When the future looks bleak, one place the creative types look for fun is the bleaker aspects of the past, right? That’s the topsy-turvy age-of-reasoning behind the Edwardian Ball, a weekend-long “elegant, whirlwind, turn of the century festival” in the spirit of Edward Gorey, held this past weekend at the Regency Ballroom. Hundreds of the bejeweled, bespectacled, beribboned and bedecked entered a world that would have welcomed Eliza Doolittle selling flowers amongst the top hats, bustles, corsets and spats that filled the vendors’ bazaar.
Let’s face it, when it comes to fun, we’ve seen it all in this town. Breasts, bottoms, bulges and nasty bits have become so common that they have lost most of their mysterious allure. So the creative folks who are way ahead of the silicone curve- artists, actors, aerialists, and other avant-gardists—use the occasion to don Edwardian garb and titillate with a glimpse of their striped, ruffled and beribboned knickers. Never mind that their tattoos and plentiful piercings may be right out of West Portal. These folks have traveled through another kind of portal to enter the charming, slightly alarming world of futurists from the past. That’s the premise behind the Steampunk movement, which peers at the 20th Century from the waning days of the Nineteenth, when scientific discoveries and Darwinian theory held infinite promise. And that’s the driving force behind this two-day bit of boffo which invited guests to marvel at taxidermy tablaux, steam contraptions and a bicycle-powered two-seater Ferris wheel whirling in the middle of the Regency Ballroom. Admittedly, the Gorey-inflected notion of the Edwardian period was a subjective design motif. Some applied their artifice literally, with waxed handlebar mustaches (yes, even on a few women), Livingston-I-Presume plinth helmets, fringed parasols and boned bustles. Others merrily mixed sunken-eyed gothicka whiteface with French postcard naughtiness of heaving corsets and visible pantalettes (yes, even on a few men). With live musical performances of Rosin Coven (phantiastique!), Le Cancan Bijou, Delachau and Vau de Vire Society whirred and clanged on the stage, the real show was the promenade around the dance floor and merchant bazaar filled with an Etsy-esque array of vendors ready to outfit your next Gilbert and Sullivan gala. (Vendors included Hairy Scary, Opera Scura, Hatmandu, Fayette’s Cockette Emporium, Minerva’s Antennae, Dismal Things, and Dolls Gone Wrong – need we say more?) While the best of the boulevardiers had fashioned their own looks, a few hundred dollars could go far in getting you the goods. Which you’ll need to look forward to next year’s peek at the future from the perspective of the Gorey past.[slidepress gallery='edwardian-ball-2010']