by Amanda Storey
I can hardly contain my excitement. The Edwardian Ball is here again!
The Edwardian is something that everyone should experience at least once. It’s a spectacle of old-timey fashion, Edward Gorey inspired theatre, electro-swing music and dancing, coupled with an incredible abundance of performance, costumes, and art. It is truly a feast for all of your senses.
And what costumes! If you’re a professional people-watcher like me, this is your event of the year. Everyone looks amazing.
But costuming for the Ball needn’t be difficult. You can achieve a great deal through makeup alone.
This will be my 4th consecutive year attending the Ball. Each year, I’ve taken the inspiration for my outfit from a different era or personal hero—or more often, both. In every case, makeup has played as important a role in my overall look as the garment I wore. Here are my three previous Edwardian Ball looks, along with tips on how you can create them for yourself.
It was Aaron Delachaux, a very dear friend of mine, who first suggested I attend the Edwardian Ball. An acclaimed DJ, Delachaux has provided music for this event for years. He does an amazing job keeping everyone bouncing, kicking and Charleston-ing the night away. Knowing my affinity for all things old-timey-riffic, he was certain this party would tickle my fancy bone. How right he was!
Sadly, there seems to be no photographic evidence of my costume that first year. But I remember precisely what I wore, and how I styled myself. How could I forget, when I drew my inspiration from that timeless icon of androgyny, Marlene Dietrich?
Hot damn, I love a woman in a tuxedo. There is something so sexy, so powerful and utterly decadent about it. I had been wanting to rock this look for years, and the Edwardian Ball was my chance!
I wore a men’s tuxedo shirt tailored to fit me (in a pinch, you can fake this with safety pins), basic black fitted trousers and a tuxedo jacket with tails that I picked up for dirt cheap from Forever 21. I fancified my tuxedo jacket with re-purposed vintage buttons that I rescued from a hideous jacket that ended up at Goodwill.
I slicked my long hair back into a chignon and wrapped a black ribbon around the base. My makeup was stark white with EXTREME matte black smokey eyes. My cheekbones were contoured and I finished the look with a matte nude lip. I really looked and felt amazing, plus I could move and dance the night away like a real gentleman.
The Ziegfeld Girl
Ziegfeld Girls are an obsession of mine. They represent a group of chorus girls who performed in the Ziegfeld Follies. Tossing out Victorian principles of lady-likeness, the Ziegfeld Girls embraced the controversial art, fashion, music and theatre of the early 1900′s.
While many snubbed these women as Harlots, they gained popularity as the most beautiful women in the world and had many admirers. A Ziegfeld Girl was the absolute height of glamour. Many of them went on to marry rich men and live lavish lives. The last surviving Ziegfeld Girl was Doris Eaton Travis, who died at 106 in May 2010.
The romance, the decadence, the controversy… I knew I had to recreate myself as a Ziegfeld Girl for The Edwardian Ball!
When my Grandmother Sunny passed away she left me everything she owned including some amazing wardrobe. Lucky for me we were the same size. The dress I wore was an amazingly sheer, hand-painted and beaded nude chiffon. Warm brown painted feathers, leaves and rhinestones flow across the hem and up towards the bodice.
To be honest, it’s less of a dress, and more like a fancy, transparent poncho. As such, it originally came with a nude slip to wear underneath. For the Ball, I wore it with a nude leotard, nude dancer’s fishnets, and nude ballroom dancing heels.
My makeup inspiration was drawn heavily from Doris Eaton Travis. Darkly mysterious matte smokey eyes coupled with the deepest black cherry lip. I used MAC Embark matte eyeshadow all over the lid. The cat-eye was not yet in fashion, so the shape of this eye makeup is very important. ROUNDED! The goal is to achieve a haunting, exaggerated doe-eye.
The face makeup must be flawless and lightly contoured in the hollows of the cheeks. I contour my cheekbones with MAC Harmony matte blush. I finished my makeup look with the gorgeous matte MAC Media lipstick, the deepest of deep almost black reds.
I have waist length hair, and that did not fit into the Ziegfeld aesthetic. I curled my hair, rolled it and pinned it into a pseudo-bob. After I secured my coif with plenty of bobby pins, I topped off my look with a vintage bronze beaded necklace that I wore as a headband. I was so comfortable all night, basically naked! My ballroom dancing shoes were awesome, a teeny heel, lots of traction and zero foot pain!
I had a blast, and I even got to introduce my then boyfriend—now fiancé—to The Edwardian Ball.
The Great Gatsby
I was and am still in crazy love with the dress I wore to last year’s Edwardian Ball. I was very inspired by the breezy looks of the 1970s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby. This dress was a lucky find. A vintage Geoffrey Beene yellow/black polka dot chiffon gown. The tag read $300 and the sale sign said 70%. I prayed that it would fit, and to my delight it slipped on as if it had been made for me.
I paired this gown with nude fishnets and black Mary Jane heels. Super-duper simple! I once again twisted my hair into a pseudo-bob, this time purposefully leaving pieces out to seem effortless and ethereal.
The makeup was insanely easy. I flawless-ified my skin with MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NC15, defined my cheeks with the (now sadly discontinued) Benefit Georgia Peach blush, darkened my brows with Benefit Browzing Dark and popped on one of my all-time favorite red lipsticks: Lime Crime’s “Retrofuturist”. That’s it.
This year is even more exciting than ever. My fiance, Ben Walker, was asked to design a really cool souvenir shot glass for this year’s Ball featuring his new character “The Graven Twins”. His shot glass will be for sale at the Ball—be sure to check it out!
I also surprised both of my sisters and their boyfriends by purchasing tickets for them. They’ve never seen anything like this before, and I know they will fall in love like I have. And of course I’ve been plotting my character, makeup and wardrobe for months, as well as helping my sisters do the same. I simply cannot wait to see what they—and everyone else—comes up with!
What look will you create for the Ball?
Amanda Storey is a makeup artist, model, artist and prankster with a vocabulary comparable to Oscar Wilde, if he were a sailor on shore leave. Amanda spends her days prettifying women at the Fillmore Street Benefit Cosmetics Boutique and blogging about the newest addition to her 100-plus lipstick collection. Amanda’s passion for style and fancy things is in her DNA, it’s been there since she cat-walked out of her mother’s birth canal. She uses makeup and clothes to create characters and express her ideas the same way Chuck Jones would use a pencil and paper.
An earlier version of this post originally appeared on Amanda’s blog, Fancy Face.
Want more tips on dressing for The Edwardian Ball? Do peruse our ongoing Fashion Guide series!