The moment I heard about a Masquerade Ball at the Palace of Versailles I knew I had to attend. I’m mostly a homebody and not much of a party animal, but the idea of dressing up like Marie Antoinette at the actual chateau was enough to push me to purchase the 78€ tickets (88€ for people over 26 years). The spending didn’t stop there, oh no. We rented some of the least expensive Rococo costumes available at the nearest Costume Shop, Déguisez-Moi, which ran from 80-110€ apiece.
I’m not complaining about the money spent – in fact, I have no regrets whatsoever! Since this is probably once-in-a-lifetime (or twice, if I still live here next summer), I’m more than willing to cough up the funds to have the experience. Actually, we decided that if we ever do this again, we’ll splurge even more on the costumes. I had some major costume envy when I saw a coordinating couple drenched entirely in bright white, feathers and crystals – the woman’s petticoat extended at least 3 feet to each side! My costume was lovely but not a true robe à la française. I suppose you’ll have to fork over more money if you want something truly authentic.
Perhaps you’ve come to hear about the experience! I’ll get into that now.
The official Ball opened at 11:30pm and went until dawn, but guests were also able to attend the Musical Fountains Night Show beforehand in full costume, if they wished. Our plan was to walk about the gardens for a little while, see the fountains and then the fireworks at the end of the show, but we underestimated how much time it would take to get ready!
Putting on my corset alone, which I purchased (not rented) from What Katie Did, took about 15 minutes. The dress, with its extra laces in the back took another 15 minutes. Figuring out if I should wear leggings underneath or not took some more time – I opted for only underwear since using the toilet in a massive hoop skirt and tight corset would be hard enough already! Doing the makeup – in the Rococo style of white, porcelain skin, nearly bare eyes, round pink cheeks, stained lips and a fake beauty mark over the lip – took me a good 30 minutes or more. The finishing touches – the necklace, lace gloves, wig, decorative feather and mask – took way longer to adjust than expected.
I made the masks for myself and my friend using tulle, fabric paint and ribbon. I roughly followed this tutorial but came up with my own designs. It took a lot of tweaking and I even scrapped my first two masks, but i’m happy with the end result. They lasted all night without falling apart!
After the entire picture was complete, I felt strangely burdened and yet free at the same time. Burdened because of the sheer amount of unfamiliar objects and clothing my body was carrying, and free because I felt disguised, like I could be a new person and nobody would know my real identity. Erik felt super smug as a pastel-green, lace-cuffed Marquis.
I think we had the most fun just walking from our apartment to the ball – oh boy, the stares we got! Some people asked for photos of us, but as we neared the castle and the number of foreign tourists increased, people started taking pictures of us without even asking! It was such a strange feeling, to be photographed and blatantly noticed – but I didn’t mind, because I was disguised.
We arrived at the Ball a few minutes before the doors opened. It was held inside the Orangerie, not in the main palace itself. The Orangerie is in the upper part of the garden and stores the orange trees during winter to prevent them from dying in the cold. The ceilings were very high and the room quite long. When we first entered, it looked like we were entering another dimension with all the pink and blue lights filling the space.
I want to apologize for the horrible quality of some of these images – I didn’t want to worry about bringing my Nikon so these are all taken with phones! As it turns out, there was a vestaire at the party, so I could have brought my camera after all… oh well! Also, there was barely any security, so we could have totally brought our own alcohol inside. makes note for next time By the way – the alcohol was damn expensive.
I couldn’t help but gawk at the general splendor as I descended the stairs – I almost tripped at one point! Generally, everyone was wearing a quality, authentic costume, but there were a small handful of people who had surely bought their gowns at a normal clothing store rather than a costume shop.
Dispersed throughout the space were dancers and entertainers and every 30 minutes or less a performance took place. Acrobats, choreographed dances, an inflated white dragon that snaked through the room, men dressed as sexy gladiators, and even a singer belting out the French version of “Let it Go.”
The outdoor area was pretty easy to access – either through huge open doors at the front, or through a small trapdoor on the other end. There was a large bonfire and some seats, but plenty of people ended up sprawling in the grass. The weather was perfect and refreshing.
So, what about the downsides? One of my biggest complaints was the size of the restrooms. Temporary bathrooms were set up and they were fairly clean, but the individual stalls were abhorrently tiny. I normally have no problem with tiny bathrooms – it’s commonplace in Paris – but not when I’m wearing a cumbersome, rented costume! Pulling down the knickers is hard enough without an awkward petticoat and corset that prevent you from bending over properly, and I have no desire to accidentally pee on my rented dress that required a hefty check deposit!
My other qualm was the overabundance of people. Tickets were even being sold at the door. Once inside, it was basically shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers. I can go to a crowded, sweaty club any other night, so it seems like they should have left a little more room to breath.
And my last issue was the insane price of drinks. All they had was soda, Heineken, and Champagne. Champagne ran you about 12€ for a single, minuscule flute and a bottle cost well over 60. I was hoping for a full bar!
But guys, seriously – it was a PARTY. I’ve never been to anything of this caliber or scale before and it was amazing! The music was proper, fun dance music. Only the initial opening of the doors was set to classical baroque music. If I’m still living in Versailles next summer I’ll definitely go again, and maybe even splurge on the VIP tickets!