Halloween is next week! Will you be dressing up? For those of you who need a little costume inspiration, we offer you this post on an 1880s fancy dress costume in our collection. First posted in 2009, it's one of our most popular blog posts. Read through to the end for access to an amazing 19th century fancy dress manual. Enjoy!
Contemporary Halloween celebrations offer an opportunity for young and old to dress in costume, but in the 19th and early 20th century, Halloween was primarily geared towards children. Adults who wanted to dress-up attended or hosted fancy dress balls. Not connected to a specific holiday, fancy dress balls and parties took place throughout the year and could be small private events or large-scale public fundraisers. Some fancy dress balls were thematic and related to contemporary or historic events while others were more open, simply requiring attendees to come in costume. Unlike the macabre and/or sexy Halloween costumes of today, fancy dress costumes covered a much broader range of topics: historic figures, abstract concepts, works of art, pieces of furniture, natural phenomena, animals and popular novels or plays. Suggested costumes were published in fashion periodicals and in descriptive manuals. Our fancy dress costume represents an undetermined character, though we think it might be intended as gypsy dress.