I think I can say, without a shred of a doubt, that I would never want to live in Victorian times. In addition to poor hygiene and pre-antibiotic diseases, the era was known for its nonexistent child labor laws, straitlaced moral codes and inflexible social roles. Even from a design standpoint, the Victorian era was lacking, with some of the most reviled, anti-ergonomic design known to mankind. All of this being said, though, the Victorians did do some things right. Like entertaining.
When it came to throwing a good party, those Victorians sure knew how to have a good time. Unlike today, when all of our social skills have atrophied to the point where we can’t interact without “@” tags before our names, the people of Victorian times had social interaction and ice-breaking down to a science. No awkward small talk with The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With. No hovering near the food table while trying to look invested in a deep, textual conversation. No needing to drown out the silence with loud music! How did those suave, debonair Victorians do it? I’ll tell you. They did it with games.
The parlor game, while still in existence today, had its heyday in the nineteenth century when home entertaining was all the rage. In need of affordable diversions, the new middle class turned their parlors into meeting places — salons for imbibing, regaling and merry-making. One of the many customs to gain popularity from this Victorian practice was parlor games — games that could be played by a large group of people with few or sometimes no supplies. Games like Charades, I Spy, Bridge and dominoes proved to be big hits for Victorian partygoers, and it’s no surprise why.
In recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few parties where parlor games were central to the festivities. Whether I was playing Catchphrase or Settlers of Catan, I found that games were amazing ways to liven people up, lighten the mood and get people talking. Pair that with some good cocktails and a few finger foods, and you’ve got yourself a good night! While I’m definitely happy to be living with all my modern contrivances, I tip my hat to my nineteenth-century predecessors for knowing how to get down. To celebrate the lost art of the game party, we decided to throw one of our own! After the jump, you’ll find inspiration for fabulous party crafts, food and, of course, games! — Max
Above image: Some good parlor-game kit supplies include pencils, paper, playing cards, dice, a timer and a dictionary for word games. We put all of our supplies into a used cigar box, available for a few dollars at tobacco shops. Pencils from InkKit, playing cards from Dry Goods, vintage dice from Modern Anthology.
Above image: We used regular wooden dominoes to create chic coasters, perfect for game night or everyday use! Simply adhere eight dominoes to the sticky side of cork contact paper and cut away the excess with a craft knife.
Above image: To create theme-appropriate cocktail tumblers, we applied classic card suite icons to glasses with gold leaf. For an in-depth tutorial, click here.