What is a Toga Party?
A toga party is a party at which attendees dress up in approximations of Ancient Roman dress. The Romans would probably have a difficult time recognizing the “togas” worn at these parties, since they are usually made from bedsheets which are draped in a very revealing fashion, in contrast with the heavy and concealing folds of the original toga. Toga parties tend to be especially popular on college campuses, especially in fraternities and sororities, although people who are not in college can hold them as well.
The origins of the toga party appear to lie in the 18th century, when people held parties in Roman dress as a form of entertainment. The nature of this 18th century fad underwent a dramatic shift in 1978, when the hit film Animal House depicted a much more raucous version of the toga party. The idea behind the modern toga party is a party which is meant to reference the legendarily profligate and decadent parties held in Ancient Rome, with an assortment of drinks, games, and food to entertain guests.
While the ancient toga was worn over a linen tunic, attendees at a modern toga party usually wear a strategically-draped bedsheet along with underwear, and, in the case of female attendees, jewelry like bracelets and necklaces. Sandals, especially sandals which lace up in the Roman style, are also a common part of the outfit, and some people may wear wreaths. Many people like to wear togas which they have improvised, making a toga party relatively inexpensive in the realm of costume parties, but it is also possible to purchase commercially-produced togas which may be tailored for a more revealing and form-fitting look.
Planning a toga party does not require much more effort than organizing a regular party. Giving guests around a week of notice is generally advisable, as is stocking up on an array of snacks and beverages. Finding someone to act as a DJ will help keep the music flowing, and at parties where people want to organize games, it may help to recruit a game planner and coordinator who gets the crowd enthused.
I did go to one "toga" party in college, though there was no alcohol -- at least, not while I was there. I think that some people went and drank later (though it was a dry campus), but first we just had games and food. I think it was a birthday party, though I don't totally remember, and the person whose birthday it was really liked ancient history.
I love the idea of toga parties, and think it could also work really well as a theme party if you have a lot of friends who are history buffs- especially if you had it on an important date in ancient history, like the Ides of March (March 15, the supposed date of Julius Caesar's assassination). It's too bad most people do just think of a toga party as a drunken mess now.
If you have a pool, inviting everyone for a toga/pool party is a great way for everyone to have fun and not need to bring a lot of extra clothing with him or her.
I find that if you add some fake pillars around the pool, and set up some tables with nice linens, you can give the whole area a really nice bathhouse feel.
Some great snacks to serve that give a grand feel to the whole party are large platters of fruit and if you can swing it, a suckling pig.
If you have friends who love to craft, getting them to rig up some gossamer curtains and draping vines also adds to the whole atmosphere of the toga party.
Wow, reading this article certainly brought back memories of my first toga party back in college. I found that a lot of the girls though went to a lot more work than just tossing on a bed sheet and heading out.
Many of the girls I knew either rented Cleopatra style costumes or made sure their bed sheet toga looked stylish. This was pretty easy to do with some gold cording and artful knots.
Another thing that they seemed to enjoy doing was adding some fake vines to their hair and tossing glitter on everything. The effect was quite nice. I guess there is no reason a toga has to be simple and boring.
One of the best events I've ever been to was a wedding with a toga theme party instead of the traditional evening reception.
The bride and groom were rigged out as Antony and Cleopatra, and photographs of them in their costumes were on the toga party invitations they sent out. (Which were printed on parchment type paper.)
There was a wonderful buffet with modern adaptations of ancient Roman recipes, thankfully without the dormouse delicacies they favored. Plus there were lots of toga party games to keep the atmosphere charged and help the more self conscious guests relax.
I found it interesting that the male guests seemed more at ease in the toga costumes they had created than the women! Personally I loved it, as there aren't many opportunities to wear something that skims all the parts of your body you want to disguise!
If you'd asked me before this wedding if unusual party themes would work I'd have said no, but now I'm a real convert.
@Sierra02 - I've never thrown a toga party myself but I have been to a few in the past. Since you're planning a party for older adults, you will probably want to focus more on dining expectations as opposed to games and entertainment.
I think some good toga party foods should be relatively Greek in nature. You could serve things like Caesar salad, fruit platters, cheeses including feta, nuts, olives, pasta dishes, grilled lamb, roasted chicken or go all out and prepare a pig on a spit.
Don't forget plenty of fine wines and maybe some soft Grecian music to set the tone. As far as toga party decorations go you should consider plastic columns and lots of artificial grapevines, and maybe a few Greek statues. Silver wine goblets would be a fun addition too.
I think you can come up with some great ideas on your own if you just study the Greek style and architecture. Most everything can be purchased at a party supply house or a craft store.
A toga themed party sounds like loads of fun! I'm interested in doing a party like this later in the Summer but for older adults. What kind of food is best to serve at a toga party? And where do you find toga party supplies?
This is going to be a lot of fun to put together. I had to cancel my vacation this year so now I have something to look forward to. Thank you for the inspiration.
I think toga parties are mostly held in colleges these days. I remember my son came home one weekend during his freshman year, asking for old sheets he could use for a toga party.
Most college kids have two sets of sheets so I sent him back to his dorm with lots of old sheets for him to share with his roommates. It's a cheap costume party, perfect for students.
He also found small wreaths for their head pieces at his local Good Will store, another great place for students to put together costumes for theme parties.
My best friend and I went on a Windjammer cruise for a week and loved the nightly themed events planned for us. We were told at the beginning of the week what night the toga party would be happening and that we'd be given our "togas" the day of the party.
It was so much fun creating our toga costumes out of sheets (we were given extra sheets for that purpose) and each one of us came up with different ways of tying and knotting our togas.
When you think about it, what a smart way for the cruise company to create a theme night - all it took was extra linens!
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