gold.

1. Bregenz Photo Back, 1800s; 2. Giclee Art Print by Rock The Custard Prints on Etsy; 3. Gold-Edge Letterpress Cards by Villainy and Associates; 4. Good Japan Press Poetry Book Cover Design by Gregory Boerum; 5. Art Deco Book Jackets by Coralie Bickford-Smith; 6. Envelope, Liner and Calligraphy on A Fabulous Fete ; 7. Cleopatra Style addressing by Myrtle and Lloyd Calligraphy and Illustration on Etsy.

Dressing the Theme
Well-tailored suits and dresses, perfectly coiffed and curled hair, crisp and clean make-up with winged eyeliner and bright red lips…Forties style flatters everyone. The hair styles can be complicated, since it involves a lot of styling and sculpting to get the perfect: victory rolls, peek-a-boo bang, top reverse roll, pin-curls, side rolls, up do, and pompadour. So, for me personally, I would enlist the help of my hair stylist…like I did for the boudoir shoot. Since my hair is a short bob, I would probably opt for pin-curls and finger waves. Guys could do a clean side part and slicked down style or just wear a fedora or driver’s cap.

1. Winged eyeliner, red lipstick, perfectly styled hair…from Style Noted blog; 2. Finger waves…from Bobby Pin Blog; 3. Classic, clean make-up and red lips…from Anne of Carversville blog; 4. Finger waves, pin-curls, ornate hairpins…from Full Wedding Sources blog; 5. Hairstyle option for shorter hair, simple but elegant make-up…from Pinterest; 6. Modern take on victory rolls or side rolls and up do…Frida Gustavsson by Andreas Ohlund for Elle Sweden.

At first, I thought I’d want to find a tailored 40s style dress, but since this is an imaginary party and I can go all-out and do what I want…I decided for me I’d have to wear a glittery/sparkly, embroidered, sequined evening gown in black and gold. The gentlemen could wear fancy suits/tuxedos or simply go with a button-down shirt, slacks, suspenders (a must) and bow-ties.

1. Black Net and Gold Satin Dress from Oasis UK, Stephan and Co. Mixed Media Bracelet from Nordstrom; 2. ‘Starry Night’ Dress from Rickety Rack; 3. Jasmine Pink Lace by Alicia Estroda of Stop Staring!; 4. 40s inspired Vogue shoot ‘Spell Bound’ with Alexander Skarsgard; 5. Actress Kara Tointon from the 2012 Olivier Awards, more 20s inspired, but the dress is stunning and I love her hair; 6. From Chiffon Et Ribbons blog; 7. GQ; 8. Ruffles and Sequins blog (I think the image is from Free People); 9. Suzannah Beautifully Tailored British Fashion; 10. Sagaza Madrid’s; 11. ‘Timeless Green’ by Stop Staring!

Even though I imagined the party to be all-out forties styling for dress, hair/make-up and music, it also needed to be fun and not pretentious or too formal. So, while the evening would start out with Big Band, Swing and Jazz standards from the era (played live by a trio or quartet), eventually a DJ would spin more recent hits from the four decades of our lives, to get everyone on the dance floor. I also thought it would be fun to have a dance instructor teaching swing dancing (I know I’d personally love to learn to Jive, Boogie Woogie, Lindy Hop, and do the East Coast Swing). How fun would that be?!!! I just want to dance my 40 year-old butt off all night long (and learn a few new moves while I’m at it).

Other activities would include “guess our ages in this photo” (where our photos displayed around the room as decorations would also be a chance for guests to win prizes); a trivia quiz with fun facts about Aaron and I (our childhoods, teen years, personalities, things people may not know about us); and I’d like to have a separate “game room” where guests could filter in when they need a break from dancing and play some of our favorite (though not forties-esque) video games like RockBand, Dance Central on Kinect, and maybe some card games and dominoes. And of course, there’d have to be a photo booth, with quirky retro props.

Cris and Carlos, fandi.es

Photo Booth props, as seen on the Lovely Bride blog.

Decorations and Food

The mood boards kind of say it all, but I’ve broken up the decor into three categories…1. Things I would want to buy for the party, 2. Decorations I could DIY (because that’s my favorite part of planning: designing, making, printing, painting things myself), and 3. Food styling. I didn’t really plan a menu for this imaginary party…but a dessert table, amuse-bouche hors d’œuvres, fancy finger foods, and a well-appointed bar with signature cocktails would be a must!  And of course, the food offerings would need to incorporate some of my favorite things: chocolate, bacon and coffee…(oh, and salted butter caramels, warm bread with butter, and chile mangoes). I also thought it would be rad to have a Boba Tea bar (Aaron and I had our first bubble milk tea in 1993 when we were in Taipei, long before it was all the rage with tea houses and cafes devoted to it)!

Decor items to BUY: 1. Confetti Paper Placemats, Anthropologie; 2. Sequined Scallops Curtain, Anthropologie; 3. Sparklers from Blushing Bride blog; 4. Chevron Texture in White Gold Wallpaper, F. Schumacher & Co., would love tablecloths in this pattern; 5. Black weather balloons with white (or gold) writing, from Anouk B Interiors blog; 6. Black, Gold and White Palette inspiration board, from Style Me Pretty blog; 7. Parachute as ceiling decor, 100 Day Wedding blog.

Decor items to DIY: 1. Glitter and gold painted mason jars, The Sweetest Occasion blog and Rachel Bowes of Finch & Thistle Event Design; 2. Doilies on a string of lights, I would use gold, Pinterest; 3. Sparkly gold framed sign, paper tassels, “Eat Me” sign, by Ruby May Designs; 4. Gold dipped feathers by Ryan + Michelle + Ellie, and gold painted and calligraphed table number rocks by Julie Song Ink; 5. Paper tassels as a backdrop (for dessert table or photo booth) from Style Me Pretty and Confetti System; 6. Fringe pennant garlands, but in black, gold and coral, from Mint Love Social Club blog; 7. Thumbtacks and typography (to make a Happy Birthday sign or 40), by Jessica Hische; 8. Hand-lettered chalkboard backdrop/sign, by Dana Tanamachi; 9. Fringe tassels on weather balloons, from Sweet Thing blog.

1. Gold dipped carafe and glasses, from Martha Stewart; 2. Dessert table styling, from Zsa Zsa Bellagio blog; 3. Gold bordered plates, coral napkins, die cut and calligraphed menu cards, from Capital Style blog; 4. Crosshatch Decanters from Dwell Studio ; 5. White (or gold) printed black treat bags, by Kinship Press; 6. Monogram cupcakes (I’d like gold glitter frosting on the white ones), from Pinterest; 7. “40” sparklers candles for cake, from Shop Waiting on Martha; 8. Heart shaped cupcake sparklers from Shop Waiting on Martha; 9. Hand-lettered chalkboard menu, from Style Me Pretty, Lauren Wakefield Photography; 10. Sugar cookies with coral icing and imprinted names or “40”, from Style Me Pretty, Closer to Love Photography; 11. Gold and shimmer tiered cake by Sugar Couture.


Besides having some gold-imprinted goodie bags or boxes for guests to take home treats from the dessert table, I thought this gorgeously packaged set of Monarch playing cards by Curtis Jinkins of Neighborhood Studio, available for purchase from Theory 11…and mini black and gold labeled champagne bottles with a cute tag that says “Fuck 40, Stay Young and Bubbly” would be a fun take away for all our guests.

And that, my friends, is my idea of an AWESOME 40th Birthday Party (in a very large nutshell). I really had so much fun “virtually” planning it…and even though it just isn’t going to work out for us this year (both financially and with regards to timing…it’s been a really crazy busy and stressful year), I figure we have an entire decade to celebrate The Forties. Maybe one day I’ll be able to post real pictures from our “Forties” Birthday Soirée, but until then, I’m content just sharing my imaginary party with you. Thanks for celebrating with me! Cheers!