A refined evening INDEED.
This week’s theme party for grown-ups is my favorite soiree to date. The concept here is simple, as most brilliant concepts are: adorn yourself in your most decadent vestments, gather your comrades, and pass the evening in utter refinement at IHOP, the most highbrow dining establishment this side of the Mississippi. While this is a gathering I usually reserve for birthdays, part of the beauty lies in the fact that it can happen any night of the week. If you find yourself hard up for elegance on a Tuesday, this is the affair for you.
Theme: IHOP promenade
As with all parties, the invitation process is really a signaling game that will set the tone for your event. While method of delivery is important (DO NOT send texts), what’s most crucial here is the language you use. You need to show your guests that you are serious when you say this is a fancy event for fancy human beings. As such, your invitations cannot contain grammatical errors, vulgarity, or crassness of any kind. Forget grad school papers and journal articles–this is the time to bust out your copy of Strunk and White.
If you want to take the easy way out, you’re welcome to borrow the language I used in my most recent invitation email.
As the host, you ought to dress like a royal, but not a modern royal like Kate Middleton, who is making all kinds of thoughtful, progressive statements with her high street choices. I am talking about the monarchies of old, where leaders were unafraid to acknowledge the innate superiority that accompanied their noble birth. Your guests must also be wearing full-on formal regalia, and there are no bounds on how far you all can push this envelope.
For this level of decadence, one must think French. Try to evoke Marie Antoinette, or better yet, Louis XIV. Consider the following text on the Sun King’s sartorial habits as you contemplate your own habiliments:
Louis also designed a blue silk jacket, the justaucorps á brevet, embroidered in silver and gold, which only his most favored courtiers were permitted to wear, after they had been granted permission by the king. Only fifty nobles at a time were approved to wear this highly fashionable piece of clothing, which meant that even among those that should by birth be considered one of the king’s favorite, had to fight for it. As an additional benefit, those with permission to wear the jacket were allowed to “follow the King on his hunt whenever the wearer wanted.” This, again, required the aristocrats to spend much of their time at court as well as appearing socially elevated, which meant they had to wear fashionable clothing.
Louis also extended fashion down to the middle class to increase his power. Any person who was reasonably well dressed was allowed to enter the Versailles gardens. Instead of isolating anyone who was anything less than a noble, Louis extended the exciting prospect of not only being in the king’s gardens but perhaps even seeing the king to what middle class there was. This stressed Louis’s power because it made it clear that the middle class was willing to save their money just to be in his gardens and, thus, obviously admired him. While in the gardens, they might also see such events like the carrousel, which would dazzle and impress them. The image this gave of the king was that he was very powerful and very rich.
If you want to design blue silk jackets for your own guests, I do not think you would be out of bounds.
It’s best if you memorize the IHOP menu beforehand, because I’ve seen more than one guest lose their course in its maze of processed carbohydrates. When in doubt, go big, and push yourself to spend more than $5.
Side notes: It’s always a good idea to bring your own sriracha (even if IHOP has some, do you really want to share?). If it’s after 5 PM you should also arrive with some concealed liqueurs with which to spike your coffee. Not that I’d know anything about that.
The first year I did this, I didn’t try to compete with the serene beauty of the IHOP dining room. While this was a wise way to ease into the experience, I believe there is an even better approach, which is to reserve a private room (check ahead to make sure your local IHOP has one).
Once you’ve procured the space, get some snazzy balloons in hip colors (I’m partial to black balloons myself, but anything pastel is okay; brights are unacceptable) and whatever other weird theme decor your heart desires. Arrive at the restaurant early and go to town, bedazzling the room several hours before your guests arrive. This will not only elevate your dining experience, it will elevate your soul.
For inspiration, here is a fun gallery of my IHOP promenades of yore. Note that I like my eggs like my men: sunny-side up and in varying degrees of derangement.