If I had to choose my one favourite evening out of the whole year, it would almost certainly be the Christmas Masquerade Ball at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. If I was only allowed to attend one event each year, and I had to sell everything I owned to get there, I’d probably still buy a ticket. It truly is something very special. I’ve been twice in the past 3 years (we couldn’t make last years’) and so was extremely excited to get to go again this Christmas.
Obviously the most important part of attending a Masquerade ball is deciding what to wear. The invitation technically just said black tie/evening wear but as usual as I had take it that little bit further. For me, a masquerade is about fantasy and being someone else for the night. Mr Mess had the idea of going as the Holly King (kind of a Pagan Father Christmas). Seeing as this year’s Chatsworth Christmas theme is The Nutcracker, I decided to dress as a Victorian Holly Queen.
As always for these kind of events, I turned to Kim and Laura at Studio K Salon for my hair and makeup. Kim is used to my bizarre hair requests and is brilliant at coming up with beautiful hairstyles to suit my theme. This year we based my hair on a picture of Jenna Coleman in the ITV show, Victoria, with a small addition of a sprig of holly to had a festive feel.
Laura did my make-up using products from the Younique range which they sell in the salon. Although this make-up is slightly high end on the price side, I do really like it. The foundation and other face products give a really good coverage without feeling heavy on your skin. My absolute favourite product is the lip stain which lasts and lasts. I didn’t have to reapply my lipstick once during the whole evening, even after eating a 4-course meal!
I hired my dress for the evening from a website called Complete Costumes.co.uk. I have used this company for all previous masquerades and I can’t recommend them enough. Their costumes are high quality, there is a huge variety to choose from and they’re really affordable. You do pay quite a large deposit but you get it all back once you return the costumes.
The dress I chose this year was actually a two-piece skirt and top in a claret colour. I hadn’t realised that it was a button-up top when I ordered it so it was a bit of a squeeze. Luckily with the help of some severe corsetry I managed to get it fastened!
To finish my outfit I also bought a wine-red velvet cloak and a gold filigree mask from eBay. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to wear a cloak like this so I absolutely loved it, even if it was a complete pain in the arse and Mr Mess kept treading on it!
The mask on the other hand was incredibly beautiful but ridiculously uncomfortable. There were bumps that dug into my forehead and I couldn’t wait to get it off once we were seated at the table. Still, it looked amazing and everyone know beauty is pain! Ha!
Once we arrived at Chatsworth House, we were directed to the Painted Hall for champagne and canapés. All of the other guests were dressed in their formal wear – black tie for the men, evening dresses for the ladies. Mr Mess and I stood out like a sore thumb and received more than one funny look. One lady even asked for a photo, which I’m sure she’ll mock with her friends later. It doesn’t matter – I loved my costume and I wouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to walk around Chatsworth dressed as a princess, no matter what other people thought of me!
While we were sipping champagne, we were treated to the musical stylings of the fabulous Vernon Sisters. The ladies looked absolutely fabulous in their black velvet dresses and their voices were equally stunning. If they’re ever looking for an understudy, I’d be happy to offer my services! I really enjoyed their mix of swing music. It created a lovely atmosphere.
Soon it was time to take a tour of the house and make our way to the dining room for our meal. (Not the grand dining room itself, although that would be AWESOME! The meal is served in one of the Chatsworth restaurants). Mr Mess and I were amongst the first guests to leave the hall and begin the tour, so we had the opportunity to walk through the rooms completely unaccompanied. It was magical and I could happily pretend I lived there!
The restaurant was beautifully decorated with Christmas trees and garlands. We were sat with a few other couple who were very friendly and were eager to talk to us about our costumes. Mr Mess and I had a lot of fun while the others tried to guess our real names and occupations. They couldn’t believe we led such ordinary lives!
I’ve come to expect great things from the menus at Chatsworth events and I certainly wasn’t disappointed on this occasion. There was a salmon and caviar starter, a refreshing sorbet (to cleanse the palette, darling), a mouth-watering chicken main and this dessert which I’m not entirely sure what it was, but that didn’t stop me eating it!. Everything was absolutely delicious and I ate as much as I possibly could, until the corset just refused to give any further!
After the meal it was time for coffees and petit four before the dancing started. We were once again entertained by The Vernon Sisters. They did two sets, one in 1950’s style swing dresses and one in black and white 60’s outfits. They did a great mix of modern and mo-town and everyone got up to have a dance. Mr Mess and I never miss a chance to strut our stuff on the dance floor so we up there the whole evening, showing off our best dance moves. Not easy in a bustle I can tell you.
All too soon it was time for the carriages (or the Kia, in our case) to take us home. Mr Mess and I both agreed that it had been a wonderful evening and one we would definitely remember for a long time. The only thing I’d missed was the professional photographer. In past years, I’ve bought some lovely shots of us in the house on Masquerade night and I would have like to do so again. They would have been better than the fuzzy shots from my iPhone 4S!
At least my memories are crystal clear and I hope we’ll be able to go again next year to make more. I’m already planning the next costumes.