If you walked through the entrance of L.A.’s Globe Theater on Feb. 11, you didn’t simply step into the lobby. You entered another world—one steeped in imagination, creativity and whimsical ghoulishness. The Edwardian Ball was in full swing. The annual event celebrates and takes inspiration from the writings and illustrations of Edward Gorey. Women in elegant Victorian-era ball gowns floated by, men looked sharp in elaborate vintage suits and top hats and a macabre playfulness underscored it all.
The event began in San Francisco in 2000, and just celebrated its eighth year in Los Angeles. It is a titillating mix of music, art, performance and party. Walk past the bar and you’d run into a large steam-powered installation by Kinetic Steam Works, with mesmerizing spinning gears. Make your way towards the stage and you might see a woman spinning in a hoop high above the crowd; a morbid mime performing gravity-defying feats of strength; a vaudevillian band bringing down the house with their jazzy ’20s swing; or the night’s grand performance—a circus-like interpretation of Gorey’s The Deadly Blotter, equal parts grimness and whimsy.
But the performance lies as much with partygoers as it does on the stage. “That’s what makes it so novel and unique,” said event co-producer Mike Gaines, who is also the director of the night’s main performance group, Vau de Vire Society. “It’s the effort that people put into it, they’re walking art.” And make-up plays a huge role. “I would say that it’s everything. Just look at every single face in there, it starts with make-up,” he said. It’s true, and those looks run the gamut. “It’s a lot of noir because Edward Gorey stuff had that macabre look about it. In Vau de Vire we do what we call heroin eyes—reds and blacks, shadows that set the eyes. Plus we have a lot of avant-garde looks with tar drips and things of that sort.”
Ball goer Fidji Simo took a more lighthearted approach. “I love circuses, so it’s very circus-inspired,” the Facebook product developer said of the black curlicue details painted around her eyes and cheek. “The make-up anchors the rest of the look, but I wanted something playful.” White liner and black glittery lips were festive accents. “Glam dead” was what make-up artist Anabel Zee said she spent three hours creating, and with her winged liner and dark lips she certainly achieved it, the perfect complement to her gothic, bustled dress. Her friend and fellow make-up artist Jon Santillan went for elevated creepiness, with covered eyebrows and an entirely white face (“blending is the key,” he said), white contacts and a bit of deep black on his inner lips. “It’s the darkness of it, and just dressing up,” he said of the Ball’s draw. “Being something different and not yourself.”
Some folks emphasized aesthetic accuracy with their costumes. “I wanted to be really true to the historical aspect of it,” illustrator Eve Mobley said. Her antiqued lacy dress had a flapper-esque look, and her pale face and heart-shaped lips were reminiscent of Clara Bow. “That mostly has to do with the shape of the eyes and the downturned eyebrows, basically the opposite of what’s popular now.” No matter the inspiration though, a common theme ran throughout the partygoers’ passion: authentic self-expression. “I think that it’s important to be who you are,” musician and nail salon owner Anna Akopyan said, batting her feather eyelashes and running her hands over her white cage-like skirt. “Showcase your creativity and don’t just buy a costume from a cheap costume store. You have to think outside the box.”
Flaunt your creativity at the next Edwardian Ball, March 25 in New Orleans. Get details at edwardianball.com/.