Masquerade balls were every bit as popular in the Regency as our romances lead us to believe. Just take a look at R. Ackermann’s Repository of Fashions for 1829. He includes several different costumes for “masquerade or fancy ball dress,” most of which are demure historical costumes for various centuries and one for a lavishly gowned “Sultana” (but sadly, no scantily clad houris). Although there are no masks in his pictures, there are plenty of mentions of masks in other period literature, so clearly they were sometimes worn. That’s a good thing, because it makes for great fun to have a hero unmask a heroine in our books.
The “season” in London generally began officially after Easter, although some people were already in town for when Parliament opened in January. Imagine starting your day somewhere between mid-morning and noon, then going to pay calls, then riding on Rotten Row, then home to change and off to dinner somewhere, then perhaps to the theater, and then to a ball around ten p.m., where you danced until 3 a.m. or so. While that is exactly the kind of schedule I’m used to at conference, I can’t imagine doing it every day for a couple of months.