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Dress: Fancy: The Podcast About Dressing Up

Sep 20, 2018

In the second episode of a new series that explores the prevalence, potency and politics of fancy dress costume, Lucy Clayton and cultural historian Dr Benjamin Wild discuss the Devonshire House Ball. Held on 2 July 1897 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, during an époque when dressing up was more than just an entertaining occasion, the night-long festivity was extravagant and spectacular. From goddesses to mythic monarchs, the social elite caroused in creative and costly costumes, several of which survive today. 

Were guests’ clothing choices based on a need for power and authority to demonstrate riches, or a desire to gain social acceptance? How impractical were these works of art, and how much would they cost to make today? Was the lavish display distasteful and vulgar, or exotic and luxurious? You can decide if the Devonshire Ball has earned its place as one of history’s fanciest balls and consider whether anything in the twenty first century comes close to rivalling it.


Feast your eyes and get involved on our Instagram page @dressfancypodcast



Lucy Clayton

Twitter: @MsLucyClayton

Instagram: @mslucyclayton


Dr Benjamin Wild FRHistS

Twitter: @DrBenjaminWild

Instagram: @benjamin__wild


Find out more:

Items discussed in this episode can be found out at and

National Museum of Art, Architecture and design, Oslo -

Further images and discussion of the Ball can be found in Sophia Murphy, The Duchess of Devonshire's Ball (London, 1984).