Monday, January 28, 2013


  THE NEW YORK TIMES  - Published: January 17, 1897

  January of the present year of grace will probably be a red letter month in the annals of New York society for some years to come from the gayeties it has already brought, and those which it promises to bring,. The dullness, so far as society entertaining and entertainment were concerned, of the Christmastide holidays, has been followed by a somewhat unexpected and unusual amount of gayety. This has not been confined entirely to one comparatively small and exclusive set, but other elements and sets of the now large and rapidly growing New York society world have also enjoyed an unusual amount of entertainment, so that the season has become a gay one to every person who considers himself or herself entitled to any position, or to whom any position is conceded, in New York society.

   Mrs. Astor's ball of Jan. 4 was the precursor of what promises to be a notable series of similar handsome balls in the finest residences of New York, some of which have only just been completed and others of which have been closed for some years. Mrs. Sloane's large dinner dance, which really deserved the title of a ball was as beautiful and well appointed an entertainment in every way as was Mrs. Astor's, and this was followed by another ball given by Mrs. John Jacob Astor, by a dance at Mr. Perry Belmont's, by a ball at Commodore  Elbridge T. Gerry's and by a dance to be given by Mrs. Frederic Bronson, while the series of dances and balls of the near future will have their climax in the fancy-dress ball which it is reported that Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Martin will give at the Waldorf on Feb. 10.

  It is only necessary for the rumor to be started that Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Martin are planning an entertainment, when, presto! the world of New York society is stirred from centre to circumference. The arrival of this hospitable couple after a two years' absence abroad just before Christmas was hailed with delight by the lovers of gayety in this city, for Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Martin have established a reputation  for entertaining  on  the most lavish scale in the past, which will always remain with them. It has also been felt and expressed that Mrs. Bradley Martin, in particular, would be likely to give an entertainment this Winter of such a character as to surpass, not only all her previous efforts of the kind, but also all those of other hostesses of the past in New York. The Vanderbilt fancy dress ball of 1883, and which has now become the most marked event in New York society history, occurred, of course, before the younger generation had made their entrance into society, and so the younger men and women, particularly of the exclusive set, have expressed the hope and wish since last summer that Mrs. Bradley Martin would give a ball this season which would, at least, equal that of Mrs. Vanderbilt, and whose splendor are only known to them by tradition.   It may be imagined, therefore, with what joy and excitement the report was received during the week that the Bradley Martins would give on Feb. 10 a fancy dress ball at the Waldorf of surpassing magnitude and splendor,  and  how  every detail of information that could be gleaned as to the coming event has been sought.

  The first story was to the effect that Mrs. Bradley Martin would require her guests, who were to number about 500, to appear in costumes, copied from prints and fashion plates of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. There has been no direct confirmation of this story by Mr. or Mrs. Bradley Martin as yet, but it is generally believed to be true, with the result that libraries are being searched and milliners and dressmakers interviewed, while cablegrams have even been sent to London and Paris requesting a search to be made there for costumes of the period which it is supposed Mrs. Bradley Martin has selected, so that they can be purchased or made and sent over here in time for the ball.*** In fact Mrs. Martin intentionally sent the invitations only three weeks before the ball to ensure that her guests would not be able to order their costumes from Europe and would thus be forced to patronize local suppliers.*** IT would be amusing, indeed, were it to transpire that all this talk regarding a fancy dress bail was premature, but not especially so to those enterprising men and women who have not been willing to take the chances of the report being false and have already gone to much trouble and expense in preparation for the event. Whatever form the Bradley Martin ball may take, however, it is safe to say that it will be a notable event. The entire lower floor of the Waldorf, it is said, has been secured for the night of the ball, and the two ballrooms, as well as the large and small restaurants, will be utilized. Of course, there is an immense amount   of   preliminary   speculation   as to the guests who will probably be invited to the bail. These will probably comprise about the same set of people who attended the  last Patriarchs and   Mrs. Astor's ball, with perhaps a few additions. Although Mrs. Bradley Martin has been absent from New York for some little time, she has kept closely in touch with the movement and changes in social life here, and it is probable that her guest list will be about the same as that of Mrs, Astor's. The End.

   The fashion for fancy dress balls grew over the course of the nineteenth-century after a shift in social mores at the ends of the eighteenth-century had made masquerade balls and parties seem licentious. Private costume parties, where no masks were worn, became known as “fancy balls” Through  the confusion of reality, high class New Yorkers acquired a noble past that only existed through sartorial fantasy, expressing the hysterical need to overcome the lack of real blue blood in their veins.  The  eagerness  for  legitimizing  themselves  as  the  economic  ruling  class instigated the upper class to emulate European aristocracies.

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