19th century, 19th century clothing, Costume, dancing, dress, fashion, Federal New England Fashion, Federal style, Salem event
With many thanks to the Quintessential Clothes Pen, I was not dancing with myself Saturday last at the Jane Austen Ball in Salem. I was there on a bit of a whim, knowing that the ball happened in February and looking for something to do on a winter weekend– and, as it happened, I actually had a dress to wear. Of course, it wasn’t finished until Friday night, although I had worn it in December for a photoshoot.
In the past year+, I’ve been trying to do more and regret less, which seems a bit contradictory: if you do more, might you regret more of what you do? The trick for me, especially in dealing with my baseline high-anxiety self, is to do more things that seem scary but are actually fun.* That’s how I found myself traveling up to Salem between snowstorms to stay in a tiny little room in a historic hotel. It’s a pretty quick ninety-minute trip on a good day, but I know myself well enough now that staying overnight is the safer, less-stressful option for an excursion like this.
Salem on a snowy Saturday was busy, streets crowded with people as I walked to the old Town Hall, feeling very much like a character in a novel. (Having just finished Remarkable Creatures, the scenes of Elizabeth Philpot walking in alone London came to mind as I did attract some attention in my pelisse and bonnet.)
The Town Hall was crowded; I arrived a little late, as dancing was beginning under patient and direct tutelage, so I had the pleasure of watching several dances before I joined in. While not everyone was wearing early-Federal/Regency clothing, the crowd still provided an excellent sense of the social mixing and festivity of a scene from the past.
Joining in was even better, to be in the swirl of people and skirts, to pay attention to my feet– my shoes were a little slicker than I would like– and to count the rhythm of the music. While I spent years in ballet class, it is true that those years were surpassed by years in mosh pits and on dance floors of questionable clubs. Country dances made me think of four-dimensional math, with the patterns made by the combinations of active and helper couples, the reversals of direction, and the changing positions of partners: it was like being a living fractal.
*With some exceptions including rollercoasters and sky diving.