Preparing for the Ball . . .
Have you wondered at all just what is going to happen on May 1st? I can tell you we have and are still having daily meetings plotting it. Whilst the story of The Masked Ball is the thing that provokes the most fun for we three, the research via the internet has been fascinating and overwhelming. So much so that we thought we needed to share it with all of you, so it will perhaps be of assistance to you as you rig back-stories and get ready to enjoy yourselves.
Just before you begin to look at the links provided by our research master Rebecca Bingham, I’d like to direct you to two wonderful blogs. The authors of these blogs have taken a keen interest in all things masked-ballish and you should hop across and have a look-see.
Okay . . . so now, if you’re wondering where to start, here is a little tour of sites that might help you get into the spirit of the approaching fête.
First stop on the tour is The World Upside Down: Eighteenth Century Masquerades . This discussion of masquerades goes beyond the simple view of them as enjoyable festivities and explores underlying motivations and meanings. Referring to them as “the Woodstock of the eighteenth century, with masks replacing hallucinogens,” the author examines masquerades in the context of gender and sexuality, their uses in fiction, and their role in breaking down class barriers. The freedom that came with the concealment of one’s identity – and all that implies – is also discussed. Introduction to the site is through an interactive Attend a Masquerade link, which simulates a masquerade experience.
Links and pictures of 18th and 19th century ladies’ fashions readily can be found online via a simple search, so I will not address that subject here. However, some areas of fashion are more difficult to locate. Men’s fashions, for example, are scarcer, but some useful images and descriptions can be found in Miss Lisa Brown’s Guide to Dressing for a Regency Ball and We Make History . Jessamyn’s Menswear page also has helpful information; that same site offers a costume creation page that is an excellent resource if you are interested transforming your ball ensemble from imaginary to something tangible. This page offers how-to information on applying make-up, creating hairstyles (including hair rolls and men’s wigs), lacing corsets, and making hats, reticules, fans, and gloves.
Forms of Address
At the ball you will be conversing with many people, some of whom are titled. Knowing the proper way to address them can be tricky, so prepare yourself by brushing up your etiquette at the concise and clear page English Titles in the 18th and 19th Centuries page. For more detailed information on this subject as well as other etiquette hints, visit Debrett’s Online . In addition to more nuanced peerage information (a Baroness does not have to be a Lady…), they offer sections on the Social Season, Everyday Etiquette, and – my personal favorite – Joie de Vivre.
What’s a ball without dancing? Pretty poor entertainment, in this writer’s opinion. Master the steps of the cotillion, country dances, and the waltz with the help of the Regency dance manuals from Walter Melton’s Mass Historia site. There is a fascinating discussion of the waltz as it originally was danced. To quote a brief portion of the introduction: The Waltz we know today was not the Waltz of the Empire/Regency era. It was not the fast moving, twirling Viennese Waltz of the Victorians, and it was not the sedate but graceful box-step of the 20th Century. It was a strikingly intimate and sensuous dance, which is a major departure from the group dances and stately minuets of earlier generations. To a society that focused so much attention on harnessing teen age libido to the purpose of making a good marriage, this was rather disturbing.
After a spirited round of dancing, a lady might reasonably expect her partner to bring her something to quench her thirst. Ratafie, or perhaps negus or orgeat. While her partner indulges himself with hock, brandy, port, or other spirits, a lady invariably is stuck with a glass of some syrupy, sweet concoction. Find out what tastes might be coming your way at the masquerade, peruse the recipes and explanations at the Food and Drink in Regency England site. Then figure out how to get your partner to slip you some brandy instead… If he won’t share, slip him a hot posset and take his drink when he nods off.
Of course, an essential masquerade accoutrement is the mask. Fortunately, a number of sites exist to fulfill your every wish for the perfect alter ego. For authentic masks straight from Venice, visit Carta Alta Venetian Masks or Blue Moon Mask . Made from leathers, fabrics, or paper mache, elaborately trimmed, these masks are available in a huge array of characters – from Carnivale to animals, jesters, literary figures, Commedia dell’Arte and more. If you’re feeling especially creative, you can purchase a blank mask and decorate your own.
With only a few weeks until the event of the social season, there is much to be done. We hope these sites will help with your preparations and we look forward to “seeing” you there. If you have not yet submitted your RSVP, may we suggest that you do so soon? Remember, points will be awarded given for completing various activities and prizes will be awarded. The Museo is a large establishment, so there is plenty of room to accommodate your friends. Please do invite them to join the fun.