The purpose of the masquerade mask was to conceal identity. It was developed in Venice during the 14th century as a form of disguise for individuals who wished to engage in socially unacceptable behaviour. They did not wish to be recognised for fear of persecution or embarrassment, thus these individuals donned masks to prevent such circumstances. Today the masquerade mask is still worn in social gatherings, although it is not reserved for the Venetian Carnival alone.
Back in the 14th century masquerade masks were usually white and made from paper mache, today they are available in various colours, sizes, and materials. These beautiful items are now made from leather, plaster and different types of fabric in addition to paper mache. Of all these styles, the most comfortable to wear is the fabric mask. This type of mask is lighter than those made of plaster and paper mache and less stifling than leather. The fabric masquerade mask also has the opportunity to be more fashionable.
The female masquerade mask varies in size according to the event being attended. In the wedding setting it is the bride who would wear the mask. This accessory would usually be white and have feathers which are also white or light in colour. The addition of feathers, jewels, lace, sequins, and any other trim will generally enhance the beauty of the mask. Larger feathers are preferred by most, and the ostrich or peacock feather (in any colour) is most popular to express the feminine aspect of the female masquerade mask.
The masquerade mask is no longer reserved to weddings or carnivals; they can be worn at various types of social gatherings. It is important, however, to coordinate the style of mask with the occasion. Recently women have been seen wearing masquerade masks to bachelorette parties and even on prom nights. Yet, the carnival still is and will always remain the home of the masquerade mask. One may find a great many types of female masks, but there are three main styles: the Cream Brocade Venetian mask; the Japanese mask; and the Senorita mask.
The most popular women’s masquerade mask is the Cream Brocade Venetian mask. It is the most feminine of the masks and is styled in cream brocade with further trimmings such as lace, flowers, and gold edgings. This is the style most often seen at subdued events such as weddings and prom nights.
Another well-known style is the Japanese style boasting bold black and red colouring. This adventurous mask is a favourite with the “devil” Halloween costume, but can complement most masquerade outfits.
A less worn, but just as exciting style is the Senorita mask. The Senorita mask has a burgundy colour with gold trimming and elaborate decoration. While not as detailed and extravagant as the Japanese style, the Senorita mask is just as elegant and complementary.
Mask can enhance an outfit and help make fashion statements, but as with all clothing accessories one must be sure everything is coordinated. A mismatching outfit will turn heads, but for all the wrong reasons.