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Hopeless romantics at Victorian costume ball

A rainbow of hopeless romantics
A rainbow of hopeless romantics
Photo courtesy of Vivien Lee, used with permission

At the Spring Gaskell Victorian Ball last April 26, a group of talented costumers graced the elegant main ballroom of the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland. They were dressed in the style of the Romantic era in an array of colors from white to pinks and yellows to greens, blues and purples.

Vivien Lee in Romantic Era attire
Photo courtesy of Vivien Lee, used with permission

According to Vivien Lee, one of the ladies in the group, costuming in a particular theme for the Gaskell Ball started with the April 2012 Gaskells where they wanted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic. They called themselves the Unsinkables and they wore Edwardian attire.

They had so much fun that they decided to do this every year. Last year, they did the Gibson Girls (late Victorian) and this year they decided on the Romantic Era (1830s). Breanna Bayba came up with the name Hopeless Romantics.

The Romantic Era is not often done at vintage events and dances and so it was a treat to see costumes from this time period. The style is a transitional one that looks like a cross between Regency fashion and the Dickensian silhouette that people usually think of as Victorian. Compared to the Regency, the waistlines are lower and more defined, the collars go across the shoulders, the sleeves are bigger and poufier and the skirts are fuller.

Lee said that “we mostly used Truly Victorian 455 pattern as a base, but everyone did lots of different things to trim.” For herself, she got a lot of ideas “by searching for historical fashion plates and reproductions by other costumers on Pinterest.” Other resources include paintings from the period and the miniseries “Wives and Daughters” (based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell for whom the ball is named). There was a lot of helpful discussion in their Facebook group as well.

The Gaskell Ball is a great place for Victorian dancing and costuming. Attendees are not required to go to the lengths this group of ladies goes to as far as costuming but there is a formal dress code. The next Gaskell Ball is the Summer Solstice Ball on June 21.