Fancy Dress in Dublin

Detail of Nine Arts Ball poster with coloured illustration of a group in fancy dress

The Matthew Russell Collection in the Centre for the Study of Irish Art contains beautiful posters advertising the Nine Arts Fancy Dress Ball. These events took place in the ballroom of a notable Dublin landmark, the Hotel Metropole (aka “The Met”). The three posters date between 1925 to 1927.

The Nine Arts Ball was named after the nine muses and was a popular annual fancy-dress party where costumed groups competed for prizes and danced the night away. Fancy dress balls such as the Nine Arts most likely originated in the masked-ball tradition of the earlier 18th century, which were usually themed to national dress, historical characters like Marie Antoinette and Aphrodite, or abstract concepts like "springtime" or "virtue".

In the early 1900s, costume balls were much-loved pastimes of Irish artists and were a centrepiece of Dublin’s social season. Costumes were often dazzling, as partygoers experienced the creative freedom and exuberant fun to be had at a fancy-dress ball, many of which continued into the early hours of the morning. The Hotel Metropole closed its doors in 1972 but its legacy lives on through archival material such as these wonderful posters.