Entertainment in the 1800s

Brigerton ballroom dance

Nowadays, everyone uses Netflix and Amazon. We watch movies in theaters or we head out to discoes to party hard. And we travel the world by ships, planes and cars. We can enjoy ourselves through thousands of means possible. However, if you go back 20 years ago, the internet was not so common, the disco was common only in first world countries. Planes were expensive and hard to afford.

Now go back 100 years, you did not have the TV or the plane. How did people entertain themselves? They socialized in town centers, they invited each other over, they played sports, swam in the rivers and played physically. Another common entertainment in the 1800s and the early 1900s which is the pre Elizabethan era or the Regency era was to dance.

They didn’t go to discoes for they did not exist until the 1950s. They did not have to wait until any wedding or a village fete just for a dance. And they danced in something greater, something more magnificent and opulent, something finer. They danced in the grandest of ballrooms, they danced in balls.

Also read: The Beneficial Effects of Movies on Humans

What ornate were the ballrooms?

These were not normal dances by any means, they were balls. These balls were conducted in grand and ornate ballrooms with grand decorations, filled with silks, gold, silver and pearls. Flowers of the most exotic nature were hand plucked from the best gardens to cover the ballrooms.

Food was made by the best chefs and they only served the rarest of delicacies such as lark tongues, oysters, stuffed goose, boars. Of course there was wine, the finest of wines available in the land, hardest of liquor made after years of aging and high quality cigarettes and snuff.

Who danced in the balls?

This is an interesting question since in the famous hit TV series, Bridgerton, the aristocratic and elite families are shown to participate in balls while the ordinary folk are not even part of the elite world displayed here. The series shows the wealthy and the nobles planning and attending balls either to have fun and socialize or to seek marriage prospects.

However, interestingly, there were balls hosted by the aristocratic rich for their own while the middle class had their own soirees and balls to attend as well albeit they would be slightly less ornate but the events would essentially be the same.

Every man, nobles and socially marginalized alike, wanted to socialize and live life big and these grand balls in the grand rooms were the best of them all.

What clothes did one wear?

The men wore the finest suits made of silks which were coveted during the era. They carried the fanciest of gold pocket-watches, wore ties made of silk, carried silk handkerchiefs and the fanciest of leather shoes.

The women wore gowns, exquisite ball gowns which were sewn together by seamstresses who were very skilled in their crafts. They wore corsets to accentuate their waistlines. And they wore hand gloves which were as long as their elbows and daintiest of shoes. They carried themselves with regality and great beauty.

Books describing these Balls – Kate Chopin

Ballroom dancing was so popular as a common form of entertainment among the aristocrats and the middle class for nearly 200 years, stretching from the 1700s all the way up to 1900s. Some of the famous short stories and novels describing these balls were authored by Kate Chopin the early 1900s. For example one of the stories titled “At the ‘Cadian Ball” was authored in 1896 and it describes quite well how popular music and balls were even in the lower middle class community.

Another example of a famous story describing these balls was “The story of an hour”. The story of an hour was authored by the legendary American author, Kate Chopin, and it is written from a woman’s perspective which was quite rare in those days.


The regency era was a different world altogether with the complete absence of technology resulting in people socializing more and building better relations with one another. These balls were not just one day events as one had to spend days or weeks preparing for one such as getting one’s clothes in order, practicing to dance, letting people know that you would be coming so that one could get a dance etc.

Also it can be seen that while the balls of the regency era were grand, they were of a more simple time and it would be difficult to nigh impossible to replicate and make common events of such great grandeur. While it is regrettable that we live in a time when we cannot even imagine what they lived like, shows like Bridgeton make it possible for ordinary folk to witness the magnificence with which the nobles and the common folk lived back then.