We arrived fashionably late at the Monday Club in Webster Groves and immediately realized we were way underdressed. We thought we'd come festively and patriotically attired: jeans, red Obama T-shirt, maroon Chucks. We saw women in hoop skirts and bustles and Empire dresses, men in knee breeches and tricorn hats and swallowtail coats and spats. (We saw more modern duds, too, but even these were spiffier than ours.)

Dan Klarmann sported a short stovepipe-ish hat that he told us he'd found at a yard sale. Encouraged by this confession, we asked how he got his mustache to turn up at the corners so jauntily. "Well," he said, "I was in a made-for-TV movie in 1998. I was playing a French gentleman, and they suggested I curl my mustache like this. I guess I have a naturally curly face."

"Hoop skirts are a pain in the tushy," confided Elsa Hirzel, after we expressed our admiration of her yellow gown. (Said gown also prevented us from getting within three feet of her.) "When you wear one, you can't lift your arms past your shoulders. I've heard that Queen Victoria invented these dresses because she didn't like her daughters reaching for tea."

Kurt Warner
Mike Blake/Reuters
Kurt Warner


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Hirzel and many of the other women had made their dresses themselves. "Wow," we said. (We said that a lot.)

As attendees whirled their way through "Jefferson and Liberty" (some more gracefully than others), Dance Discovery treasurer Martin Aubuchon told us that the group was founded in 2004 by local English contra dance enthusiasts to help celebrate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Over the years they've branched out into the colonial and Civil War periods and have performed at various area events that call for historical dancing.

There are a lot more of these than Unreal had previously imagined.

"You should join us!" Aubuchon enthused as we gathered up our notebook and prepared to move on to our own celebration, which would involve less dancing but more alcohol.

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