In case you were unaware or somehow missed the notice, yesterday a small gathering of performers assembled for the Academy Awards or colloquially known as the Oscars. While watching the parade of beautiful dressed people, it has me wondering if there was a Victorian equivalent.
The answer is there simply so many spectacle of extravaganzas and not one annual culmination as in modern United States of America. While a huge a percentage of the American public eagerly anticipates this yearly barrage of fashion and glamour, the Victorians had their pick of debutante and court balls, aristocratic galas, masquerades, opera and theater attendance; practically every night during the Season there was a formal gathering of the wealthiest people in exquisite gowns mingling amongst one another. Hosts of each assembly were at war with each other to out do the previous society engagement. Even one of the sol called “house parties” would put the Academy Awards presentation to shame.
The press also covered the events due to the insatiable interest of the “social-climbing middle class.” In fact, reporters were known to bribe staff and merchants to secure the cost of items involved and or the guest list. Then, much to the horror of the host and hostess, the details would be printed in full in the newspapers the following morning. Unsurprisingly, the lower classes were incensed. The person who leaked the information in the first place was ferreted out and promptly sacked or seriously disciplined.
occasionally a host or hostess would invite a journalist to attend the gathering. The journalist, in turn would be sure to name drop all the impressive guests, go on to describe their costumes in detail, culinary delights, and titillating gossip discovered. Sometimes journalists was paid extra not to report incidents that occurred at the galas. Usually, they declined and printed the story “truthfully.” This initiated notoriety and some times cost reputations. If a journalist was crafty he might accept the hush money and publish the expose. However, they gambled on incurring the wrath of the wealthy in all its implications.
Scandal, aside I am not sure which I prefer. An annual gala or copious amounts of events for a solid three to six months, each requiring a new gown? If only there was a middle choice to select! . . . . You? What are your thoughts?
The Viennese Ball by Wilhelm Gause