The Dean’s List: Dean’s First Birthday Party

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A vintage, prep-school-inspired theme based on my son Dean's name.


Design Inspiration

I wasn't having much luck coming up with a unique theme for my younger son Dean's first birthday. I was content just to have a traditional, balloons-and-cake get-together until my husband jokingly threw out the phrase "The Dean's List." Immediately I thought of a vintage, prep school-inspired setting, with dark colors, pennants, neckties, and retro props.

I was determined not to buy anything for the party, and for the most part, I succeeded. I bought card stock for the decorations, mini chalkboards from Oriental Trading, and a few neckties at Goodwill. Everything else I made, scrounged up from our own house, or borrowed from family and friends.




Decorating Style

Vintage, DIY, retro


Project Details

We had "apples for the teacher" cake pops, Honor Roll-ups with turkey and cheese, other assorted snacks, and a fabulous cake my mom made to look like a stack of old books, with "Happy," "Birthday," and "Dean" on the spines. I even borrowed some vintage school cafeteria trays to serve everything on!








My in-laws happened to have an old, restored school desk that I borrowed and staged with mini chalkboards with birthday messages to Dean. I borrowed a loving cup trophy from my sister, some globes from my grandmother, and some vintage luggage and a typewriter from my own house.








The kids (mostly 2 and under) had fun writing on the chalk easel and playing on the swingset.


Favorite Items

The vintage school desk that my in-laws just happened to have in their basement!


  1. 1

    The vintage school desk has a neat back story. My in-laws (Dean’s great grandparents) found the 1920’s era school desk at an estate sale and it reminded them of their own school days. They refinished it for Dean’s father for his own childhood room and I watched him spend happy hours sitting at it and reading or writing stories. — Katrina, one of Dean’s grandmothers.

  2. 2

    Cool theme. I like Dean’s smart look, with little necktie.

    Katrina: Thanks for sharing that tidbit. Talking of old school desks makes me feel really nostalgic. Maybe because I have read stories from the old days.

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