Get Your 1870s On: A Costume Party to Remember

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


I've always loved themed events, & I'm a big fan of dressing in costume. Halloween is my favorite holiday, & back in my sorority days, I lived for parties with costumed dress codes. These days, I don't find as many excuses for dressing up as someone else - which is why I was extra excited to be invited to attend the Western Reserve Historical Society's annual fundraiser, this year themed "Somewhere in Time: Satin & Soot," focused on the 1870s in Cleveland.

What do I know about the 1870s in Cleveland? Admittedly nothing - or at least, that was until I attended this event, which took place at the Cleveland History Center (which I wrote about a couple weeks ago).

With Mike out of town, I brought my friend Joey as my plus-one because he's good company and a fellow history buff. Unfortunately, neither of us fully thought through the costume aspect of the event (though, in fairness to him, I invited him three days beforehand!) As you can see, I wore a black dress with lace details & bell sleeves, paired with pearl earrings & a tiny, feathered hat I purchased on Amazon.


I'd never been to an event like this, so I was actually afraid I'd be too dressed up. As it turns out, I massively underestimated other people's dedication - in the best way possible. This is just a small & poorly photographed sampling of some truly incredible costumes. One guy was in full steampunk gear complete with a bulky metal face mask!


Right as we checked in, I ran into one of my favorite local bloggers, Jen of Why CLE? who I've only ever waved to across the room at crowded blogger events. What fun to say hello in person! Check out her blog if you're looking for reviews & suggestions of local events & brands - & for much better pictures of the particular party than I took.


Joey & I started out the evening with a scavenger hunt that led us throughout the museum to learn about various elements of Cleveland's past. We also played (& lost) trivia in the makeshift "pub" set up in a side room. A few things we learned about Cleveland history:
  1. Business magnate John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, made his millions right here in Cleveland. Did you know that he's buried at Lake View Cemetery on the East Side, also the final resting place of President James A. Garfield? 
  2. The Berlitz method, a way of teaching foreign languages, was developed in the CLE & is now used around the world - though the company is still based here!
  3. The Euclid Beach Opera House was, at the time of its opening in 1875, considered one of the finest theaters in the U.S. Alas, it was demolished in 1922. Its successor, the Hanna Theater, still stands & is in constant use today as one of Playhouse Square's venues.
  4. And a more lighthearted one: Clevelanders used to soot as shoe shine!
We never did hear the results of the (very difficult!) scavenger hunt, & a large group of boisterous older folks won the pub trivia, but we had fun trying - & listening to the accordion player while we did. 

The event also included betting on (carousel!) horses, polka lessons, a performance by the Cleveland Ballet, an ice cream scooper serving chocolate malt, roulette & faro tables, a silent auction...


Speaking of that silent auction, I texted my cousins & uncles & together, we decided I should put in a bid for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Crawford Auto & Aviation Museum. I come from a crazy-about-cars family, & while I'm the odd (wo)man out by not knowing a damn thing about them, I'd love to take a tour like this - if just to see the looks of wonder on my relatives' faces. 

I stalked the bid sheet for a little while until bidding closed... & I won! We've yet to plan our tour, but you can bet I'll be writing about it here when it happens.  


Of course, no event is complete without lots of delicious food & drinks, & this one was no exception. The suggested cocktails were delicious, & the menu was carefully chosen to reflect the ethnic makeup of the city in the 1870s - think Polish, German, British, & Irish small plates.

We tried everything, but I'm a sucker, especially, for potato pancakes, so when the caterer manning this table took off toward the end of the night & left all the food behind for late-night snackers, you'd better believe Joey & shamelessly snarfed a few more & tossed a couple into my purse for later.

Wait, should I not have admitted that here...?


All in all, it was a very fun & fancy evening, one of the most creative events I've yet to attend in Cleveland. I loved that it was both educational & festive, all for a good cause. Whatever the theme of next year's event, you can bet I'll do my best to attend.

I mean, just look how into the spirit of the 1870s I was by night's end!


Disclosure: I was asked to help promote Western Reserve Historical Society’s Somewhere in Time event in exchange for two complimentary VIP tickets to the event. As always, all opinions are my own.

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