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Attire for Ragtime Events

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19th Century Ball
Ragtime Ball

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Cathy Stephens
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Ladies' 1911 costumeLadies' 1912 costumeOur 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 shoes.)
      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.

Ladies' costume 1911-1914Ladies' costume 1913Ladies' 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.
Ladies' costume 1914      Long 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 period.

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Men's costume 1910Men's costume 1905Formal 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 period events:
Early 1800s
Mid to late 1800s (Victorian)
1920s and 1930s

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