How to Throw a Black-Tie Mardi Gras Celebration

One fashion insider kicks off the year’s Fat Tuesday festivities with an elegant black-tie dinner party inspired by the season

For his "Fancy-Ass Fat Tuesday Party," Samuel Masters enlisted a friend and dinner party co-host, the artist Sally King Benedict, to create painted paper crowns to match the traditional purple, green, and gold Mardi Gras color palette.
For his "Fancy-Ass Fat Tuesday Party," Samuel Masters enlisted a friend and dinner party co-host, the artist Sally King Benedict, to create painted paper crowns to match the traditional purple, green, and gold Mardi Gras color palette.
A hand-drawn invitation by Sally King Benedict.
A hand-drawn invitation by Sally King Benedict.

Southern boy that he is, Samuel Masters doesn’t need an excuse to throw a party. (See the Wes Anderson-themed bash he hosted last November.) But one week ago, when the head of special projects for fashion designer Lela Rose looked at the calendar and realized that Mardi Gras was quickly approaching, he saw an opportunity to gather friends for a memorable pre-Fat Tuesday celebration in his New York City apartment.

That all the planning and execution was going down as the kick off to New York Fashion Week was commencing didn’t seem to bother him. “I am crazy,” says the Alabama-born Masters, who was deep in the process of making preparations for the Lela Rose Fall/Winter 2015 presentation when his Mardi Gras party began to solidify. “I always do things like this and then wind up staying up all night trying to pull it off. But I love it—it’s so fun.”

How to Throw a Fat Tuesday Celebration
A salad of little gem lettuces was dressed with a homemade champagne vinaigrette.
A salad of little gem lettuces was dressed with a homemade champagne vinaigrette.
Masters hand-embroidered cocktail napkins—and topped them with a costume pearl—to match the oyster appetizers.
Masters hand-embroidered cocktail napkins—and topped them with a costume pearl—to match the oyster appetizers.

So Masters spent a week of late evenings organizing an intimate, black-tie supper theme and creating a blueprint for the event. “In Mobile and New Orleans, people really go over and above to celebrate the holiday,” he says. “The food, the décor, the music—it’s like more is more is more!” He settled on a traditional green, purple, and gold color palette on the dinner table and incorporated metallic accents throughout, including vintage sterling pieces that once belonged to his grandmother, pewter-rimmed dinnerware, mercury-glass votives, and gold flatware. Fashioned from a length of fringed fabric used in Lela Rose’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection, the tablecloth became the backdrop for lively gold and silver beads Masters had collected on a previous trip to New Orleans as well as whimsical paper crowns designed by artist (and dinner party co-host) Sally King Benedict. “It’s kind of rare to dress up to go to someone’s house for dinner and actually sit at a decorated table,” says Masters. “It was a real treat for everyone but it was also quite cozy and comfortable.”

Metallic accents—mercury glass votives, gold flatware—play off the vibrant purple tablecloth.
Metallic accents—mercury glass votives, gold flatware—play off the vibrant purple tablecloth.
In addition to crowns, each guest received a colorful mask to mark the festivities.
In addition to crowns, each guest received a colorful mask to mark the festivities.

In keeping with the spirit of the season, the menu conjured classic New Orleans cuisine. During the cocktail hour, guests were greeted with oysters two ways—on the half shell and baked—and a blackberry-and-elderflower Napoleon House Pimm’s Cup. (As a cheeky embellishment, Masters embroidered oyster shells onto linen cocktail napkins, and then topped them with costume pearls.) A salad of little gem lettuces served with a homemade champagne vinaigrette dressing followed before the entrée, a satisfying gumbo made with prawns, crab meat, and Andouille sausage by the host himself.

A spicy seafood gumbo nods to classic NOLA flavors.
A spicy seafood gumbo nods to classic NOLA flavors.

Of course, no Fat Tuesday party—no matter how fancy—is complete without a king cake for dessert, which Masters had shipped overnight from an authentic bakery in New Orleans. The perfect accompaniment? “Lots and lots of champagne.” At the end of the evening, guests streamed out into the February night armed with one necessary parting gift: Moon Pies, the same snack the NOLA krewes traditionally toss into the crowds. After all, even black-tie fêtes need a down-to-earth moment.

 

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