Fancy dress parties have been around since for centuries and were particularly popular in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. Italy is particularly well known for contributing to the popularity of fancy dress parties. There, the masquerade ball reached frenzied proportions. By the time Queen Victoria took the throne much of Europe, especially England, had lost its appetite for masquerade but still had a keen interest in fancy dress parties. The Queen's interest in literature, poetry and history had a tremendous impact on the themes for fancy dress parties throughout her long reign.
During a time when Europeans entertained often and lavishly, fancy dress parties were often called upon to break up the monotony of what might have been another otherwise boring social event. Almost any notable figure in history and literature was likely to spur the imaginations of fancy dress party guests. While characters from literature, especially the Shakespearean plays, remained popular choices for fancy dress parties throughout much of the century; a quest for increasingly unique and creative costumes began to appear.
Fancy dress parties were concentrated among those who could afford to devote the time and money to such lavish events; however that didn't mean that a few peasants didn't make their way onto the guest list. Throughout most of the 19th century there remained a keen interest in the less fortunate as the subject for possible fancy dress costumes. This interest was more likely than not spurred by the fact that peasant style costumes gave ladies the opportunity to step outside their normally rather strict social codes. While it would have been unthinkable to appear dressed in a ensemble that allowed too much cleavage or the ankles to show at any other event; much could be forgiven when inspired by fancy dress parties.
Concepts and ideas were also likely to appear in the form of costumes to be worn at fancy dress parties. Seasons and holidays were popular choices. Creativity allowed ladies to makeover costumes used for prior occasions to suit their whimsy for an upcoming fancy dress party. With just the addition of a few trimmings, an otherwise ordinary gown could be transformed into a representation of anything the lady wished.
Today fancy dress parties are not as popular as they were during the height of the Victorian era. The opportunity to dress as your favorite historical character, or any character for that matter, has unfortunately often been relegated to Halloween. Should you have an upcoming event to celebrate, or just want an excuse to get some friends together, why not consider throwing a good old fashioned fancy dress party? Chances are you have just the right ensemble in the back of your closet that can be reworked with a few embellishments to form the perfect costume.
Ian Wide writes for leisure and entertainment sites such as fancy dress parties.