Tales of a bygone era are often rich with costumed balls, masquerades, and black-tie galas. Romanticized nostalgia abounds in books and on film (fiction and non-fiction), chronicling these endless nights of unbridled debauchery and cool scenes filled to the brim with a city’s most fashionable set. Despite how coming-of-age hard-partying can sometimes seem, it is hardly new. Some of history’s most lavish scenes happened in ancient Rome where feasts were so opulent, they’d put today’s fanciest Thanksgiving dinner to shame. And Louis XIV, whose sumptuous parties were legendary at court, has long been noted as a more-than-generous host.
There has almost never been a pause in the action — socialites can be counted on to go above and beyond with wild galas, and themed fêtes, celebrating any number of things, have all afforded amazing breaks from ordinary life.
But what is it that makes these parties so sensational? How did these iconic hosts throw such talked-about soirées, while others have wound up with disappointing duds? Whether it was a spectacular amount of money spent or an obligatory loyalty of guests (in the case of Louis XIV or Czar Nicholas), these balls have made history, as evidenced by Assouline’s latest tome Bals: Legendary Costume Balls of the Twentieth Century.
Recently released, the visually glorious coffee-table book discusses events from the Romanov dynasty to Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball. Inspired, we thought we’d look at 10 events that made an inerasable mark on the guests, and on those who wish they’d been guests. Don't you wish you had an invitation to the famous opening night party for the Ballet Russe’s Les Noces, and had a chance to party on a barge on the Seine in Paris with Diaghilev himself? And oh! What we would have done to be chosen among Caroline Astor’s well-scrutinized 400 "most fashionable" attendees! Take a look for yourself and experience the lasting mementos of an old-fashioned glamour that these images and stories have left us.