Fancy Dress to “pop” up in new location

The committee worked to resolve issues caused by the change in venue to the Student Activities Pavilion


A banner advertising Fancy Dress hangs in the Elrod Commons atrium. Photo by Liza Moore, ’21.

Liza Moore

With the reconstruction of the gymnasium, Fancy Dress has been relocated to the pavilion on the university’s back campus, which has caused obstacles in planning this year’s 112th annual ball.

Fancy Dress has been one of Washington and Lee’s oldest and most admired traditions on campus since the first ball in 1907. The event is known for its elaborate themes. 

But the 2019 Fancy Dress committee’s hardest task is not transforming the ball into the inside of an Andy Warhol gallery, but planning how to accommodate everyone in the Student Activities Pavilion. 

Maddie Simko, ‘19, Co-Chair of Fancy Dress along with Efrosyni Daskalakis, ‘19, said that with the new venue comes a new layout and a new process to approaching the ball. The pavilion has a capacity of 700 people, which Simko said is about half the number that the committee expects to attend Fancy Dress.

Part of Fancy Dress’ mission statement is to create a “memorable ball for students, faculty, and the Washington & Lee community at large,” which entails creating an inclusive event for the entire campus. 

In order to convert the pavilion into a suitable space, there will be two tents. One tent will act as a foyer at the entrance and the second will attach to the side of the pavilion as a biergarten. Daskalakis explained that both tents will be heated and lit to match the aesthetics of the rest of the venue.

There are not enough women’s bathrooms in the pavilion, so the committee has rented portable restrooms to accommodate guests.

The Fancy Dress committee also had to come up with a solution for flattening the uneven gravel where the biergarten will be located. Simko said they “do not have a timeline, but hope it will be done by next week.” The committee has been communicating with the university about flattening the patch. 

Daskalakis said they plan to use a thick layer of astroturf as the floor under the tents. 

The committee also had to consider transportation to the pavilion. Simko said that since Fancy Dress has been in the gym for the past 10 years, the change in location complicated the Traveller route for the ball this year. 

The Fancy Dress committee has been working with Public Safety and student Traveller monitors in order to discuss transportation options for students both on and off campus. 

Simko said the committee is “still working on [transportation plans].”

 “Hopefully it won’t be an issue, but we are just praying for good weather for the people waiting in the lines,” Simko said. 

Since students will most likely choose to walk to the venue, Simko said the Fancy Dress committee plans to send out precautionary emails to remind students to walk on lit paths and in groups.

Both Simko and Daskalakis said the university has been accommodating about creating an ideal venue. The university put the pavilion on reserve for Fancy Dress since the ball could not be in the gymnasium this year. The university considered the Duchossois Tennis Center, but then decided it wanted to host only Mock Convention in the space in order to preserve the facilities for sports teams.

Daskalakis said the committee reached out to Virginia Military Institute about using one of its larger buildings, but did not receive a response. The committee also proposed having the ball in town, but decided to use the pavilion.

For the past six months, both Daskalakis and Simko’s lives have revolved around planning this year’s ball. During their first meeting, Kelsey Goodwin, the Fancy Dress adviser, told Simko and Daskalakis that “this work takes over your life.” 

“It’s like taking another class,” Simko said.

During a meeting with the ball’s event planner, Simko said Daskalakis got emotional looking at the 3D model of the layout that they had put so much time into creating.