As creative director of the beloved shoe line Loeffler Randall, Jessie Randall lives, breathes, eats, and dreams footwear. And then every year on Valentineâ€™s Day, she throws a big party and demands that everyone leave their shoes at the door. Sheâ€™s not fussy; she is merely getting people into the spirit of the annual sock hop she hosts with her husband, Brian, and their three sons, twins Liam and Casper, 4, and Harry, 18 months. â€śWorking in fashion is a very pressured environment, and an outlet for me is dreaming up parties, crafts, and favors for my boys,â€ť she says.
Pictured, Jessie Randall loved the results of the heart fashioned from folded tissue-paper blossoms so much, she never took it down.
The idea of a sock hop jumped out at her for Valentineâ€™s Day, she says, "because it has that young-love theme. Plus, the dancing and the costumes -- itâ€™s an extra bonus when I somehow involve dressing up.â€ť Reveling in the music of the 1950s and '60s would also let her revisit her own (early '80s) childhood, when she and her elementary-school friends made up dances and sang themselves hoarse with renditions of "Lollipop," or when she with her friends won her middle-school talent show lip-synching to the Supremes.
Granted, this was not a party that she could throw together the morning of, but she and Brian, who designed the sock hopâ€™s official T-shirt, like it that way. â€śI start working on the various crafts about three weeks in advance and do them on Saturdays and Sundays with the boys,â€ť Jessie says. â€śGetting them involved is the most important thing, right?â€ť
That, too, is something she remembers from being little, when her mom was always crafting, her grandfather made her little wooden toys, and her grandmother wrote and illustrated a book -- about her own experiences as a 5-year-old, in 1924 -- to give to Jessie when she turned 5.
Pictured, candy-wax-lip favors and Jessieâ€™s homemade pinata were big hits.
Of course, beyond instilling a family tradition of resourcefulness and the interplay of heart and hands, thereâ€™s a very pragmatic reason to throw a party that requires a fair amount of advance planning: Making cards and running candy-buying errands are the perfect ways to occupy and entertain three antsy housebound boys during those cold weekends in late January and early February.
The several-week buildup also means the boys are very excited hosts when their party guests arrive (it doesnâ€™t hurt that they are finally -- finally! -- allowed to dig into the stockpile of candy).
Pictured, goody bags customized by Jessieâ€™s sons.
Jessie fills the foyer and living room of their 1900s townhouse with tons of pink and red balloons, which the kids start playing with as soon as they arrive. Jessie and Brian, in turn, ooh and aah over the guestsâ€™ getups: a 4-year-old girl with a ponytail and a Peter Pan collar, say, or a 5-year-old with his hair slicked back in a ducktail.
To kick off the dancing, Jessie always plays (what else?) â€śAt the Hopâ€ť by Danny and the Juniors. â€śMy guys are definitely not shy, so they are always the first ones on the dance floor. I usually go out there with them to get things started,â€ť she says. The rest of her playlist -- tunes such as â€śRockinâ€™ Robin,â€ť â€śPlease Mr. Postman,â€ť â€śA Teenager in Loveâ€ť -- is â€śso danceable it gets everyone moving.â€ť
It also gets everyone hungry and thirsty for refreshments -- brownies made to look like burgers from a 1950s diner, lips and heart sugar cookies, and canning jars filled with pink lemonade chilled with heart-shaped ice cubes. The party may last only a few hours (except for a straggling playmate or two), but Jessie insists the effort is well worth it: Celebrations are opportunities to be creative together with her family.
Those lessons -- as well as some of the crafts themselves -- endure. For instance, last year Jessie used the sock hop as a motivation to finally sit down and teach herself how to make tissue-paper flowers. In the process, she ended up grouping some together to make a heart to hang over the living room mantel. She loved it so much, itâ€™s become a permanent part of the decor -- and is ready for next yearâ€™s hop.