10+ Facts About Victorian Balls That Would Sound Quite Ordinary to Us Had We Lived 200 Years Ago

2 years ago

Had we been born 200 years ago, among British aristocrats, summers would be even hotter for us because it used to be the peak of the Social Season. This was a period when the elite society would have fun holding balls and dinner parties, and families would introduce their young daughters to society while men would search for their other halves. At first glance, this time might sound wonderful and exciting, but in reality, there were strict rules at balls that can be quite amusing to people who live in the twenty-first century.

We at Bright Side tried to learn about all of the traditions of the elite society that were present at balls several centuries ago.

Visiting a ball 200 years ago was one of the main ways to spend leisure time. Not only were they held by the representatives of the elite society, but also by various clubs and associations that united firefighters, teachers, and the military.

Those who wanted to get to the ball had to pay a certain fee to participate. In the nineteenth century, the “entrance ticket” cost 50 cents; today one would have to pay quite a lot of money, which could easily reach several hundreds of dollars.

Usually, the event started at about 8 PM and finished closer to 4 AM. All the participants were physically fit because they were expected to perform various dance numbers for up to 8 hours, non-stop.

The same dress could be worn only a couple of times for balls. All accessories, such as gloves and fans, were also supposed to be new. All dancers would have to take an additional pair of shoes in case they were required to replace the initial ones.

They normally learned the dances from their older relatives or specially hired teachers. Also, there were special dance manuals, which helped them to learn the movements.

Today’s dress code can’t even be compared to the strict rules of Victorian balls. The appearance of a lady, including her hair and skin color and her body shape, was the main factor for choosing an outfit. That’s why women had to dress in a certain way — blonde girls would wear dresses of tender pastel colors, while brunettes opted for brighter garments.

The sequence of dances was also strictly regulated. In the Russian Empire, for example, a ball would commence with a polonaise. During this slow dance, which would last for 30 minutes or more, the dancers would introduce themselves to each other and communicate. Because of this, they were given the name, “walking conversations.”

Ladies weren’t expected to refuse a dance partner. If she refused to dance with a man, she would be expected to refuse all invitations for the same dance. Despite this, a gentleman wouldn’t be expected to show dissatisfaction if he had been refused.

Gloves, first and foremost, performed a hygienic function — they were worn so as not to touch the gentleman with hands sweaty from dancing. White gloves were considered a better choice. If a lady wanted to put on cream or pearls-colored gloves, she had to make sure they didn’t stain her partner’s costume because the fabric dye could start to spread due to the warmth of her hands.

The rules forbade gentlemen to use perfume. The maximum he could do was apply some perfume to his handkerchief, but this perfume was supposed to be of the highest quality.

200 years ago, visiting balls was not a type of entertainment but a kind of social obligation. One couldn’t miss a ball for no reason in the Russian Empire — it was allowed only in case of a bad illness or mourning.

Balls are still popular in the twenty-first century. For example, today anyone can buy a ticket to the Concordia Ball, an annual event in Vienna, Austria, which has been held for more than 150 years, for $112 (€95). At some balls, women can get a present just for attending the event. It can be anything from a spoon to an elegant bracelet made from precious metals.

Which of these rules do you think would be most difficult for you to follow?

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