What the Heck is an Edwardian Ball, Anyhow?
It would be easy to assume from its name that the Edwardian Ball's theme is the time during of King Edward VII of England (1901 to 1910). It is to a degree, but there's another, more interesting Edward involved. The Edwardian Ball describes itself as "an elegant and whimsical celebration of art, music, theatre, fashion, technology, circus, and the beloved creations of the late, great author Edward Gorey."
That's all easy to say, but to describe the experience is more difficult. If you're new to the event, don't be surprised if you feel a bit like Alice the moment after she stepped through the looking glass. The San Francisco Chronicle described it in 2010 as "a surreal atmosphere filled with anachronistic wonders." The goings-on remind me of the first, refined days of Venice, Italy's Carnevale, when the best-costumed attendees posture and preen, in the most refined of style.
Don't expect over-the-top production numbers at this event - they wouldn't have had those in Edwardian times, either. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to see or do. Live musicians perform and every year, the organizers stage a musical version of an Edward Gorey tale. Besides that, you can enjoy ballroom dancing, short stage shows, a marketplace, absinthe cocktails and some fun sideshows. And isn't it fun to just get dressed up and go to a party?
What We Think of the Edwardian Ball
We attended the Edwardian Ball in Los Angeles in February, 2013 and we rate it 4.5 stars out of 5 for ingenuity and uniqueness. Given the abundance of entertainment they provide and the long hours, the ticket price is quite a bargain.
By far, the most enjoyable part of the event was checking out everyone's costumes. Loosely in the style of Edward (either the King or the writer), they were most notable for the ingenuity and imagination each wearer put into them. This Flickr gallery has some great shots.
We also enjoyed watching the short, fanciful, collage-in-motion films projected on stage before and between the other acts. They brought to mind the work of early film maker Georges Melies, a central character in Martin Scorsese's film Hugo.
The ball is popular with a wide range of ages, from 20-something to 60-plus, making for an enjoyable mix.
Tips for Enjoying The Edwardian Ball
If you've never been to the Ball before, it can be a little intimidating at first. These tips and resources may help:
- 99% of the attendees show up in costume, so you might feel a little awkward if you don't do anything at all, but never fear: You don't have to over-obsess, either. Look at the photos on the Edwardian Ball website and do a few searches for Edward Gorey drawings to get some inspiration. I put together costumes for us on a small budget using items from the closet, supplemented with eBay purchases: a tuxedo vest and bow tie, bowler hats, lacy gloves and costume jewelry.
- Curb your enthusiasm and arrive about an hour after the official opening time. The main entertainment doesn't start right away and the best-dressed attendees tend to show up fashionably late, so you'll have more to see - and you won't get tired out while the party is still in full swing.
- Don't fret if you don't see a schedule on the event's website. They keep booking entertainment as it becomes available and a detailed schedule for San Francisco was posted just 5 days ahead of time.
- If it's your first time, the Newbie's Guide to the Edwardian Ball will be a big help.
- If you want to take pictures (and you will), pocket cameras and phone cameras are allowed.
Edwardian Ball Basic Information
- The Edwardian Ball website
- twitter: @edwardianball
- Buy your tickets online at their website. Get them a few weeks ahead of time to save money and avoid sell-outs. To avoid feeling the need to Twitter "my feet were killing me by the end," consider going VIP, which gives access to seating areas.
LA or San Francisco? What's the Difference?
The Edwardian Ball got its start in San Francisco, where it has lots of long-time fans and it's been such a hit that the San Francisco event now stretches over two days, with a Faire on Friday night and the Ball on Saturday. In LA, it's one night, but in a lovely venue and with smaller crowds.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of reviewing the Edwardian Ball. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.