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Fancy Dress Masquerade Masks and Dresses for Halloween

Updated on December 3, 2012

Masquerade masks were originally worn by Catholic Italians as part of the Lent celebrations, but nowadays are commonly used as part of the fancy dress tradition to celebrate Halloween in many other parts of the world.

The earliest historical documentation of the wearing of masquerade masks occurred in Italy in the 12th century A.D., during the annual Carnival immediately preceding Lent (the time of fasting). The word carnival is derived from carne-vale which when literally translated means "farewell to meat".

The people of Venice took to wearing masks not only during the time of the Carnival (or Carnevale as it is still known today) but year round. It afforded them anonymity in the streets but also led a to a steep rise in crime and unacceptable public behaviour, resulting in legislation in the 14th century banning the wearing of masquerades outside of Carnival time.

By this time the popularity of the masquerade mask had spread throughout Europe, and it was common for many noblemen to hold masquerade balls, which they happily embraced because it gave many of the so-called 'gentlemen' an opportunity to flirt outrageously with other people's wives in relative anonymity.

Masquerade Masks and Masquerade Balls

Many playwrights and authors have documented cases of serious crime taking place while the perpetrator was wearing a masquerade mask.

One such horrific event was the murder of Gustav III of Sweden by a bemasked Jacob Johan Anckarström, which was later turned into an opera- Gustav III by Eugène Scribe and Daniel Auber. Guiseppe Verde's opera A Masked Ball was also based on the same event.

The wearing of masquerade masks spread to Colonial America in the 18th century and dissenters such as writer Samuel Richardson petitioned to have them outlawed as being immoral and "encouraging foreign influence" but what little legislative changes that were made were never enforced.

Andrew Lloyd Webbers Phantom of the Opera features a masquerade ball, as does Edgar Allan Poe's short story, The Masque of the Red Death.

Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf, is based on a masquerade ball held in Zurich.

As recently as the late 1990s, masquerade balls have seen resurgence in N.America and this trend continues to this day.

So now, you want to either go to a masquerade ball or to wear fancy dress at a Halloween party. Amazon has great selection of masquerade masks that you can order online and have delivered directly to your home.

There is a superb selection of masquerade masks through in Amazon that is not shown here, so if you want to see more, for men, women or children, just click on any product link and have a look around to find a mask that is perfect for you.

Ladies Masquerade Ball Gowns

If you are looking for a dress to go with your masquerade mask, take a pick of one of the ones on offer at Amazon.

The prices look great but they are no doubt light-weight costumes and not the heavy material a real ball-gown would have been made of.

Having said that, when would you ever wear a ball-gown anyway?

You are as well buying one for fancy dress instead of a real one which would no doubt cost at least ten times as much as what you will pay here.

Beautiful dress includes masquerade mask
Beautiful dress includes masquerade mask

Venetian Masks and the Venetian Carnival

Masquerade masks are often referred to as Venetian masks.

This of course references their city of origin.

Such was the popularity of masquerade masks that the mask makers were awarded their own Master Craftsmen's Guild; they had their own laws and an elevated position within Venetian society.

Even today, the Venetian Carnival is the biggest and most renowned of all Italian Carnivals, and draws visitors from the world over.

It is held annually in the 2nd week of February, and of course the wearing of the Venetian masquerade mask is obligatory.

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    • IzzyM profile image
      Author

      IzzyM 6 years ago from UK

      I think they are a bit scary - must have seen a horror movie or something when I was younger. If I could get over feeling scared, I'm sure they would be great fun.

    • Fluffy77 profile image

      Fluffy77 6 years ago from Enterprise, OR

      I have always found these costume balls to be very beautiful and thrilling in a fun way. I'v never been to one yet, just watched movies and read about them. I know some people who say they are just like any other dance, but they do say how much fun they are too. You did some good research here too.

    • IzzyM profile image
      Author

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      This is the thing with masquerade masks - they are not limited to Halloween; masquerade balls can be held throughout the year, as indeed they were in olden times. I imagine most Halloween hubs have a short window of opportunity.

    • humagaia profile image

      Charles Fox 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      I like your thought processes: 'Fancy Dress' and 'Halloween'. keeps the hub viable after hallowe'en. I wondered whether the Halloween hubs went to sleep and then got dusted down for the next one. At least your wardrobe will be utilised throughout the year. Very thrifty of you.

    • IzzyM profile image
      Author

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      I bet you do! All those Prince Charmings from hundreds of years ago can't be wrong!

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 7 years ago from At the Gemba

      I have always thought that I look quite smooth, mysterious and romantic in one of these masks.. lol

    • IzzyM profile image
      Author

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Its good to know that variety is there. Thanks for commenting :)

    • Wendy Krick profile image

      Wendy Krick 7 years ago from Maryland

      Awesome Variety.

    • IzzyM profile image
      Author

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Yes a lot of the masquerade balls were held by the nobility and indeed by kings and queens. It gave them a chance to mingle without instant recognition.

    • Dobson profile image

      Dobson 7 years ago from Virginia

      Izzy - I enjoy movies where this era in time is prtrayed. There was such a regal feel to that ezercise.

    • IzzyM profile image
      Author

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Yes they did and modern day ball gowns can't hold a candle to the olden type. They should come back into fashion - I'm sure lots of us would wear them :)

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 7 years ago from Northern, California

      What a beautiful fashion era these costumes come from.Neat hub.

      K9

    • IzzyM profile image
      Author

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Cheers Crazd! I'm so glad you liked it :)

    • profile image

      Crazdwriter 7 years ago

      Izzy you rock for doing this hub after I asked :-D Just look at all of that great information and those masks? GORGEOUS!!!! And the dresses...wow! You did an amazing job, Izzy. If i could I would keep hitting the up button :-D