"...Birds are ensnar'd with Nets, but Virgins with Masquerades."
When it comes to eighteenth century masquerades there is much to bring up and discuss! The masquerade in its modern sense made an important debut in England during the roaring 1720's, 1717 to be precise. Tickets for these public parties sold instantly, three to four hundred per event. The 'Midnight Masquerades' were thrown by John James Heidegger at the Haymarket Theatre. (Party Promoter extraordinair?)
These social events were partly influenced by the travel experiences the English had abroad. Attending exotic carnivals and fêtes were inspiration enough to go home and improvise!
There is of course the moral freedom that enticed persons to attend the parties. Not all disguises worn at masquerades were sexual in nature and those were de rigueur. For example you would always find your shepardess, your Harlequin, conjurers and Pierrots. Other costumes twisted gender, and were androgynous. Some scandalous costumes included a domino costume in which the naughty man wearing the disguise wore no undergarments...and another exhibitionist chose to wear a full flesh colored body stocking - with only some fig leaves covering the cash and prizes... And who could forget the ever popular evening Miss Chudleigh appeared, "as a bare breasted Iphigenia." tsk tsk!!!
What resulted of these edgy parties? In theory virgins would go to meet Roger and consequently loose their virginity, and older women would go and seduce men for an adulterous affair. Sounds like fun! There was undoubtedly a degree of empowerment women experienced at masquerades, if she chose so, to walk around rating potential 'acquaintances' and approaching those of her choosing. Similarly this privilege was to advantage of the days homosexuals and bisexuals. Sir John appeared in drag and Lady Marge chose to wear a very convincing merchants garb.
Who's who! Who's into who? Pick and choose whatever your fancy might be, the choice for the night is yours...
There is so much more to discuss! What is your favorite aspect of masquerades? More to come!