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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Dress-up for grownups

As blog readers will recall, the Library of Congress hosted its first-ever Literary Costume Ball earlier this month. Since then, I’ve been eagerly awaiting online accounts of the festivities, chiefly in hopes of spotting any Janeite cosplayers among the assembled multitudes.


By now, of course, photos of an event that one attendee affectionately dubbed “nerd prom” are legion on social media (try here, here, and here, just for starters), but alas, the Austen costumes appear to have been thin on the ground. Hard to know for sure, since some two thousand people attended, but my perusal of assorted posts on TikTok and YouTube has yet to turn up a definitively Regency outfit.


Here and there, I’ve spotted Harry Potter and Anne of Green Gables, Tigger and Dorothy Gale, Hamlet’s dead friend Yorick and Claire from Outlander, but no sign of a Mr. Darcy, in or out of a wet shirt. A tantalizing hint of an Empire waist here, the edge of a fetching bonnet there, is about the best I could do.


From all accounts, however, the September 14 event seems to have been a smashing success: according to the Library, more than fourteen thousand people entered the lottery for free tickets. The lucky winners sipped punnily named cocktails (a “Margarita Atwood,” anyone?), got a close-up look at some of the Library’s precious rare books, and danced with abandon as colored lights illuminated the storied rotunda.


The definition of a “literary” figure seems to have been loose—do “Star Trek” and “Back to the Future” count as literary sources?—but hey: Everyone had fun. With luck, the Library will host a similar event next year, and a few Elizabeth Bennets and Lady Catherines can join the party.

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