History Of Fancy Dress And Why They Became Customary

History Of Fancy Dress And Why They Became Customary


Wearing masks and disguises to celebrate festivals has been customary in Europe, especially in the UK for many centuries. It started from Venetian pre-Lent Carnival in the seventeenth century and with time it took the shape of the Masquerade in the eighteenth century and later fancy dress balls and parties in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Venetian pre-Lent Carnival

People from all classes and standards participated in an open area where they all danced, feasted and performed practical jokes. The people who arranged, organized and managed that Venetian pre-Lent carnival wore Womens Fancy Costumes And Accessories to enjoy and entertain the participants in that event.

The Masquerading

In the seventeenth century, Masquerading or masking was regarded as public entertainment in UK in which masqueraders wore different types of masks and they disguised themselves in fashionable evening fancy dresses. The most popular fancy dress codes were Harlequin, columbine, Punchinello, Pantaloon, comic Scotsmen and Turkish fancy dresses for men and women came to see again and again in the masquerades. Most fancy dresses or Womens Fancy Costumes were on rent for advertisements from the organizations that were engaged in the fancy costume trades.


In the eighteenth century, masquerades became infamous among UK residents due to a lack of several moral values but in European countries, people loved fancy dresses and continued that event. After some new changes in masquerades, fancy balls gained popularity either in private houses or to raise funds for a noble civic cause on a large-scale event.

People went to wear masks and wore fancy costumes of historical characters taken from Shakespeare's plays, and Sir Walter Scott's novels. Turkish and Greek fancy dresses from Byron's poem and farmer fancy dresses from Italy, Spain and Switzerland were used to perform entertaining and impactful acts in those fancy balls or charity balls.

Lists of fancy costumes that were worn by people in the large fancy balls, were published in newspapers. Several women liked to wear "a fancy dress" as a fashionable evening dress with fancy trimmings, especially feathers. Local tailors and ball organizers made these kinds of fancy dresses for themselves. The World of Fashion in 1828 (women renowned) published an article about inspiring historical and foreign fancy dresses.

To create and innovate fancy costumes, dressmaking firms advertised widely in newspapers, magazines and women's periodicals etc. to hire specialized tailors, stitchers, designers and stylists. Many London-based fancy dressmaking firms got temporary premises on rent to organize fancy balls to showcase and sell their fancy costumes in provincial towns.

French people participated in the masquerade wearing their fancy costumes to celebrate state occasions from the seventeenth century.

Imperial Pageants/Competitions

The trend of wearing fancy dresses among people of UK residents grew high with time from 1860 onward. Local newspapers published lists of columns on private fancy balls where people celebrated birthday ceremonies, family reunions, Halloween, Christmas and New Year's Eve season etc.

Public fancy balls hosted by lord mayors also got the attention of all the classes and standards of UK residents. Kids' parties, club parties and office parties tended to dress up in fancy dresses and costumes. That is why the demand for ideas for fancy dresses and costumes increased day by day and women's periodicals published articles and corresponding columns about new ideas for fancy costumes regularly.

Popular costumes of that era were Vandyke and rococo dress, Japanese dress inspired by The Mikado in 1885, European farmer dress and symbolic costumes like winter, folly and night. From 1880 onward, novels and inventive ideas for creating fancy costumes were in great demand by the people. Given the rising popularity of fancy dresses, dressmakers and the newly established departmental stores across the UK started making fancy dresses for costumes.

In 1897, Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee paving the way for two of the most royal and luxurious fancy dress balls of the nineteenth century. One was the Devonshire House Fancy Ball and the other was the Victorian Era Fancy Ball.

Devonshire House Fancy Ball

It took place in London organized by the Duchess of Devonshire and most royal family and elite class people participated in it. Guests wore fancy dresses inspired by renowned historical personalities, novels and fables. The female hosts represented Zenobia, queen of Palmyra and Queen Marie Antoinette was dressed as the countess of Warwick. Most of the fancy costumes in that fancy ball were couture creations made by Jean-Philippe Worth (son of Charles).

Victorian Era Fancy Ball

Governor-general of Canada Lord Aberdeen and his wife hold the Victorian Era Ball in Toronto to celebrate Queen Victoria's 75th birthday. The theme of that fancy ball was British Empire and many fancy costumes were symbolic such as Sports, The Forests of Canada, Pastimes, Electricity, and postal progress.

Changes In Twentieth Century

In 1920, most parties turned into fancy dress balls and young people made their social world with all-night parties, jazz, cocktail and show-off behaviours. Agitated, weird and historically fancy dresses became part of the parties and masks were again introduced. In the 1920s, themed parties became popular and organized in London e.g.

Wild West parties, Greek parties, circus parties and baby parties in which people came wearing their fancy dresses. Harlequin and Pierrot characters, performed by The Commedia Dell'arte, revived the past, given a contemporary aspect. Fancy dress balls attained popularity and became annual events in schools, colleges, and varsities and especially at holiday parties.

Fancy dress balls were regarded as the "Party of the Twentieth Century" by the press in 1951. High-class and elite people from all over the world dressed in lavish eighteenth-century fancy costumes, mostly made by French and Italian dressmakers at fancy dress balls. From the 1980s onward, fancy dresses again made their fashionable space in international societies after the decline in the 1950s.

In the decade 2000, people included more favourite characters' fancy dresses such as monks, nuns, clowns and devils with the combinations of topical characters from television and films. In the current century, themed parties are getting fame: Prince William of Wales celebrated his 21st birthday in June 2003 having a theme of "Out of Africa" at Windsor Castle.

Kids Fancy Dress

Aside from nursery-poem characters, nineteenth-century kids' fancy costumes were similar to adults but in small sizes that represented more mother's taste than the child's. From the 1920s and 1930s, many occasions like street carnivals, and pageants became a showcase of children's fancy dresses and a wider social participation of children in that occasions brought vast varieties of fancy costumes based on cinema heroes, cartoon characters, animals, storybook characters even TV advertisements.

Many of those children's fancy dresses were homemade. A paper pattern company Weldon's introduced a catalogue of patterns for fancy dresses and magazines published the methods for making kids' fancy dresses from everyday clothes and household furnishings.

Dressing up in fancy costumes has become a part of everyday play for children aged 3 to 6 years old in the early 21st century.

Kids' fancy costumes are available for sale in all Online Fancy Dress Store In Manchester UK and departmental chain stores across the UK to give a new look to beloved children like knights, princesses, policemen, nurses, Disney characters, or famous fiction hero Harry Potter.


On numerous times, women have made contributions to the creation of couture, dressing up, disguising themselves, masking themselves, and celebrating through the use of Womens Fancy Costumes And Accessories of the best Online Fancy Dress Store In Manchester UK.

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