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The dream of the 1890s is alive in … your own backyard birthday party!

They don’t call it the Gay Nineties for nothing. The decade marked by Oscar Wilde’s droll plays, decadent art, and tailored fashions was, indeed, a time of frivolity and merriment.

If you have a kid that happens to love handlebar moustaches, old-fashioned rock candy and funny Victorian phrases,  then this birthday party is for you. It’s guaranteed to be a grand old-timey ol’ time.

Bring the historical high life to your own backyard for an afternoon of historically epic proportions. Here’s how.


Supply the fixins for some easy-to-make style motifs so every lad and lady can look dashing.

Neck ruffles 

  • You’ll need:
  • Paper plates
  • Coffee filters
  • Glue

How to:

1. Cut out the center of a paper plate to leave only the outer ring. Cut a slice out so you can slip it around a kid’s neck.

2. Fold a white coffee filter in half and glue between two halves at the narrow end.

3. Glue the folded coffee filter to the paper plate ring with the closed narrow end lined up with the inside ring and open it up.

4. Continue gluing folded coffee filters around the plate until it’s covered. Add as many layers as you want to adjust the thickness of the ruffle.


Back around Easter time, we whipped up a guide to bonnets that has everything you need to know about making a bonnet for a grand lady or handsome fella. Dress up an old straw hat, or make one from scratch using bristol board and fancy decor. Fake birds and foliage are highly encouraged.


Hand fans

A stylish (and practical) accessory that will keep your guests looking and feeling cool.

You’ll need:

  • 12 x 12 inch piece of scrapbook paper. Get some mix and matched designs at a craft store.
  • Scissors (with a scallop edge will give the fan extra pizzazz)
  • Glue
  • Hole punch
  • 24 inch length of ribbon

How to:

1. Have kids trim the opposite edges of the paper with the scissors, or you can do it yourself before they come to make the craft quicker.

2. Make an accordion pleat every ¾ inch across the paper and press firmly to pleat.

3. Refold the fan and spread out the pleats and slip one edge of each inside the pleat over the other. Glue in place. Hole punch the gathered bottom and tie with a ribbon and tie in a fancy bow.


Egg carton spectacles

1. Cut egg cartons into pairs of cups, and cut the bottom out of each one so kids can see through them. Attach pipe cleaners to hook around their ears like glasses. To make it into a monacle fit for the opera, just make one eye and attach a pipe cleaner hook for holding.



In the true fashion of an 1890’s garden party, some leisurely lawn games should take effect. Badminton and lawn croquet are great options. Or, set up some water bottle bowling pins and create a carnival-inspired lawn bowling alley on your lawn. Streamers make great lane dividers.

Being dressed in the height of 1890’s fashion will present an added challenge, but if you want some more thrilling options, consult our Olympic themed backyard birthday party guide for a how-to on hula-hoop hurdles, frisbee discus and tree targets. Fun fact: 1896 saw the very first edition of the modern Olympic games.



The 1890s featured the bigest bike boom in history. With the advent of the air-filled tire, so many people started biking that  roads were paved because of it. If you’ve got multiple trikes or bikes on hand, let your guests loose on a DIY bike obstacle course, incorporating wooden chairs, barrels or to ride around.

If you don’t have bikes and would still like to challenge soiree-goers to an obstacle course, fix them up with a ride-on wooden horse head on a stick to steer through your course.



Make your garden party spread look absolutely brill by making an on-the-fly tiered cake stand: grab three plates, each one smaller than the other, and two sherry glasses (or plastic cups to make it sturdier). Put the largest plate on the table, and set a glass in the middle, then put the medium plate on top, top with another glass, then set the smallest plate on the top. Now, set it up with a selection of kid-friendly tea sandwiches and ice cream cone tea cups.

If your soiree is strictly sweet, whip up a “cakewich” (a pound cake creation that looks like a sandwich) and cut into petit fours to stack on your cake plate.



Send each kid away with a few nostalgic cultural treats. Fin de siècle authors like Rudyard Kipling, Sir Author Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde wrote many kid-friendly stories and novellas that would fit the bill, or stick in some Sherlock Holmes paperbacks or comics. Add in some old-fashioned candy like home-made fudge, rock candy sticks or licorice whips for a sweet touch, and pack it all in a calico fabric rucksack made from an  handkerchief for convenient carrying.

Photos by danvie, paws22camknowsthiophene guyhorslip5 via Flickr. 

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