But, what are we to wear?
October 26, 2017 6:07 AM   Subscribe

Have you been invited to a glamorous Gilded Age costume party? Looking to upstage the lady wearing the dress made of dead cats? Turn to the 1887 publication Fancy Dresses Described: or, What to Wear at Fancy Balls for some costume inspiration, and its companion volume, Gentlemen's Fancy Dress: How to Choose It for that time when "buckling shoes, gartering, combing, powdering, silks, velvets, calicoes, and the whole lexicon of female fopperies come under the consideration of the Lords of the Creation."
posted by ChuraChura (13 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
(Might I suggest a Mutilated Sportman? "Wears an old shooting-shirt, and has a wooden leg, and an arm tied up, as though broken.")
posted by ChuraChura at 6:12 AM on October 26, 2017

That Magpie illustration is actually really quite fetching.
posted by inconstant at 7:16 AM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ooh, thanks. I use costuming books like this as reference images for my Illuminati woodcuts.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:42 AM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would wear that Magpie dress but the dress made of actual cat parts? Too macabre even for Halloween.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:51 AM on October 26, 2017

Hot damn, this is my JAM.
posted by merriment at 8:18 AM on October 26, 2017

A Lady Stockbroker? (p. 212) Now you're just making things up.
posted by dannyboybell at 8:31 AM on October 26, 2017

I would totally wear the Hornet dress on p 115! While most of the costumes need some explanation (I'm thinking of you, deranged woman casually wearing a dead cat on her head), the hornet dress really makes the wearer look like a hornet. The little wings are adorable.
posted by pangolin party at 9:50 AM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I think I'll stick with the 99 cent cat ears I got from Walgreens, thanks.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:05 AM on October 26, 2017

On page 5, it says "It is uncomfortable to dance without gloves, so consistency yields to convenience", and recommends mittens for peasant costumes. Why was it uncomfortable to dance without gloves?
posted by Azara at 10:47 AM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some amateurish digital rummaging-about on my part suggests that the answer might have something to do with sweaty hands.
posted by inconstant at 10:51 AM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, right, sweaty hands were off-putting.

I'm fascinated by the mixture of ideas for costumes. Lots of real and fictional historical characters, and traditional dresses from around the world, but then there are the abstractions like Air and Mist and Midnight.

My favourites are the oddities:
Colorado Beetle: Dress of green tulle trimmed with iridescent beads, the design beetles, which appear on the head-dress, shoulders, and looping up the skirt.

Queen of Beetles: Short black skirt with horizontal stripes of red and yellow; the same combination carried around the top of the black bodice; a black pointed cap, the whole covered with ever-moving toy beetles. A sceptre in the hand, surmounted by a beetle.
posted by Azara at 1:18 PM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is one of those documents that make you remember that most women in the 19th century either made their own clothes or had them made for them -- if you can sew, lots of these are doable and quite fun.
posted by jrochest at 4:27 PM on October 26, 2017

I am sorry to say that the Gaskell Fancy Dress Ball is in abeyance (Gaskell's is paused tout entier), because people yet breathing have done Victorian fanciful costumes, and danced in them too, and it was glorious.
posted by clew at 9:53 PM on October 26, 2017

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