In Praise of the Imperfect Party

Designer Lela Rose shares her tips for relaxed and polished entertaining.


Photo by Quentin Bacon for Prêt-à-Party

As the fashion designer behind many party-ready collections, it makes sense that Lela Rose is also a popular hostess with the mantra that every day should be an occasion.

On a recent trip to the Boston Design Center, she offered simple entertaining advice: plan ahead, but don’t worry about making things perfect.

“Bringing people together over a meal is an incredible way to create a joyful life,” says Rose. “People want to come and have fun, but nobody likes a stressed-out hostess.”

Lela enjoys the planning process, but insists on a balance of high-low and a focus on fun. Follow her tips for relaxed parties this season.

Your theme can come from anywhere. Choose a color or object that you like, or design the get-together around a specific food or season, and go from there. Rose once threw a pink party, where the food and beverages followed suit, and a gingham chicken fry to usher in spring. For the holidays, her annual winter white dinner is dressy, but not stuffy.

Greet your guests with a speciality cocktail, and offer wine and beer, but skip the full bar. You’ll save money, and it’s fun to create drinks around your theme. “I appreciate it when someone has thought through this detail,” says Rose.

Decorate with what you have. For Rose, this sometimes means yards of extra fabric from her studio, but table decor can be designed with things you have around the house. Rose uses groups of wine bottles for candlesticks and vegetables for centerpieces. Don’t underestimate simple holiday ornaments, fall leaves and branches, and the power of grouping things together for visual impact.

Place cards are a nice touch. Rose loves to use baker’s twine to shape the initials of her guests, and hand-cut foil lettering to give the table sparkle.”It saves on the centerpiece,” she says.

Your music can be from Spotify. You don’t need to orchestrate the perfect playlist. “Just find an artist you like and keep it going,” says Rose.

For more party inspiration, Rose’s new book Prêt-à-Party is available from Rizzoli.


Hostess Lela Rose at a recent Couple’s Cookoff./ Photos via Prêt-à-Party