Masquerade party masks have a very long and distinguished history. First created in Venice in the 1300s, these masks quickly became a social equalizer.
Like most European nations, Italy and the city of Venice were very class ridden during the 14th century. The nobility did not mix with the middle class and the middle class did not mingle with those living in poverty. However, masquerade parties were enjoyed by individuals in all classes.
While wearing elaborate costumes and ornately decorated masks, individuals were unrecognizable to any who did not know in advance what their costume would be. This created occasions where people of all classes could and did mix and mingle freely.
People of high class were normally more limited in what activities were acceptable when attending a formal party. However, when they put on a masquerade mask, they were able to lose many of their inhibitions and behave more freely. In many cases, actions were taken that would never have happened without the anonymity offered by the mask.
It was not uncommon for people to socialize across class lines when their identities were hidden. In many cases, people began to apply makeup to their faces below the mask so that when the mask was in place, none of the individual’s features could be used to establish identity. In some cases, even when the mask was removed, the makeup was enough to conceal identity. These facts led to a great deal of mingling across social boundaries and made all people equal while attending a masquerade ball.
Even in cases where the guests at a masquerade party were limited to members of a single social class, there were many changes in how people behaved. People still tended to let many of their inhibitions go and perform acts that they would never even have considered without the anonymity provided by the mask.
Masquerade masks are still a social equalizer today. While there are not as many hard lines between the classes as there were in the past, there are still many self imposed divisions between people in different levels of society. However, when individuals put on a masquerade mask and attend a party, they forget about all the different factors in society that separate and mingle with other party goers as equals, regardless of identity. This is one reason masquerade party masks have been and continue to be a great social equalizer.
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