Thus, I was tickled pink to find the book "Fancy Dresses Described" lurking in our archives. Published in the 1890s, when Alice was as prime party age, this little tome is filled with deatiled suggestions for costumed balls.
Published in the 1890s, this book offers suggestions for a host of costumes from a
cactus to Marie Antoinette, "March," and a Spider.
Costumed balls were popular in the late Victorian era, when Alice was growing up. However, unlike today, they were rarely associated with Halloween. Instead, they were more commonly related to New Years Eve or other un-related parties taking place during the social season (usually winter when the wealthy returned to the cities). The glamorous costumes portrayed within offer a different picture of the Alice, who later in life referred disparigingly to her "daily suit of homespun," paging through the book for a little inspiration.
While it is hardly a world-changing find, this little book has plenty of value. Building an understanding of the people who lived at Clermont happens in many ways over an extended period of time. Whether it is a recently-discovered memoir, photograph, or just a simple chachke in her collection, the things that Alice left us must be pieced together gradually to build a complete picture of the complex woman who left Clermont to the people of New York.