What to Wear
Ragtime Ball in February covers the
first two decades of the 20th century, but focuses on the early
teens -- the period just before World War I (the era of the Titanic!)
We encourage formal period attire because it adds so much to
the period atmosphere. However, no one should miss the ball because
they don't have an extensive vintage wardrobe.
If you prefer not to come
in costume, ladies may wear a modern dress or skirt and blouse,
and men may wear a modern tuxedo, dark suit, or dress slacks
and sport coat. Whatever you wear, don't forget your smooth-soled
shoes for dancing. (See our suggestions for dance
Here are our suggestions
for what to wear, for both ladies
and gentlemen. In addition to comments
on period dress, we provide hints for how you can approximate
the look with modren clothes.
dress of the 1910s represented quite a change from the previous
century. The corset and resulting cinched waist were gone, as
were the full skirt and multiple petticoats. The preferred silhouette
was straight with a raised waistline.
Skirts were ankle length
or just above, fairly straight, and layered. The bottom layer
was usually a narrow underskirt, sometimes so narrow it was called
a "hobble skirt." For dancing, however, it would be
a bit fuller or would have a slit. The top layer took various
forms: a long tunic; a shorter, fuller tunic; or panniers or
draped fullness at the hips.
Fashions of this period were
strongly influenced by the exotic colors and fabrics of the Orient.
hair was still worn up, but more and more progressive ladies
were bobbing their hair! Hair ornaments continued the exotic
theme of the dress, and ranged from feathers to turbans.
To approximate the style
of this period, you might wear a tunic-length kimono or short-sleeved
top, belted high with a sash over a straight (but not too tight)
skirt. And by all means, wear a feather in your hair! Modern
character dance shoes with a small heel are appropriate for this
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wear for men in the early 1900s changed little from the Victorian
period: formal tailcoat and pants with white tie, vest, and gloves.
Less formal evening wear consisted of black or midnight blue
dinner jacket with black pants, white shirt, and black bow tie.
Some costume shops will rent
appropriate costumes for the evening at a rate somewhat lower
than formal clothing rental shops. Most gentlemen eventually
assemble their own costumes but do so piecemeal, by watching
for formal rental shop warehouse sales and checking the resale
shops. The most expensive and difficult to find item is the tailcoat
or tuxedo jacket, but once acquired, this gives so much the period
look that it is worth the investment.
In addition, for this period
you may dress somewhat less formally in a "sack" suit
(the basic American-cut suit that is still worn today).
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What to Wear to Other Period Events
Follow these links for our suggestions for dressing for other
Mid to late 1800s (Victorian)
1920s and 1930s