San Franciscans are serious about partying. We’ve been to a lot of fancy dress events, and a lot of events that weren’t “fancy dress” per se, but which were treated as such, apparently just for kicks. But the Vau de Vire Society’s Edwardian Ball last weekend inspired the most spectacular — and thoroughly thought-out and executed — costumery we’ve ever seen donned by so many people in one place. The playboy mansion would blush at the amount of cleavage on display, blossoming over a whale graveyard’s worth of boned corsets, and framed in taffeta, lace, and feathers. Men wore top hats and fedoras and multiple-piece suits. The Edward Gorey theme inspired more macabre features such as white contact lenses and cadaver-glam makeup. A striking and slightly confusing element was the pervasion of steampunk — goggles everywhere, leather hip holsters, and jewelry made of old watch parts.
People dressed to party like it was 1909, and many also had the dances down. This was most apparent in the earlier portion of the night, when the ballroom floor wasn’t filled to capacity, and many couples took advantage of the free space to perform elaborate and antiquated ballroom moves while the rest of us gawked enviously and wondered whether Arthur Murray’s still existed. One couple danced an energetic skipping jig around the floor in circles; later that night they huffed through an escalatingly tempo’d Lindy to the honky-tonk trio in the basement. Many couples waltzed, most in a traditional box step, but one intrepid male couple swung a fearsome Viennese — fearsome in that both parties executed complete 180 degree turns with every measure without spiraling into the wallflowers or crashing and rolling into inadvertent flagrante delicto on the dance floor. (continue reading)