We like to think we throw a good party here at Beyond Retro, but our dedication to gatherings, soirées and ragers is nothing compared to these party monsters. Dive into our round-up of the most serious socialites of all time for Christmas party inspiration.
The Italian marchioness whose commitment to lavish living had her bankrupt in a London bedsit by age 50, Luisa Casati remains immortal to this day as an inspiration to artists and fashion designers. The eccentric heiress had one aim in life, to become a living work of art. She resided in a Venetian mansion, with cheetahs, peacocks and boa constrictors as pets (the latter doubled up as jewellery), waited upon by gold painted servants. Her parties involved stunts such as white birds dyed to match the night’s theme, copper filings thrown into flames to turn them bright green (to match the Marchesa’s hair that night) and a wax replica of Casati that she would sit stock still next to to cause confusion.
Deathly white skin and huge eyes lined with kohl and strips of black velvet and darkened with belladonna (don’t try this at home). A dress made of hundreds of light bulbs that electrocuted her so powerfully she somersaulted backwards (don’t try this at home). A headdress of white peacock feathers finished with a splash of freshly slaughtered chicken blood (don’t try this at home). Completely sheer dresses under velvet capes (you can try this one at home).
The orchestrator of one of the most renowned parties of the 20th century, Truman Capote had dreamed of hosting a party for a group of rich and famous friends since before he became rich and famous himself. The writer put as much planning into the 1966 Black and White Ball as he did one of his books, carrying the guest list around in a composition notebook for three months, constantly adding and deleting names until he had the perfect combination of New York society. 400 guests including Hollywood stars, aristocracy, celebrated writers and artists gathered into the Plaza Hotel’s Grand Ballroom after 16 dinner parties took place for various invitees around the city. The bill came to $16,000, the equivalent of around $120,000 in today’s money, and the party from up at 2:45 am when Frank Sinatra left and the revellers followed him to Jilly’s Bar.
Capote’s black and white theme was inspired by the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady, and everyone wore masks that were to be removed en masse at midnight. Men wore black tie and women modelled an array of 60s party dresses.
During her party girl phase of the 70s, Bianca Jagger put the legendary Studio 54 nightclub on the map by having her 30th birthday celebration there. She’s at the centre of some of the most famous images of the club; riding a white horse across the dance floor and holding a duo of doves at a Halston party. However, our highlight is Jagger photographed mid-dance with model Sterling St Jacques.
Scour our selection for easy-to-dance in vintage jumpsuits, tuxedo suits or glittering 70s maxi dresses and accessorise with the animal of your choice.
Marie-Hélène de Rothschild
Full maiden name Baroness Marie-Hélène Naila Stephanie Josina van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar, Marie-Hélène Rothschild hosted soirees at her family home of Chåteau de Ferrières, one of the largest and most luxurious castles in France. At the height of her decadence, Marie-Helene hosted the 1972 Surrealist Ball for guests such as Salvador Dali, Audrey Hepburn, Marisa Berenson and Yves Saint Laurent. Dishes with names like ‘goats cheese roasted in post-coital sadness’ were served on fur dinner plates and mannequins atop beds of roses. Butlers dressed as cats lounged about pretending to sleep. The photos are so creepy that they’ve spawned their own Illuminati conspiracy theory on the internet.
The invitation, which had to be read in a mirror as it was typed backwards, read ‘black tie, long dresses & surrealist heads’. Audrey Hepburn wore a birdcage, Marie-Helene wore a stag’s head with real diamond tears.
Yves Saint Laurent
You couldn’t have a list of infamous parties without the fashion world creeping in. As well as an attendee of some of the infamous nights mentioned above, designer Yves Saint Laurent also threw his own over-the-top events. Held on a ‘pirate ship’ in New York’s East Harbour, the 1978 launch of the Opium fragrance cost $300,000. Andy Warhol was unable two attend and later said it was one of the greatest regrets of his life.
Rivalling Kieth Richards in her ability to drink anyone under the table, Kate Moss’ partying is so legendary that her close friends refer to nights that start out quiet and spiral out of control as ‘getting mossed’. There are listicles all over the internet dedicated to the model’s birthday parties, but by far the most infamous was her ‘The Beautiful and the Damned’ themed 30th. Rumour has it that what began as a perfectly respectable lunch at the Mandarin Oriental ended in an orgy in a suite at Claridges involving, among others, ex Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood.
One of our favourite Kate looks of all time, a vintage sequin maxi dress with disco curls. Sadly she was so photogenic that it’s impossible to find pictures of any of the other guests.
You might be forgiven for expecting the biggest social events in the Hamptons to be hosted by a WASP-y family whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower, but no. Seam Combs’ 4th of July ‘White Parties’ are renowned for their celebrity guest lists, strict adherence to dress code and the fact that one year, he brought an original copy of the Declaration of Independence with him as his date. He’s basically the modern-day Gatsby.
White obviously, but the vibe ranges from streetwear to classic smart/casual staples; chinos, shirts and blazers.
Possibly the last real party girl, Paris Hilton invented an entire career of appearing at parties, snapping a flip phone selfie and getting paid for it. But she also knew how to throw them. Her most extravagant spanned 5 days, 3 continents and a 21 tier cake. The heiress flew her guests from New York to Los Angeles, then to Las Vegas and Tokyo, finally ending up in London.
Thanks to the nostalgic Millenial generation, Paris’ fabulously bad-taste early naughties look is bang on trend for Winter 2018. Invest in a sparkly mini dress or cropped top and skirt for this party season, double points if you can find something with a waterfall hem. Just make sure you wear a different outfit for every location change.
Shop our 90s Party edit for a party girl look of your own.
In need of more party season inspiration? Read our Studio 54 blog post.