I lived in the Bay Area in the early to mid-2000’s long before gentrification. I did miss out on a few Bay Area local traditions while I was a college student. Because my finals fell during the time of Dickens Christmas Fair, I never had a chance to go. I had always wanted to attend. I used to be a regular at Gaskells in Oakland before twisting my ankle. I’ve always been much more intrigued by Victorian fashion when I was in college, mainly because I wanted to wear a foofy dress. I attended my first Dickens Fair on December 10, 2016 with my cousin and his date. Suffice to say, I was mesmerized by the immersiveness that is Dickens Christmas Fair.
Because I don’t have anything that would represent 1860ish Victorian England in my closet, I ended up wearing my Stop Starring dress and my overcoat. I had a vintage hat that I haven’t worn in ages that matched the dress. While my style was more mid 20th century, I still got a lot of compliments and inquiries where I found the dress. I suppose pinups aren’t as prevalent in the Bay Area as they are in Southern California!
I went in with no expectations. My cousin’s date was in it for the social dances. There were two dance halls – one was much more formal and tailored after Fezziwig’s Christmas soiree from A Christmas Carol and the other catered to the plebeians. Because my cousin’s date was dressed in coat and tails, he preferred the fancier and aristocratic air of the former than to associate with the lower class. I actually did dance at Fezziwig’s – an older gent asked me to dance the Congress of Vienna with him. I have always wanted to try this out. It’s not as hard as I was told. Most dances at these type of events follow patterns and styles – there are lessons given, but for open dancing, people are very friendly to ask people out.
I really liked the food. I was worried about the prices being that this is an event center. We were recommended the fish and chips. I ended up getting the fish and calamari for $12. It was very delicious – the batter was still fresh and I could have gone for another round. Additionally, you can also get tea and treats around the fair. However, the biggest draw was the adult libations being sold. I had a mimosa and it didn’t feel watered down at all. It was everything a day drink is supposed to be.
Likewise, there’s plenty of shopping to be done. I ended up browsing around a few dress shops. I admired all of the attention to details and fabric choices, however, because the holidays being what they are, they were out of my price range. I ended up buying a few tea’s for the house – if you are a tea collector like me, this is paradise. My cousin bought me some authentic tea from England and I ended up buying a few event special tea’s I also bought some room fragrance. My cousin picked up a few gifts and a Harry Potter themed wand for himself. You might come into Dickens Fair not expecting to spend much, but there are ton of local artists and small business shops here that are very unique and have crafts made of love.
I also had my aura read by one of the local psychic’s. The line for the tarot was long, so I ended up trying out a rather deep reading of my past and present life. If you’re into this kind of spirituality (I like reading about the spiritualism trends of the time), this is well worth it because she was very spot on.
There were also random street performers recanting scenes from various Victorian classics.
And some photos of Victorian England…in Daly City!
For the several hours I spent at Dickens Fair, I’m so glad I finally did it. I just wished I could have afforded that Victorian corset dress! However, I loved the atmosphere and how everyone really gets into it. When I told co-workers I was going to Dickens Fair, a lot of them were asking me if I was going to dress up. While I didn’t have anything in my closet that screamed Victorian England, I was still happy in my mid-century reproduction. I liked seeing what everyone wore. About 40% of Dickens Fair attends were dressed up in costume and a lot of them were very ornate. I’m hoping to have a time period accurate dress before then.
If you were to check out Dickens Fair, bring cash. I’m not one to trust event center ATM’s, but most shops take cash. If you plan to have a few drinks, carry cash with you. Food places will only take cash. However, some specialty shops will take card. Overall, I’m glad I’ve gone and checked out a lot of things that made it worth my time – I danced, drank, and was merry. Happy Christmas, everyone!