Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ask Bullstrode: What to wear to a Masquerade Ball

On the urging of the good people of Wollongong, I have decided to re-enliven my much loved advice column, featured in the Society Pages of the Illawarra Mercury in the 1980’s, entitled “Ask Bullstrode”. In its heyday, my column was the Blackstone’s commentaries of the self-help world, answering any and all questions posed by my readership on topics of importance to the people of the Illawarra, including relationship advice and, of course, statutory interpretation.

If you have any problemn that you simply cannot resolve, like that of young Jeremey Tompkins set out below, please do not hesitate to write me at Level 8, Albert Bathurst Piddington Chambers, 177 Phillip Street Sydney 2000, or at

Dear Mr Whitelocke [K.C.],

I have been invited to a 'Masquerade' Ball which is being held at Doltone House in a few weeks' time. Not having been to an event such as this before, and keenly aware of the need, as an Officer of the Court, to preserve my dignity and decorum, I wonder would you be so good as to give me some direction as to what I should wear?

Many thanks,

Jeremy Tompkins, Randwick.

Dear Jeremy,

Indeed a good, and important, question. Thank you for having the good sense to have sought my advice. I first attended a masquerade ball at Palazzo Labia in Venice in 1951, which was hosted by my dear friend and long time bocce rival Carlos “the Jackal” de Beistegui. This was a surprisingly riotous affair after which I was wrongly accused of all sorts of nefarious acts. Nevertheless, the tangible social and legal benefits, and the endless possibilities arising out, of being masked in public were made abundantly clear to me that fateful night.

Despite my profound enjoyment of this form of recreation in my youth, I have unfortunately not been to a masquerade ball since Lionel Murphy’s 40th birthday party in 1962. That soiree was billed as the party of the year. Emboldened by the spirit of the times, I foolishly attended disguised as the redoubtable 1920’s Country Party Leader Earle Page. As was all too predictable with the benefit of hindsight, I was immediately set upon and beaten viciously by environmentalists, hipsters and other Labor Party apparatchiks. Since that time, I have frankly been too scared to attend any event where I cannot be certain that such lowlifes are not in attendance (the other edge to the double edged sword of being masked in public).

I do remain, however, Australia’s foremost expert on appropriate dress at masquerade balls. In your case sir, as an officer of the court, common decency would demand that you strictly adhere to the dress code laid down by the 18th Century ducal court of Burgundy. As I’m sure you’re aware, this will mean you should wear a Van Dyke beard, a venetian carnival mask and have the rest of your costume made entirely from flax and pitch. Presumably this is what you were planning to wear in any case.

Kind regards,

Bullstrode Whitelocke K.C.

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