Fancy Dress Costumes


AT THE PRIVATE MASQUERADES and fancy dress parties of the season the familiar and stereotyped fancy dress costumes of perls, vivandières Highland lassies, and flower girls are no longer seen. The grotesque fancy dress costumes copied last winter from the French operas have also disappeared. Fritz, La Grande Duchesse, and General Bourn have had their day. At the large public balls lately given, these comical exaggerations have been succeeded by others of a less innocent character. Female masqueraders have appeared in scanty French dresses, merely tights and a bodice, or else some dashing male attire; but these are never adopted by ladies with refined ideas of propriety.

With people of taste and culture the preference at present is for the more picturesque styles of national dress — the costumes of the Middle Ages, and the brilliant dresses of the court of Louis XV. Aside from these characteristic dresses, the most successful costumes are those that convey a meaning. A thought plainly and gracefully expressed in the attire is the perfection of costuming. Hence people of ideas improvise their own costumes when they desire something becoming and original.


Few persons ever wish to appear the second time in a conspicuous fancy dress costume that will be immediately recognized. It is therefore not necessary to use expensive materials for fancy dress costumes. The linen-back satins and velveteens now so commonly used in everyday attire are quite good enough, as they retain their gloss and freshness throughout the evening.


As variety of fancy dress costume is desirable to party-goers it has become customary to hire ready-made fancy dress costumes from a costumer. People of wealth who travel and spend their summers at gay watering-places have becoming costumes of their own, and wear them in different cities. Others of more moderate means, instead of purchasing fancy dress costumes, have a popular costume made by their measure, and pay the costumer a large percentage of its value for the privilege of wearing it the first evening. It is then returned to the costumer, who lets it again to make up the expense of his outlay. A less fastidious person hires the fancy dress costume the second time at a reduced price. Some of the best costumers charge $50 for a suit made to order and worn one evening. At other establishments a costume worth $90 will bring $30 the first evening, and $25 the second — $15 is the average price afterward. This includes usually the wig, stockings, and every thing required except the shoes and mask.


A mask costs about one dollar extra. Wire masks are little used. The satin mask with lace fall is preferred. A mask made of bits of satin, either pink or blue, sewn on white net, is cool and pleasant to wear. Ladies who go to fancy-dress parties in ordinary evening dress wear masks to match the dress in color. The prettiest mask for the Folly dress, so much in favor now, is of white net, covered with small oval puffs of satin of different colors. The dress of the Marquise de Pompadour is popular this winter at fancy-dress parties. This is convenient, and can be easily arranged at home, as the present style of dinner dress with paniers, train, square corsage, and powdered hair is an exact copy of the Pompadour style. A mask is all that  need be added. Care should be taken that the mask and dress are of harmonious colors. The heavy brocaded silks belong to this costume, white silks with chiné bouquets, and the pale blue grounds strewn with rose-buds.


The handsomest dominoes are of satin or corded silk, pink, blue, white, or black, trimmed with swan's-down or with lace. A satin domino should be made of a good quality, or it soon becomes flimsy. It should be sufficiently long to conceal the whole dress beneath. An ingenious modiste makes a domino that can afterward be used as a dress-skirt. It is merely the skirt of a gored, trained dress, pleated into a broad yoke that covers the shoulders. Openings for the arms are left in the side seams. The usual round cape and hood is worn over this. We have seen this prettily made in blue satin trimmed with a quilling of the same. A scarlet gros grain domino, trimmed with ermine, has a large cape and a deeply-pointed hood in the Arab fashion. A pretty domino that looks like a dress is made of pink satin, with a short loose sacque and open sleeves worn over the garment proper. The hood sacque and edge of the domino are festooned with white lace headed by a ruche of satin. Costumers make a rich satin domino trimmed with swan's-down for $60. The expense of hiring for one evening is from $15 to $20.

Gentlemen wear dominoes this winter more than fancy dress. These are made of black silk, untrimmed, and worn with a black mask. They cost about $50. Coarserdominoes of woolen stuffs, usually of Italian cloth, are inexpensive, costing only $2.


The Undine dress is very becoming to a blonde with long light hair. It consists of three short skirts of green tarlatan, laminated with white and silver to represent water. The tunic, of Malines or frosted tulle over dew-drop tarlatan, is looped and edged with sea-weed. A belt and sort of peplum is covered with coral sprays and shells, and fringed with long water-grasses. Tiny conch shells fasten a sash of green tulle to the shoulders. Branches of coral are across the low corsage. The head-dress is a wreath of shells, mother-of-pearl, and grasses, worn over long wavy tresses of light hair.

Floral costumes are pretty for young girls. The Jardinière suit is a graceful idea. The fancy dress is a short skirt of while silk chiné, with bouquets. The skirt is bordered with a trimming of green velvet ribbon, crossed n diamonds, to represent a rustic fence. Low polka bodice of gold cloth is striped horizontally with gold cord to imitate a wicker basket. This is filled out at the top, front and back, with a quantity of flowers about the shoulders. The flowers are artificial and highly perfumed. Necklace, earrings, and head-dress of flowers of any becoming color. White satin slippers, with a wreath of leaves around the top. 

The Pansy fancy dress costume is a short white satin skirt, trimmed with many rows of gilt braid, and dotted with purple and gold pansies. Over-skirt of purple velvet, edged with gold fringe. White waist wreathed with pansies. Puffed short sleeves, with flowers between the puffs. A jaunty hat of purple velvet, with a cluster of pansies in front. White, satin gaiters trimmed with gilt.

A popular Folly fancy dress costume is next to be described. A short petticoat of corn-colored satin, striped with scarlet. The edge is cut in points, to which little bells are attached. Short blue satin tunic, trimmed with gold braid. White satin baby-waist, with swan's-down on the neck and sleeves. Peasant bodice and peplum of black satin, deeply pointed and bound with yellow, a bell finishing each point. Gay plaid sash tied at the left. Blue velvet cape and bells. Striped stockings and high-heeled slippers. A Folly rattle in the hand.

The Shower fancy dress costume has a sky-blue satin skirt, encircled with a rainbow made of the Roman striped satin now in vogue. Above this clouds are represented by wreaths of white down and marabout feathers. The black satin over-skirt is cut in narrow gores to represent an umbrella. Tassel fringe, with crystal drops around the over-skirt. Blue bodice with rainbow sash and clouds of down. White feathers in the powdered hair. A veil of tulle covers the whole figure like mist. 

Pride fancy dress costume is represented by a short skirt of scarlet velvet, bordered with tips of peacock's feathers. Yellow satin over-skirt, trimmed with long feathers extending down from the belt. Scarlet bodice, bordered with the eyes of the feathers and gold braid. Loose blue mantle lined with yellow, attached to the shoulders. Fan of feathers with a mirror in the centre. Nodding plumes in the powdered hair. Pink stockings and scarlet gaiters.

A simple fancy dress costume represents Music. Short white silk skirt with low bodice and short sleeves. A stave from a favorite opera is painted note by note around the skirt of the dress. A gilt lyre covers the front corsage. Musical insignia, the bars and treble clef, quavers, semi-quavers, and demi-semi-quavers in French gilt form the necklace and coiffure. White slippers with gilt rosettes. 

The Snow-flake fancy dress costume is made of bits of down sewed on thin muslin. The butterfly is of chameleon game with wings formed of wire. The Fan costume is made of colored paper folded in the shape of open fans, spreading out from the belt to form the skirt and corsage.

The picturesque Moorish fancy dress costume is becoming to a brunette. Full while silk trousers, gathered at the ankle, short skirts of white tulle spangled with gold. Low round jacket and deeply-pointed tunic of crimson velvet, trimmed with blue bands and gold tassels. Blue and white striped sash, worn loosely about the waist, knotted at the side. Flowing black hair, banded with gold. Scarlet velvet cap with gilt tassel drooping to the left. Broad, flat gold bracelets, necklace, and earrings in arabesque design. White satin slippers with gilt heels.

The Swiss Peasant fancy dress costume is easily made, as it is not unlike the present style of house dress. Pink and while striped satin skirt, made short and bordered with black velvet. Half-high Gabrielle over dress of pink silk, looped with black velvet ribbon. White chemisette and short, puffed sleeves. While muslin apron, gored and ruffled. Velvet ribbon bracelets and necklace with a jet cross. High black hat with an aigrette in the centre. Pink slippers with black velvet rosettes. White checked stockings.


The domino fancy dress costume is so generally adopted by gentlemen this winter that there are but few new costumes designed for them. The Don Juan, Don Caesar de Bazan, Harlequin, and Mephistopheles are all worn, and too familiar to require description. A handsome Turkish dress has white trousers striped with gilt. Scarlet velvet tunic and vest embroidered with silver. Turkish pointed jacket of light blue velvet. White lama sash with gilt tassels. Large white and gold mantle with burnous hood. Turban of blue, red, and yellow silk. A novel suit, representing a game of cards, is made of white satin, with stripes of cards stamped on each garment for a border. 


A Bluebird fancy dress costume for a little girl has a Gabrielle dress of yellow silk fringed with green. A low blue basque, sloping away from the front, to which blue gauze wings are attached at the belt. Short frizzed hair, with round blue cap, ornamented with a bird's head in front.  Blue slippers, with white stockings.

A postillion mounted on a velocipede fancy dress costume is represented by a boy of twelve, dressed in green trousers, a short blue jacket, and scarlet vest. Tall black hat.  Powdered queue wig. High cavalry boots.

Diana fancy dress costume wears a blue silk skirt ornamented with silver crescents. White puffed muslin over dress looped with crescents.  A quiver of gilt arrows is fastened to the left shoulder. Gilded bow in the hand. Crescents on the forehead and slippers.

A Peruvian fancy dress costume for a boy of ten has white merino pants, with square jacket of the same, trimmed with broad scarlet satin bands and immense buttons. The grotesque hat is a tall sugar-loaf crown of white merino striped with red ribbon.

A Shepherdess fancy dress costume for a girl of twelve is made of pearl-colored satin, with an over-skirt of blue silk striped with silver. Low slashed over-waist of blue. Broad white shepherdess hat with blue ribbons. A crook wrapped with ribbon. A pretty little Folly dress is of blue silk, pointed and finished with silver bells. Blue and white striped merino over dress. High cap with bells.

...from Harper's Bazaar, 1869.