Whimsical and ladylike, designer Lela Rose’s clothing is an expression of what happens when good taste meets fun. On the heels of a triumphant New York City Fashion Week, this week Rose releases her new book, Prêt-à-Party, in which she shares recipes, tablescape ideas, and entertaining tips. From a couples’ cook-off to a boozy twist on afternoon tea, the ideas in Prêt-à-Party are an extension of Rose’s irrepressible sense of fun. Southern Living caught up with the native Texan to find out her preferred reason to throw a party, some things a new hostess should remember, and what’s next on her plate.
What’s your favorite occasion to throw a party?
For fun! Why else do you have a party? I really like entertaining for entertaining’s sake. Instead of saying, let’s do a Halloween party, and let’s do a Thanksgiving dinner, I like to throw parties for sheer fun. It’s even more fun to go to a party that’s happening just to be a party–every day should be fun and a celebration.
The themes for the parties in your book are so thoughtful and really permeate every detail; they really feel like productions, but what’s great is that they also feel effortless. Where do you draw your inspiration?
It hits me in different ways, you know sometimes it’ll be an amazing vegetable that I’ll see in the Greenmarket and think, I have to use that on my table. I have to cook with it and I’m gonna dress like it and I’m gonna dress the table with it! It’s kind of crazy but I’ll just like take a color or I’ll take some idea and every other thing takes its cue from that. That’s what makes it so much fun for me to plan. I always say there’s nothing more chic than matching your drink to your dress, so if you want to wear a lilac dress serve a lavender flavored cocktail. Having a central idea that kind of weaves through every detail makes it special.
You mentioned details, what are some things that you think really make guests feel special?
I always say place cards are the greatest thing to do something special with because you have to write them out anyway. Why not make them fun, make them special? Instead of just writing someone’s name in the middle of the card, use it as an opportunity to be a little bit more creative. It makes people kind of sit down and think, oh, cute! Fun! Another thing I’m constantly talking about are specialty cocktails–I think they’re a must. The moment you greet someone at the door with a specialty drink that’s been thought through, they instantly realize someone has been paying attention to details, and they’re going to have fun. I think it kind of sets the tone for something that is going to be fun and different and unusual.
How do you think that growing up in Texas has affected your attitude toward entertaining?
I always like to have biscotti around, or something that I have made so if someone comes over unexpectedly, I’ve got something to serve them. I think a lot of that comes from growing up in the South, the idea of Southern hospitality: if someone comes over you better figure out how to make them something quickly! Get them an iced tea, or offer them a drink or something special; make them feel warm and welcome. That was something that I always grew up around; my mother was always so gracious and generous–if you walked in the house it was, “What can I get you, how can I make you feel comfortable and welcome?” I want my kids to grow up feeling like that’s what you do.
Well, number one, get some recipes together that are recipes that you feel comfortable with and that work for a group. There’s nothing worse than being stressed out: it shows to your guests, no one feels comfortable, and it makes for a hard night. Get together a group of things, be it recipes, or serving pieces, or whatever, that you feel comfortable with. That’s a good place to start.
Another thing that I always talk about is presentation. People underestimate how presentation affects taste and you know if you see something that’s well presented you’re like, ooh that looks good, yum. Paying attention to these little details may seem like something that you don’t need to do, but it makes entertaining that much easier. Everyone thinks you’ve done this amazing thing but really, you’ve just presented it well.
Finally, being organized and doing things in advance. I cannot tell you how much stuff I get ready in advance of entertaining. There is so much advance prep work that you can get done before entertaining and it makes your life so much easier it’s insane.
Finally, what’s next on the horizon for you?
We are starting to do a few little tabletop pieces. It’s this whole philosophy kind of, of dress yourself, dress your table–ways to kind of inspire you to entertain. I definitely want to be doing more of that. We’ve got a lot going on. We’re constantly working away!
Buy your copy of Prêt-à-Party here, and keep an eye out for Lela’s new tabletop pieces on lelarose.com.