This year I attended Portland’s annual VampireMasquerade Ball for the first time. I have been following the ball on social media for years and dreaming on attending, and this year was my chance.
Usually the ball is held in March, when the air is cold and the sky gets dark by 8:00pm. But this year the ball was postponed until June. Usually a mild month in Portland, that day it was over 100 degrees and I was in full Victorian regalia. However, a late sunset afforded me a lot of time to get ready and take pictures before the ball.
At the ball you can see all kinds of goths. Some are in full monster make-up and costumes. Some are Victorian, Renaissance, Edwardian, or wearing other period-pieces. Some are futuristic with latex dresses. Some wear vampire fangs, some have giant headdresses, and some definitely spend six months creating their outfits for the night.
I procrastinated and did mine in one weekend. The most time consuming part of the whole endeavor was deciding what I actually wanted to create.
- TIME: I didn’t have time to do a super detailed dress with trims and lace and perfect fit.
- BUDGET: I didn’t have the budget to do something lavish that I was only going to wear once or twice. I needed to create something in pieces that could be worn on the street
- BODY: This excuse is lame, but I didn’t have the body I wanted for a more fitted/sexy dress. I had put on a little weight in the winter that I didn’t lose, and I didn’t want to create a fitted dress if my fit was going to change in a few months.
- COLOR: As much as I love black and wear it as much as possible to stand out in crowds, I was afraid that if I went all-black for the Vampire Ball I would get lost in the crowd. I wanted to stand out, so I decided on a white base.
- SHAPE: I settled on a Victorian design with puffy sleeves and a ruffled skirt with a simple bustle.
- COMFORT: I needed to be able to dance in this outfit and wear it for a minimum of 6 hours without needless suffering or having it fall apart, so it needed to be comfortable.
- COST: Due to budget, I decided to make the top and skirt separately, so that I could wear them as separate pieces with street clothes. We’ll see how I pull that off….
- ACCESSORIES: I didn’t have the budget to purchase new gloves, purses, hats, jewelry, etc., so I needed to create something that would compliment the things that I already owned.
I spent hours scouring the internet for Victorian dresses and reproductions and looking at pictures of other gothic balls to see how people would be dressed. For weeks I did all this research and still had no idea what I would make, until I came across these pictures:
I loved the polka dots and they are so unexpected for that era; I almost didn’t think polka dots existed in the Victorian period. I decided that this is the dress I must reproduce. White will make me stand out, and the polka dots will be surprising and fun. Thankfully this material was available at a local fabric store, and I spent about $60 on 8 yards of it.
I got to work on the bodice first, since I knew that would be the most complicated piece in the ensemble and it would take me a few tries to get the fit right. I cut up an old bed sheet to use as my muslin, and I made four muslins before deciding that the pattern was good enough to use for cutting the real fabric (it’s still not perfect). One thing that needed a lot of work for the sleeves. I underestimated how large the pattern of the sleeves would need to being order to produce the ruffle effect. Even after I cut the fabric, I had to alter the sleeves numerous times to get them right.
The skirt was easy except that it was just a lot of fabric and sewing. I used a drawstring to tie the waist, so I can adjust it if I lose weight in the future. I made an underskirt that can probably be worn on the street, and a long overskirt with a train that’s just for bustling.
My accessories were all things I had in my closet:
- a 1950s pill box hat from a vintage store, which I’ve owned for at least 10 years
- gloves from a department store (also worn in high school)
- a broach from my grandmother
- a jewel purse also owned in high school, worn belted at the waist (like they did back then)
- a veil I bought in Japan when I was 18
- a parasol I bought at a costume museum, also when I was 18
- My hair and make-up turned out really nice on the day-of, even though it was 100 degrees and I have no AC, and pretty much sweated it off as soon as I put it on
The ball starts at 9:00am and finishes around 2:00am. Before I attended I thought I might get bored and wondered how I would entertain myself for five hours. Fortunately I was totally wrong in that assumption. I had so much fun I felt like five hours was not enough. I spent the whole time catching up with people I met at parties and goth clubs, comparing and complimenting outfits, dancing, watching the areal shows, waiting in line for photos, getting drinks (I had 4 or 5 cocktails), and going through the buffet line twice. There were also a number of vendors on the first floor, so I did a bit of shopping as well. Five hours was not nearly enough time to see and do everything and chat with all the people I wanted to see.