Masquerade Masks have a history dating back as early as the 13th Century. Masquerade Balls were highly favored as a form of entertainment by the nobility of Venice. The splendor of these outlandish events has been capturing our imagination ever since. Today we think of a Masquerade Ball as a romantic and seductive occasion; with costumes of rich fabrics, lace-up bodices, silks, and laces for the ladies and black coats and leather for the men and of course, glittering masks. The culture and sheer indulgence still draw us to the grandeur of that bygone era with its elaborate hairstyles, ornate costumes, and outrageous behavior; the dancing and music and the ever-alluring Masks.
It is said that the tradition of wearing masks originated in Venice, Italy, to hide the identities of those attending parties and celebrations which took place from December until Lent. This allowed the nobility and the peasants the rare opportunity to ‘play’ together while being safely disguised by their masks. It also allowed forbidden romances and a host of other activities of an unsavory nature including assassination and gambling. However, it hasn’t always been as glamorous as it typically portrayed now. Masquerade has quite a harsh history in many ways. The wearing of masks wasn’t always for the purposes of seduction and enjoyment.
The origins of some of the best-known styles of masks are surprisingly dark in some cases. Take the ‘Moretta’ mask for instance. Typically a fine filigree mask, it became a favorite with the Venetian women. It highlighted their facial features with its delicate designs. But in fact, these masks were first worn when women visited convents and speaking was strictly forbidden. The masks were secured by means of clenching a button between the teeth to ensure the vow of silence was maintained whilst in the convents. Thankfully now though, these usually tie on with a simple satin ribbon; a much more comfortable alternative.
Another well-known mask type is the Plague Doctor. It is known for having a long break and is usually worn with an ornate hat or feathered headdress. This mask dates back to the 17th century when a French physician, Charles de Lorme. Later, other physicians wore them to protect themselves from airborne diseases when treating plague victims. Nowadays, we can simply indulge ourselves in the fantasy of that fascinating period in history. We can also enjoy all the splendor and ornately decorated masks in their many forms.
The range of masks available now include heavily jeweled and embroidered finishes, fine swirling painted masks and bold black and white full face masks, synonymous with the ever-popular Phantom of the Opera. There are also the harlequin designs and minimalist black leather eye masks, matching masks for men and women and a host of others depending on your personal preferences. Something that is interesting to note is that while 8 centuries have passed by, masks are still hand painted and decorated! So if you’re having a party soon, why not theme it and go Masquerade – indulge and delight in this time-honored tradition? Your friends will love it!