What Is a Masked Ball?

Written by jennifer hayden
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What Is a Masked Ball?
Masked balls are often charity events (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Masked balls are heavily featured in popular culture as settings for romance, espionage or debauchery. From the movie Romeo and Juliet to the TV show Chuck, a masked ball is the setting where attendees hide behind masks while simultaneously revealing their vulnerabilities. In the real world, a masked ball, also called a masquerade ball, is an opportunity to dress up in formal attire and have fun.


Masquerade balls were popular in Italy during the Renaissance period. Members of society's upper class donned elaborate costumes complete with masks. In the 1600s and 1700s masquerade balls spread throughout Europe and later gained popularity in Colonial America as well. Over time, masquerade balls lost much of their exclusivity and became public or semipublic affairs.


There are several types of costumes that can be spotted at a masquerade ball. Because the history of this ball spans centuries, you might see old-fashioned tuxedos, flapper-style outfits, fancy ball gowns or king and queen costumes. More recently, masked balls have been associated with Mardi Gras, which has introduced ruffled Latin American-styled dresses and jester costumes into the mix.

The Mask

The mask is an essential part of any masquerade ball costume, of course. Whereas attendees would historically try to fool other party goers into believing their anonymity behind their masks, the rules have slackened throughout the years. Masks run the gamut from elaborately beaded and feathered creations with attached headdresses to plastic or paper masks that cover only the eyes.

Present Day

Masquerade balls are still popular, though not as prominent as they once were. While historical masquerade balls were exclusive and formal, today's masked balls, and costume balls by extension, are simply a chance to have fun. Their focus is more on the party atmosphere than the rigid protocol of previous time periods.

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