Monday, July 16, 2012

Big Balls

Greetings my friends!
The Chevalier Robyn in full costume.  This costume was created specifically for the
ball by my friend and tailor Aurelie LeBlanc
(dartoisleblanc@voila.fr if you wish to hire her for your own costume).  

Welcome back to a rare edition of my Paris blog.  Fate and circumstance have kept me, your humble blogger and observer of Paris, away from the keyboard for far too long.  I have a great post in store for you however and as you can guess from the main picture, I've been back to the Chateau de Versailles for another of their famous masked balls.  (http://www.chateauversailles.fr/homepage)

As I reported last year, I had thought that this particular ball was a one-time-only event, but it seems that they have done it a second time.  Will it be annual?  I hope so and I will start preparing now!  I learned of this ball a couple of months in advance and there was a lot of planning to do for me, since I wanted every aspect of the ball to be as special and memorable as possible.

My observations and preparations went something like this:

1.  My Costume.  With two months to prepare, I first thought to make myself look as aristocratic as possible for the ball.  Versailles is a very special location and I would not want to be under-dressed for an event there.  There are three basic choices for this kind of an event; 1) to rent an expensive and very good looking costume, 2) to buy a cheap and awful looking costume or 3) to have an awesome looking costume made for you.  This year I chose 3...  the best decision of my life.
Aurelie LeBlanc measures my majestic arms for the sleeves
for this currently sleeveless jacket.  In later phases, the
jacket receives sleeves, embroidery, buttons and a lot of
other  necessary details.
2,  Princesses.  Conventional ball wisdom dictates that one must have an intelligent and attractive date for a ball.  Ideally, she will possess the air of an aristocrat, the humility of a saint, the beauty of a goddess and the charm of an enchantress.  The fates have smiled upon me more times than I can describe and I invited not one, but seven such princesses to escort me to the ball.

The first of my princesses, a Parisian resident by way of
North Africa tries on a few dresses at Académie du Bal
Costumé at 22 Avenue Ledru Rollins.  I have been to
this shop many times for many costumes since moving
to Paris.
 3.  Princess Management.  There are no books about princess management, so I may be the world's only authority.  Every princess must have certain things in place to go to a masked ball; a ticket of course, an 18th century dress, shoes that can be worn for 8-10 consecutive hours, the proper lingerie (to feel the part), hosiery, a wig or hairstyle reminiscent of the 18th century, and of course a mask.  If all princesses were completely independent, this would be very easy to manage, but princesses are prone to being in distress for one or more of their requirements.

My second princess to dress is also a Parisin resident, but
of Caribbean origin.  This was one of many dresses she
tried on for the ball.

This beautiful blonde-haired princess came all the way
from Hawaii to take in the ball.  Having arrived in
Paris a little late we found my favourite costume shop
picked clean.  Thankfully, La Vestiere (at 107 Avenue
Daumesnil)  http://www.lesitelevestiaire.com/ was
well stocked and saved the day for us.
4.  Going Overboard.  Perhaps there are times when I want too much of a good thing.  Women's dresses can be custom made as well and over many glasses of champagne, I designed a dress for my Russian princess.  I was determined to see this dress on her and located an American dressmaker (quite by accident) who took the commission.  The elaborate dress arrived only 2 days before the ball, causing your humble blogger and Parisian correspondent a near heart-attack.  I do not like to let my princesses down.

The 4th princess to be dressed, a Parisian of Russian origin,
poses in her beautiful and complex multi-part garment consisting
of a large skirt, over-skirt, bodice, jacket, train and matching hat. I
found the  magical seamstress at etsy.com on her online shop here:
http://www.etsy.com/shop/RomanticThreads?ref=shop_sugg 

5. Dressing.  Dressing seven princesses for a ball is both exciting and challenging. I decided to hold a "dressing party" about 3 hours before the ball and provided a delicious rose champagne and hors d'ouvres for the princesses to get them in the mood for a long night of partying.

I have many photos, perhaps some not suitable for public
viewing, but this captures some of the wonder and
excitement of it all. By this time, we are all dressed and
preparing to evacuate my apartment for the limousine
 ride to Versailles!
6.  Transportation.  To keep in the spirit of the 18th century, naturally one would think that a horse drawn carriage might be the perfect solution for transportation.  Alas, it was quite impossible for our circumstances. First, the average carriage has room for a Chevalier (me) and only three princesses.  With a compliment of seven princesses, I would have needed two carriages.  Second, Versailles was designed to be out-of-the-way and a carriage ride from Paris to Versailles is well over three hours.  This is far too long for too many reasons to explain.  We chose rather, to travel by motor-coach, or rather, by limousine.

My dates.  Your humble narrator takes a photo of his seven dates for the ball, each from a different country and
background and each as beautiful as the next.  I am truly the luckiest Chevalier in the world.

The most common anachronism of the evening?  The cell-phone camera of course.  Mine was at the ready all night.

7.  The Chateau.  Versailles is perhaps the most magnificent castle ever built for a reigning monarch.  Daily tours are offered to the public that take you through the famous Hall of Mirrors and the various rooms named after Roman deities.  The masked ball was held in the Orangerie, a gigantic hall surrounding an orange tree garden (in which the orange trees are planted in boxes).

For us, the party began at the large pool directly in front of the castle.  After posing for a few shots there, we walked down to the gardens for a light show, followed by fireworks and music with the Grand Canal as a backdrop.  Everything was spectacular.

My two most contrasting princesses pose near the main
pool in front of the Chateau de Versailles.


I steal a glance from my Princess in White as the skies
light up with fireworks.
8. The Costumes.  I've been to many costume parties and the costumes generally range in quality a great deal.  This was not the case at Versailles.  It seemed that every last participant went to some great length to acquire a costume of the appropriate period.  The general "look" was French of the late 17th to late 18th century.  There were few exceptions and the few that existed were elaborate costumes themselves.

My Princess in White climbs the stairs to observe the hundreds of costumes
on display in front of the Chateau.

A party-goer gets a mask adjustment from one of her many attendants.

9. The Setting.  Looking toward the Chateau, the Orangerie is to the right and down.  The paths were circled by tubs full of candles.  The exterior walls were bathed in coloured lights.  Party goers were herded down a long flight of stairs to the garden entrance into a foyer, where they were set loose on the party within.

A top view of the Orangerie.

Party-goers navigate the long flight of stairs while stopping to take
pictures of others.
10. The Party.  Upon entering the Orangerie with its impossibly high ceilings and seemingly unlimited space, we noted that the walls were painted with light from projectors which shone on go-go dancers in pseudo-18th century dress.  The music was mostly techno (perhaps a bit too techno for some) with hints of music from a number of other genres mixed in.

A male go-go dancer rocks out on a pedestal.

This dancer pictured here is nearly nude, having recently
 performed a burlesque act on the main stage.  Her act was
none the less exotic, while bathed in the reddish
projections from behind her.
11.  The VIP Treatment.  Of course, with a collection of princesses for which I was responsible, we kept mainly to the VIP section of the party.  There are parties where a VIP section really doesn't mean much, but here, the Very Important Princesses were treated to a food bar managed by three chefs.  Deserts, crepes, and chocolate fondue was on the menu for the entire evening... a nice offset to the champagne.

A chef displays his fondue creation, which was quickly devoured by
hungry princesses.

Princesses taking a break from dancing.

A princess and her admirer conspire in the red light of the VIP section.

My Pink Princess parties in the garden and poses in front of the outdoor
candle holders.  Everything looks exotic in candlelight. 

A go-go dancer in repose.  Tired from a long night.

Loading the last of the princesses into the limousine for the ride home.
This photo was expertly snapped by our chauffeur

12.  The Ride Home.  The party ended for us around 5am.  The limousine driver pulled up to rescue us all from what would certainly have been a stranding without him.  There are few taxis in Versailles at this hour... or perhaps none at all.  I dutifully loaded up all the princesses and took them back to my Palias in the city.  Everyone declared the party the 'best party ever' and there was no evidence to disagree.

I can't wait 'til next year!

Thanks for reading.
Your friend and humble Chevalier,
Robyn

2 comments:

  1. What a magical evening of dreams come true!! Bravo!! JS

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