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Throughout the week we’ll be revisiting our 2013 Holiday Hosting Guide series. -ed.

All words: Kristin Guiter
All photos: Franz Mahr

Throughout the week we’re bringing you BYT Holiday Hosting Guides wherein our favorite lifestyle experts, fashion gurus and all-around social butterflies teach you how to style, dress and host your way to (and through) the perfect holiday party. We kicked off our series with photographer Kate Warren and artist Martin Swift, who taught us how to dress our best for the holidays with the wardrobe you already own. We then brought you the secrets to holiday brunching from Nycci Nellis, publisher and radio host, while Washington Post Express editor Holley Simmons walked us through a festive cocoa party. Yesterday lifestyle and food blogger Nikki Rappaport let us in on some quick tips for throwing a no-stress fête and today, kkg arts + culture communications all-around fabulous Kristin Guiter shows us how to throw the perfect vintage holiday party (playlist included).

I’ve always been one for a theme party—it sets the tone for a special and memorable soiree. During the holidays when the spirits are lifted and all are feeling festive, it’s the perfect time to give your guests a reason to get gussied up. For a holiday get- together at mine this season, I’ve opted for a vintage theme—classic cocktails + holiday records—putting the emphasis on two of the most important elements of an event. And, a throwback theme is fitting for this time of year—the holidays are all about nostalgia.

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It’s easiest—especially during a bustling time of year—to keep it simple. And, when it’s cold outside, a strong whiskey helps to make an intimate space even cozier. Typically served in a cocktail glass, a Manhattan works well in a low ball to minimize spills when in a tight space (also usually served neat, though I prefer with one rock—a jumbo rock, of course). So quick and easy (and tasty) to serve!

While wine charms and such work for keeping an eye on your glass, I prefer to use an eclectic assortment of mismatching vintage glasses, so each guest has one that’s unique and easy to spot. I’ve picked up vintage glassware while thrifting over the years and have amassed a collection of old tumblers, including several I remember drinking eggnog from during my childhood in Iowa.

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COCKTAIL: Manhattan

2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes bitters
Maraschino cherry for garnish

Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice cube
Stir well
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with the cherry

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DRESS: Vintage

I’m encouraging friends to don their most merry 1950s and 1960s vintage dress (though sequins are always welcome as a substitute). I picked out one of my favorite 1950s party dresses with a tulle skirt and bold red sash. NOT pictured: a vintage Christmas tree apron—no hostess would concoct cocktails in a white dress and have a happy night.

Both dress and apron were purchased from my friends at Polly Sue’s vintage shop in Takoma Park, where I’ve found some of my most favorite and distinctive vintage pieces.

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MUSIC: Crooner’s Christmas

As the hostess, you don’t want to be flipping vinyl all night, so be sure to pre-designate a DJ (or take shifts). I’m fortunate enough to have an endless list of music-smart friends—one less stress when hosting. I prefer the classics—Elvis, the Carpenters and Phil Spector-produced records, with some contemporary in the mix—everyone has that Sufjan six-disk set—though for this particular event, I’m going with all crooners, all night. If you don’t have a record player set-up, you can queue it up on your iPod to plug-in as you prep for the party.


  1. Blue Christmas – Elvis

  2. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow – Frank Sinatra

  3. Merry Christmas, Baby – Otis Redding

  4. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire – Bing Crosby

  5. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Dolly Parton

  6. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – John Denver

  7. What Christmas Mean to Me – Stevie Wonder

  8. White Christmas – Rosemary Clooney

  9. Baby It’s Cold Outside – Dean Martin

  10. Carol of the Bells – Johnny Mathis

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In line with the vintage theme, I’ve filled my place with poinsettas—the most classic holiday flower—and collected a few 1960’s ceramic Christmas trees with brightly colored lights. Also, I’m planning a parting gift to guests—a vintage ornament. Old ornaments are a thoughtful keepsake that’s easy to find at thrift stores and vintage shops such as Miss Pixie’s on 14th Street (Pixie has boxes and boxes of the most beautiful bulbs).

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