Tag Archives: bal masque

Book Fairy Fancy Dress Costumes: 1899

At the Children's Masquerade, c. 1905

At the Children’s Masquerade, c. 1905



Descriptions That Offer a Mine of Helpful Suggestions to Ambitious American Hostesses—Other Hints.

The fashion of fancy dress balls has taken a strong hold this fall, and it offers vast scope for the ingenuity of hostesses and guests. Nothing is more attractive than to give a literary flavor to such an entertainment, and there is a mine of helpful suggestions in the following descriptions of costumes modeled after the book fairies of Hans Christian Andersen, which were worn at a London bal masque not long ago.

One of the costumes was “The Sunbeam.” It was a dress of azure satin, the skirt having a copper colored sun setting in the midst of gray clouds painted on it. Sun rays of gold gauze, stiffened with gold wire, edged the bodice and clouds of gray tulle fell gracefully from the shoulders.

“The Little Mermaid,” who tended the “Sea Garden,” so gracefully pictured by Andersen, looked much like what earth dwellers would expect her to be. Her dress was of pale sea green, covered with silvery gauze and embroidered with a large sun, in pearls, green sequins and shells. The top of the bodice and the edge of the skirt were edged with sea weeds of various colors, and ropes of pearls and fringes of crystal fell over the bodice. The mermaid’s tail, when peeped from beneath a long, silvery, white gauze veil, was embroidered with large sequins, the end being cut out and stiffened with whalebone to keep it straight. The tail might be painted instead of embroidered, if the wearer preferred that method of decoration. The mermaid’s veil was dotted with pearls and scraps of seaweed, and her flowing hair, covered by a lily wreath of pearls, completed the delightful illusion.

The “Marsh King’s Daughter” wore a cloak of cloth of silver, embroidered with storks and rushes and lined with thin marsh brown silk. The dress was of pale green, with Egyptian border embroidered in green, terra cotta and gold. A cap in the shape of a frog’s head and shoulders completed the costume.

A dress of ice green satin was worn by “The Snow Queen,” the sleeves and the top of the bodice being puffed so as to represent blocks of ice and covered with frost powder. A diamond star was worn in the powdered and frosted hair. The whole dress was veiled with frosted tulle, and a long fringe of crystal hung from the bodice and sleeves.

The “Elderflower Maiden,” looked charming in a simple dress of green liberty silk and white elder blossoms. As a background for the trails of elder flowers and leaves that entwined the wearer’s hair there was a corselet of green velvet, a bodice of pale green gauze and a handsome sash of green ribbon.

Of course, “The Tempest,” or “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” or Spenser’s “Fairie Queene,” or Tennyson’s “Princess,” or Longfellow’s “Evangeline” might be used to good advantage to furnish a list of characters for grown people. As for a children’s ball, “Mother Goose” might be made immensely amusing, or “Alice in Wonderland” might be relied upon for a lot of costumes after the style of the Andersen efforts. The possibilities of the literary fancy dress ball are almost without limit.

New York Herald-Tribune 31 October 1899: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil regrets that this article was not illustrated. The book-fairies sound delightfully sumptuous. You will find previous articles on dressing (or undressing) like a mermaid and on hints on fancy-dress for ladies and for gentlemen.  Do check the “fancy dress” section for some amusing photo-gravures. Mrs Daffodil is certain that she saw the “Marsh King’s Daughter” frog-cap, moulded in rubber, for sale in the Archie McPhee catalogue.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


Breeches and Petticoats: Cross-dressing Fancy Dress



There is hardly a fancy dress ball given that some man does not bedeck himself in the finery of a woman and that a girl does not appear in the more or less modern habiliments of a man, but it is quite certain that such a costume as this is not often seen at an American fancy ball. It is an ingenious boy-girl costume, one half or side of the person being clothed in man’s attire and the other half in a girl’s. The idea is carried out to the minutest detail, even to the man’s glove and walking stick on one side, to a woman’s white lisle glove and a sunshade on the other. On one side of the head rests a man’s soft hat and on the other a neatly coiffured arrangement of feminine hair. Popular Mechanics, Volume 11, 1909

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil supposes that an alienist somewhere would have something to say about how the transgressive (a professional term for “naughty”) aspects of fancy-dress and masquerading encourages ladies and gentlemen to disguise themselves as the opposite sex in order to act out their forbidden desires. All tosh. One doesn’t need fancy dress to go off the rails, as one may observe at our police courts, which are packed with criminals in decidedly un-fancy dress. What the alienists forget is the pure pleasure of wearing a costume. What lady would not want to be a bold pirate or a swashbuckling cavalier at Hallowe’en? And what gentleman who secretly yearns to wear lady’s underthings would not want to be a saucy milkmaid or Little Bo Peep? The young man pictured above has chosen the best of both worlds.

Another example:

Amongst a variety of others, there were two very singular Masks at the Masquerade at the Opera House, on Monday night, viz. A Lady in a very large pair of breeches that reached from her feet to the top of her head, where the waistband was fastened, and crowned with a prodigious bunch of Ostrich feathers; and a Gentleman in a petticoat that covered his whole figure, with a ducal coronet ornamented with jewels on his head. This petticoat and breeches afforded much diversion to the company throughout the whole of the evening’s entertainment.  Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, VA] 24 June 1775

A traditional licence is usually granted by the authorities for the innocent amusements of Hallowe’en. One wonders why the young man in the following was charged with masquerading as a woman on such a holiday. His costume must have been seductive in the extreme to attract the attention of so many followers, as well as that of the police.


Sailor of Cruiser Chester Attracts Crowd and Is Jugged.

Fully 500 lads celebrating Hallowe’en followed a sailor from the U.S.S. Chester, dressed in feminine attire, through the streets of Charlestown last night, cheering and yelling at the top of their voices. Patrolmen Norton and Horgan saw the ‘woman’ at the head of the mob and placed ‘her’ under arrest charged with disturbing the peace.

When the ‘woman’ arrived at the police station, Lieut. Ringer summoned the matron to search the prisoner. As soon as the matron had removed the large picture hat, it was discovered that the supposed woman was a man, giving the name of Conrad Brazenberg of the U.S.S. Chester.

An additional charge of masquerading as a woman will be placed against him by Officers Norton and Horgan in the Charlestown court this morning.

A large number of sailors from the ships were given liberty last night, as the ships leave the yard tomorrow. Several of them were locked up charged with drunkenness. Boston [MA] Journal 1 November 1910: p. 14

In this case dressing as a boy for a masquerade led to domestic trouble:

Lending Trousers Causes Trouble

Husband Furnishes Woman Friend With Masquerade Costume

Wife Demands Return at Party and Starts Hostilities

Marion, Ind., Nov. 7 C.E. Beatty loaned a pair of his trousers to a woman friend, who wore them to a masquerade party. Mrs. Beatty learned of it, went to the party and found her husband’s trousers covering the graceful form of a pretty young woman.

Mrs. Beatty tore the mask from the face of the young woman, pulled her hair, scratched her face and demanded an immediate surrender of the trousers. She then returned home and told Mr. Beatty what she thought of him. Beatty is said to have sworn. Mrs. Beatty filed a charge of profanity against her husband. He was arrested, pleaded guilty, and was fined $12.30, which he paid. Tucson [AZ] Daily Citizen 7 November 1905: p. 1

Jane Asher’s Fancy Dress book continues the tradition with a variation on the theme with this costume: “A Pair of the Same Suit.”

pair of the same suit

Mrs Daffodil reminds her readers to put safety first this Hallowe’en. Ladies, do not borrow the clothing of married gentlemen. Gentlemen, do practice walking in those high heels before trying to dance in them or a spill, a torn frock, and a nasty sprain may result. One might also wish to avoid the streets of Charlestown if wearing an inflammatory picture hat.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.