Kempt

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Dusting Off: The Black-Tie Masquerade Ball

  • Kempt Staff

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News flash: Halloween is this Friday.

And you’re probably on the hook for at least one party this weekend—meaning you’re going to have to wear a costume that could very well sacrifice your dignity, or worse: your stylish reputation.

But this wasn’t always so—in fact, there was a day and age when dressing up only required a tuxedo and a mask, demonstrated by one Mr. Frank Sinatra, above.

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These photos come from the last great black-tie masquerade, held in 1966 by author and man of style Truman Capote (better known as “the Black and White Ball” at the time, and went down in the high-society history books as “the Party of the Century”).

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But the story of the masquerade ball starts long before this—in 15th-century Europe as part of the pageantry during Carnival—where you’ll still see elaborate feathered headdresses to this day in places like Brazil. The Venetian Carnival was best known for its masquerades through the Renaissance period, and as legend has it, a visiting Swiss count brought the mask-wearing party concept back to London. As it spread through Europe, and the American colonies, the parties took on new lives of their own—a popular iteration was having to guess the identities of your fellow guests and unmask them.

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But our favorite has always been the black-tie version—for obvious reasons—which is why we think it ought to be brought back into popularity.

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Either way, wearing a tuxedo and a mask wouldn’t be the worst last-minute costume idea.