|18th Century Masquerade by Lacroix|
Extravagant costumes were de rigueur at these affairs, with popular themes being heroes and goddesses of classical antiquity; figures from the Italian commedia dell’arte; allegories representing traits such as Truth or Virtue; traditional costumes of other nations; figures from folk songs and ballads; and even animals. Part of the fun was to try guessing the identities of other masked participants, and it was traditional for everyone to unmask at the ball’s end.
|Black silk domino cloak with gold mask c.1765|
Museum of London
Marie Antoinette wore the domino to attend masquerades without being easily recognized. It didn’t always work, however. Since Louis XVI rarely attended balls, one woman who happened to recognize the queen began chastising her for not acting like a proper wife and staying at home with her husband. She apparently also donned the domino for some court balls when the public was allowed to enter the gardens, which increased the number of gawkers.
Changes in morality at the beginning of the early 19th century led to a decline in the masquerade’s popularity. Although fancy dress balls remained fashionable in the 1800s, they became much more respectable than the dramatic, risqué masquerade balls of the 1700s.
If you were to attend a masked ball, who or what would you dress as?
~~~J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is also an author, editor, and publisher. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Book 6, Refiner’s Fire, releases in April 2019. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 Indie Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, received the 2017 Interviews and Reviews Silver Award for Historical Fiction and was named one of Shelf Unbound’s 2018 Notable Indie Books. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and a finalist in the Carol Award.