Clear your calendars for Saturday because this is the night two soirees will define the social scene in downtown Madison. However, they both require a special attention to clothing choices. That's right, comrades, we've actually got to dress up for something.
Black ties and sumptuous gowns are the dress code at the time-honored winter gala known as the Frostiball, which is marking its 23rd year of bringing a little glamour to Madison. Organized by Downtown Madison, Inc. (DMI), the party will held once again this year at the Overture Center for the Arts. Guests in formal attire will be treated to hors d'oeuvres, complimentary champagne, wine, beer and desserts while dancing to The Dick Judson Orchestra and listening to the Hanah Jon Taylor Quintet.
Proceeds from tickets to the party, which run at an ample $100 per person, go to help DMI's mission of boosting the health and vitality of downtown and its business community. Starting at 9 p.m. on Saturday, January 31, the festivities will run until 1 a.m. Sunday morning, and organizers predict around a thousand attendees. The Frostiball is a well-known upmarket affair that will undoubtedly once again boast a veritable "who's who" of Madison society.
Less than a mile to the east, meanwhile, The Fire Ball will be taking over the High Noon Saloon at the same time. This masquerade dance party offers another option for revelers to dress up in whatever they consider their "best" apparel, though in this case the fashion options lean towards what organizers describe as "full fetish gear, Victorian finery, Star Fleet dress blues, steam punk duds, or your old prom outfit." The evening's entertainment includes belly dancing by Ashar Dance, burlesque performances by Foxy Veronica's Peach Pies and the Madtown Hellcats, along with a performance by "rope artist" Graydancer. DJ Nick Nice is going to host the ensuing dance party.
This party is likewise a fundraiser, with proceeds from its $7 cover charge going to . Doors open at 9 p.m. on Saturday, after which the party will rollick until closing time. Attendees aren't technically required to dress up, but it's worth noting that the party if for the benefit of two theater companies, so costumes are a logical step. It's a simple matter to at least slap together a half-assed mask.
To get the most out of either soiree, though, some forethought and planning is essential. Thankfully, two local fashion-forward advisors are sharing their thoughts on preparations for the parties.
Sherri Watson-Orr is the sociable general manager of detailed by Doug Moe on Tuesday, and as they say, the rest is history. For persons still rushing to prepare for the Frostiball, DMI offers suggestions for local retailers of formal attire and accessories.
Jenni Schwaner Ladd is a costume designer, theatrical wardrobe technician, and fashion historian is going all-out for her custom-designed costume for The Fire Ball. This outfit is "a sort of 1880s bustle-era ensemble with modern touches," she explains, the fanciest in her wardrobe. It's priceless, she notes, assembled over the years from individual pieces collected in the costume biz. Friends and associates in Chicago hand-designed many of her items, including a steel-boned corset she exchanged with a friend for her alteration services.
The masquerade is an "'anything goes' fun fest" with respect to costumes explains Schwaner Ladd. However, the rising phenomenon of steampunk, the fantastical retro-historical style drawing inspiration from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, is the consensus among the pros. Party organizers Emily Mills and Jesse Russell originally intended the event to be exclusively oriented towards steampunk, but subsequently opted not to direct fashion creativity in only one direction.
The Fire Ball is not intended to compete with or mock the Frostiball, yet there is a level of self-awareness in its nomenclature that cannot be denied. The upstart party's over-the-top nature drives the notion that it is in part a theatrical version of the more traditional gala, a stylized caricature in some ways, yet one with the same aim of building and benefiting the Madison community.
Attendance at the Frostiball and The Fire Ball will most likely be quite solidly separate between the Overture Center and the High Noon Saloon. Together, though, both parties provide a proper-spirit lifting mid-winter celebration for anyone in the mood for dressing up and dancing.