The dress is finished, I got the tickets in the mail, the hubby’s suit has been found, and a babysitter for the tot procured.
It’s time to get ready for the ball.
While trying to iron the dress, I quickly realized why ladies of the time had ladymaids. It was a very daunting task, especially since I’m no good at ironing.
I couldn’t find a fall or a curly bun wig to borrow, so I attempted to curl my hair myself. Again, I wished I had a ladymaid. My arms got tired putting in the sponge rollers. I did my makeup (very simple, just a little black eyeshadow in the crease to accent the black and white dress), put all our stuff in the car, dropped off the tot and set off.
The ball was in Riverside–about an hour and a half from Los Angeles with no rain or traffic. Last year it took us about 6 hours to get there and we missed a bulk of the dance. This year we left at 3 and got there in time to get ready in a friend’s hotel room (I wasn’t about to ride in the car in full costume, lol).
We let the guys get ready first, then kicked them out. My friend laced me up and helped me make sure the hem of the skirt covered the hoop and didn’t look too uneven.
My curls didn’t quite dry in the damp weather, but they’ll do. Again, a lady maid would have come in handy. I wore black slippers, not heels–doing the Virginia Reel in high heels is a really, really bad idea. On went the black lace gloves the tot picked out and the black clockhand earrings, hairpin, and necklace I got from EJP creations awhile back (I had ordered some gold ones, but the black went with better, so I’ll save those for another dress). I add my black velvet cape and a peacock feather fan. Viola! I think I’ll do.
Meanwhile, the guys keep calling to see where we are, so we make the trek from the hotel room to the venue. Bagpipes play in front of the venue, as everyone arrives in full Victorian regalia. The guys have enjoyed, as they put it, “watching the parade floats go by.” The hubby looks dashing in white tie and tails.
We check in and are given dance cards. Worn on the wrist, they have a little pencil and list the dances that are done in each set. Gentleman go up to ladies and sign their dance card (with the lady’s permission, of course), thus reserving the dance. Most of my card is reserved for the hubby, but I have a few friends I agree to dance with. The hubby also gets drafted to dance. (In the Victorian times it is considered rude to deny other’s the chance to dance with your escort.) The first set is in full swing with a live band. The set dances are called, so everyone can join in even if you don’t know how to do them.
Right after we arrive, Queen Victoria and her retinue arrive. A few people are kinighted for their service to the crown. Then it’s time for a waltz and the grand march. One of my rose pins breaks in the very first waltz. The pin is holding the dress up, but one of my friends has a safey pin so we fix it. I’ll have to sew them on for next year.
The grand march is quite fun, giving you the chance to see everyone who’s at the ball and take a look at everyone’s dresses. There are many, many beautiful dresses. There are quite a few bustle-dresses this year (a little early for the Dickens era, but beautiful nevertheless.). However, many soon find that bustle dresses with trains are very hard to dance in.
There are four sets, each set consisting of 4-5 dances. In between sets the band breaks giving us time to socialize, look at all the lovely dresses, or get some refreshments. The ball is sold out and there are several hundred people there–all in costume. Most are in Victorian gowns. I see a few with Steampunk flair and one airpirate. There’s also a few regency and colonial dresses, and a few prom dresses. Those who don’t want to dress up but want to watch can sit in the observation gallery, which is also packed.
The ball attracts people of all ages, from teens to older couples. There are some families. There aren’t any small children, the youngest are around 9 or 10–all dressed up and well versed in the manners and dances of the time, quite a cute and impressive sight.
The hubby and I waltz and polka. My slippers are too big and keep slipping off.I learn to Schottische. I feel good because I get a lot of compliments on my dress, fabric glue and drama aside. So, in spite of everything, I guess I did manage to pull everything off.
The most fun dance of the evening for me had to be the plain quadrille, which is quite possibly the longest set dance ever (and five sets, not four). It’s made up of four couples and we were lucky enough to be in a set with our friends. The hubby was a very good sport, going with the flow and trying his best. I was quite proud. My friends who sat the dance out thought we were quite entertaining to watch, especially since the guys are goofballs.
Finally the night drew to a close, finishing with the farewell waltz. The best part of the evening was just getting to spend time dancing with the hubby, though seeing old friends and looking at all the pretty dresses was nice as well. The ball has drawn to a close. We say goodbye to everyone and change out of our clothes for the long, rainy drive home. It’s been quite the fun evening and I look forward to going next year.