So Gaskell Ball in Oakland is an event I attend only very rarely. It is far away, it is expensive (in no small part because it so far away), and it takes so much time (again, distance. It’s an hour away from me). I also tend to shy away from Gaskell Ball because I have nothing period to wear.
I know the website says that semi-formal attire is appropriate, and a significant number of attendees are either dressed anachronistically, or are simply dressed in modern semi-formal, but there are always a number of people in gorgeous, period outfits and they make me so jealous. I wish I had the time and skill to make one. I wish I had the money to pay someone else to make me one. Despite all of this, I went to the April Gaskells and had a wonderful time.
The only thing that made me pause that night, was a comment overheard in the dressing room. It was about half way through the night and I’d ducked in to fix my hair. Two ladies were chatting as they got ready to leave, and one said to the other “I remember a time when it was all Victorian dresses out there.” And the conversation wandered in that vein for a bit before they left. Now maybe I’m overly sensitive about the costume thing, but this overheard conversation made me very sad and a little insecure about my own outfit, which was decidedly modern.
I wanted very much to turn around and ask the ladies “what about those of us who can’t afford it?” or “what about young people who may not have had an opportunity to aquire such an outfit yet?” Not all of us have the money to spend on these, lets be honest, luxuries. What we all share at an event like the Gaskell Ball is a love of the dancing. Is it such a crime that we don’t all have Victorian period outfits? Yes, I know they are beautiful, but really? And my mind wandered. What would the Gaskell Ball look like if there was a strict dress code – Period only please.
And as I went back out on the dance floor, I looked around me and really looked at who was dressed what way. I realized that a lot of the young people weren’t in full period garb. Everyone has their reasons, but I wondered how many could really procure an appropriate outfit? the thought made me sad, because to me it seemed that a strict dress code would exclude many of the younger dancers, myself included (and perhaps foremost in my own mind). And any event that excludes the next generation of dancers is doomed to fade and die, no matter how elegant.