What To Wear To a Mardi Gras Ball in Mobile, AL
Perfect Example of Costume De Rigueur
A Ball in Mobile: The Basics
It's an invitation, not a ticket. You are invited; you don't pay for an invitation. You will find some that will sell you one, although a member can be kicked out for this. It certainly happens, typically for around $60-$80 per couple, but it should be a gift. With this economy, I am certain rampant selling occurs. The invitation will specify "Costume de Rigueur". While my husband jokes that this really means "The Rigorous Costume", it is actually white tie with tails. This is not a tuxedo, which is black tie and has a different style jacket. This will be the pique vest with a pique bow tie. NO CUMMERBUND as shown on the ad to the right. The jacket is the longer black type with tails, also known as the penquin suit. If you are going to one of the old line groups, invest in a real bow tie- the type you tie yourself. Complete sets can be rented for $75 a night, but why not buy one? Occasionally, there are a few black tie events, but these will say black tie on the invitation, not costume de rigueur. White tie means you will need the white mother of pearl buttons, not black ones. Wear whatever you like for . cufflinks
What about military formal? Sadly, this is becoming increasingly not allowed, but some do allow it. Definitely check ahead with who invited you so they can find out.
Please remain dressed. No matter how hot you are, gentleman do not remove items of clothing. Not a tie, not a jacket. Yes, ladies, same for the shoes. Plan ahead and wear comfortable ones. This is a ball, not a country bumpkin dance. Mobile is older than New Orleans; we have expectations. In some cases, the member who invited you can get fined for your discretions.
Just Right & Great To Wear Again
How NOT To Look
Ladies will wear a floor-length ball gown; ankles absolutely must not show! In my opinion, Mobile is a very conservative town in their general taste. It is better not to stand out, but to blend in. A tasteful black gown is always in style and good taste. Avoid bright colors and prints, although you will certainly see this on the younger crowd, who don't know any better. A solid color that looks good on you will suffice.
What should you wear for a ladies' ball? Dress for the ladies, not for the men. By this, I mean wear something stylish that the other ladies will envy but not draw too much attention from the men. For one thing, the mystic society members will be the stars that night, wearing short, sequined shifts, not you. It's like going to a wedding with a bunch of brides! They want their day in the sun. So you want yours too? A goddess dress with one shoulder covered in fashionable rosettes would be perfect. Ditto for the Sue Wong dress with feathers in a muted shade.
I wear my most flattering dresses to the men's balls, but this does not mean flaunt everything you have. Just because you just got some new "assets" doesn't mean you really need to show them to all. Avoid thigh-high slits and mid-riff-showing dresses. Also, keep in mind that you will be sometimes dragging your dress through wet drinks spilled on the floor. Heavily beaded dresses are to be avoided; they are dated.
It is fine to wear gowns two times or more in the season. Most buy a brand new dress a year and rotate them with their old ones. In a money pinch, but you are new to town and have been invited to 4 balls in a weekend? Go to the Junior League of Mobile thrift shop on Sage Avenue, between Old Shell Road and Dauphin Street. Dresses are $30 and under. Hertha's Consignment in Springhill area, corner of Old Shell Road and McGregor is excellent, too. Buy designer dresses on EBay in the summer for a song. Have fun and let the good times roll!
Fur Coats Ladies around here wear them if they have them; in fact, you may feel a little out of place without one at certain events as the PETA fur movement hasn't made inroads here. Considering the craze for hunting around the South, this isn't likely to change anytime soon. If you object to fur, there are plenty of faux fur jackets that look great.
Securing An Invitation
Perhaps you would do anything to attend a ball. After all, you are staying in Mobile, attending the parades, why can't you attend a ball??? There is a way. You can even be in a parade! The Krewe de Bienville apparently offers seasonal membership to tourists, as long as they are outside of 100 miles of the city of Mobile. While I am already a member of another mystic society, I think this is a fine example of Southern hospitality.
You can also chat up locals who are staying in the same hotel as you are; they may just have some extra invitations due to a last minute cancellation by a friend. Have a great time at their ball but do follow basic etiquette while you are there. Mobile's mystic societies have strict rules you may unwittingly break. Let the good times roll, as we say here, but don't get crazy!