The Riverside Arts Center is hosting its annual gala on Saturday, October 25th. This year’s fun and outlandish party is the Disco Inferno! As you can see from the photo, I have spent a bit of time outfitting myself for the event. While dressing in theme is not required, it will be more fun if you do. Last year’s Prom-O-Rama was loads of fun and I couldn’t wait to see what the brilliant RAC gala team was going to come up with for 2014. This shindig promises to be fabulous, quirky and artsy. I do not live in Riverside and don’t know many people here but despite that, my husband and I had a great time last year. It was because we were decked out in 80’s prom attire. Here’s the beauty of attending a fundraiser event in costume: Easy Conversation. Lots of Fun. Creative Outlet. Be Someone Else. Loosen Up. Go Wild. It’s For A Good Cause.

Arts organizations are notorious for throwing costume events. Creative people like to dress up and get everyone else to do so, usually to raise money for something. The Chelsea Arts Club in London used to hold a yearly ball on New Year’s Eve to raise money for artist’s charities. The Chicago History Museum held a costume ball in 2013 and raised $400,00 to support the museum’s costume collection. The Riverside Arts Center has a history of throwing dress up parties such as the Biker’s Ball and Midnight in Paris but they seem to hit their stride with their recent Kitschy-themed galas in the last couple of years, Prom-O-Rama and Disco Inferno! I haven’t even gone to this one and am already getting excited for the unveiling of the next one!

Masquerade parties have a long and infamous history. These events ran the gamut from being fun and festive to lewd and murderous. The anonymity that the mask and later costumes provided led to decadent and lustful behavior in 15th century France and 16th Century Italy. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the masquerade spread to the rest of Europe. During this time, the king of Sweden, Gustav III was assassinated at his own ball, by a disguised, disgruntled noblemen who was literally able to waltz up to the king and kill him.

Many a yearly ball has been suspended, including the University of Chicago’s Lascivious Ball, where formerly staid students show up in such get ups as the biblical Eve, wearing only a snake and an apple. My brother attended this ball during his freshman year at the U of C in 1980. I had a hard time reconciling his story of the university throwing its students out of the library on weekends with the visual of these same dedicated students attending a dance naked. The first Lascivious Ball was held in 1960 and was later banned in 1984 for “ludicrous behavior” and then resurrected in 2008. Apparently attendees paid the full $8 ticket price if they came in street clothes, half-price if they came dressed lasciviously and no entrance fee if they came in the nude.

This year my husband will be decked out like John Travolta in the movie, Saturday Night Fever. I was not too excited at the thought of wearing a wrap dress, the garment that made Dione von Furstenberg famous, so I bought a $17 “disco” dress from a Halloween store and embellished it a bit. My costume will literally be topped off with the big hair wig that I bought in New Orleans this past spring. The beauty of these costume events is that you can interpret the theme however you want. I’ve got a bit of 60s mod mixed in with 70s disco.

Costume parties gives you the chance to leave your old self at home and become someone new, exciting, fun and perhaps, dangerous. So come to the RAC’s Disco Inferno party! Accept The Invitation! Dress UP! Eat Some Fabulous Food & Drinks! Enjoy The Decorations! Bid On Some Cool, Donated Art! And Learn How To Do The Hustle with The Janes! Doo doo doo doo doo da doo doo da! Doo doo doo doo doo da doo doo da! Do the Hustle!

Kathleen Thometz is an artist, writer and teacher with Doodle Art & Design. She lives with her husband, kids and three doodle dogs: Rainbow, Sunshine and Thunderstorm. You can experience more about her at

Kathleen Thometz

I am an artist, writer, and art instructor with four children, one husband, and two doodle-dogs. I have contributed articles to the and Chicago Parent Magazine and wrote the Artist's Eye column...