Unmasking the Art of the Masquerade

Julia Karns

Julia Karns

Since the introduction of the masquerade ball in Medieval France, there has been an air of seduction and allure around these typically high profile events. With the original parties surrounding royals and court goers- prestige and power, rendezvous and intrigue are the core of the masquerade. After all, doesn’t anything go once you put on a mask?

Carnival season, the period of heavy indulgence before the onset of Lent, was the birthplace of masked debauchery- the streets filled with disguised individuals hoping to give into their temptations one last time before they must rebuke their sins. During this time, the wealthy and the poor were able to celebrate together due to the anonymity provided by the mask. By the 17th century, the ball had been adopted by nobles involved in high fashion, using the events to premier the newest, most decadent styles to the ever watchful eye of the royals. In an age without the internet and social media, the allure of obscured identity was pure and enticing, leaving guests tantalized by the question: who asked me to dance last night?

Today, the ball has been transformed into a scene for TV socialites, like Serena Vanderwoodsen and Katherine Pierce, to let loose- and for the more “common” person, a compelling halloween party theme. While there are still high-society balls that occur in places like Venice, Italy and New Orleans, the new wave of anonymous appreciation is lower maintenance while still preserving the coolness of its history. The layers and layers of ball gowns may be toned down to a figure hugging dress in a luxurious fabric, or chopped above the knee. Gloves are still in this year, but opt for a sheer or lace version. For the men, a classy look is always a winner- but try swapping the suit jacket for a trench or adding a funky belt to the get up. Overall, the idea of the masquerade ball is exploration without inhibition, so experimentation in the name of fashion is highly encouraged.

Though fashions have changed, the message of the masquerade ring true today: indulgence is human nature.