A & E

Step into another time and have yourself a ball

Elegance and whimsy. photo: Neil Girling /

San Francisco is renowned for its interesting events, so it’s no surprise that another occasion for unique enjoyment is soon upon us: The 15th Annual Edwardian Ball and Edwardian World’s Faire (Friday–Saturday, Jan. 16–17). And make no mistake, that’s “faire” with an “e,” in case it’s already not alluring and other–timely enough.

Here’s your chance to enter an unusual experiential world, play the role of your choice as a commoner or a royal, a bum, or a baronet, from the British era of 1901 to 1910, and dress up in some awfully wonderful costuming. That is if you can find someone to sew you a “look” or you happen upon a store that sells steam-punk fashions and Edwardian corsets and waistcoats. No doubt you can attend both these celebratory events uncostumed, but certainly you have more fun if you dress the part.

Described as “an elegant, whimsical spectacle of a madhouse slapdashery of costumery and cocktails, circus and storytelling, ribald music and daring exhibitions that promise to entice and enchant — a feast for the senses with the style and panache of the turn of the 19th century,” and that’s saying a mouthful. So expect both evenings to be full of tremendously unusual and stimulating fun.

This year’s ball will feature a presentation of The Beastly Baby, a macabre story from the pen of the American writer and artist Edward Gorey, whose life and work is honored at every year’s ball. The Beastly Baby is a short Gorey tale (pun intended) about a particularly unpleasant infant called “it” who is so wicked that it cuts the head off a cat. If the slightly morbid and askew view of Gorey’s imagination and world appeal to your sense of humor, as it does to mine, then this event is definitely for you.

Folks of all ages are welcome, so you can dress your own beastly (or angelic) infant in cunning Edwardian baby clothing and bring him or her along for the festivities. Go enjoy life like the Edwardians did, and waltz your way into the new year. Just remember, wearing a corset makes it hard to breathe, so pace yourself!

15th Annual Edwardian Ball and Edwardian World’s Faire: The Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Avenue; Friday–Saturday, Jan. 16–17, 8 p.m.; $38.40–$95 (faire), $55–$100 (ball); 415-673-5716,

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