Mapping Your Path: PLAYGROUND (3-mo accountability booster group + community)

Is there something you’ve been itching to make progress on but keeps getting pushed away? Are you feeling isolated or looking for community, people you can be real with and inspired by? Are you just looking to have a bit more fun in life? (It’s a heavy world out there!) Or maybe you’re finally ready to make some time for YOU.

If any of these resonate with you, Mapping Your Path: PLAYGROUND may just be your answer. It’s a 3-mo creative container to move the needle forward on something meaningful for you. 💛  It’s an invitation to experiment, explore, and most importantly PLAY!

Mapping Your Path isn’t your typical online offer. MYP is a connected, intimate experience with direct support and interaction with me (Anne) along the way. It’s inspiration, guidance, coaching, support, connection and even a side of magic. This is how you advance and make progress without added stress.

Many of us have joined offers in the past that claim to have great communities, but it really felt like noise, one-way communication, and lacked engagement and connection (and some really just felt like toxic wastelands to be honest).

Real community is a supportive scaffolding for connection. The MYP experience is built to foster community, and it’s why I choose to be an active participant every step of the way, and engage with everyone who joins the community, sharing an inside look inside what I’m working on and thinking thr

Even when we’re working towards individual goals there’s something powerful in doing this together! 💛 Even on a bad day you’ll learn you can turn your day around, and leave sessions feeling lit up and better than when you joined.
Being in community doesn’t mean you have to be connected 24/7 or read and respond to every message (we’re not going for performative community here either). It means you have a place to go when you need it or want it. It’s a guilt-free, judgment-free zone, where you get to be yourself (it’s OK if you need to vent some days!), ask questions, ask for help, celebrate yourself, share what you’re working on, let yourself shine, be inspired by others, and cheer each other on. The beauty comes from the hive mind you can turn to. 🐝 There is so much wisdom in the MYP community.
In MYP you can dip in and out as you please. Leave perfectionist tendencies at the door, and see what happens…

MYP: PLAYGROUND will run June 21—Sept 20th, so even if you’re traveling there’s still plenty of time to connect. There’s space to BREATHE. It’s a nice way to make progress and enter the fall, where you already feel more anchored and in gear for the year ahead.
This will be FUN! Yes, there will be banana maps! 🍌🗺️🍌

We’ll have a kick-off workshop (June 21) with focus setting and wrap-up workshop (Sept 20) to celebrate all our progress (with banana maps at both!), monthly small group Connection Calls (with me + 5-6 community members!), optional virtual co-working, the Slack community with ongoing support (I will give you feedback on anything you’re working on if you post it in the community! Or we can talk about whatever fun new thing is happening this summer) and resource sharing (I don’t want to overwhelm you, so ask if you’re not getting what you want).

The goal is to focus on ONE thing inside the container to really make progress on. Think “Guiding Force” (word/theme/phrase) but for the next 3-months. You may have a specific project, or it may be a general feeling or theme.

My summer focus inside MYP: PLAYGROUND is celebrating and promoting spreading the word around OVERRIDE(my brand new book which came out a few weeks ago) in a way that feels true to me. This also means you’ll be getting a sneak peek inside the ongoing self-publishing journey + everything I’m cooking up :)

I’m also there to support YOU on whatever you’re working on. Not quite sure what you want to focus on? There are more ideas on the MYP offer page. The kick-off workshop + community space (as well as a new way to connect) will help with also help you find your focus. Stay open to new pathways and possibilities. 

The summer version is also intentionally designed to be experimental, exploratory, and playful. 🤸‍♀️ I’ve got some new ideas to encourage us all to get us outside and exploring. The world is HEAVY and HARD. Let’s invite a bit more PLAY and FUN into our lives.🎈 I’d love for you to join!


(Sign up to be notified of future MYP cohorts.)

I wrote a book! Introducing OVERRIDE! What if there was another way? A pocket playbook for possibility

For the past couple years I’ve been quietly working on a project. Even I didn’t know I was writing a book when I started. As of May 2024 it’s not only no longer under wraps, it’s out in the world! Introducing…. OVERRIDE! What if there was another way? A pocket playbook for possibility.

The world can feel heavy and hard, but I wanted to create a book that helps people reflect, take action, and PLAY. Change can feel hard and it’s not always comfortable. But it’s also possible.

OVERRIDE! is an invitation to see a world of possibilities we’ve never considered through reflective prompts, mindset shifts, creative exercises, and strategies for action. In order to override, new action is required to have a different outcome. What if there was another way?

I like to think of this pocket-sized book as a next-generation The Artist’s Way meets The War of Art with a side of Big Magic.

The 220 pocket-sized book was intentionally designed to be small, digestible, and can fit in your pocket. (Don’t be fooled, writing a succinct book was not less work. It was a powerful exercise in digging into what I really wanted to say. Throughout the process beta readers and editors definitely called me out on the areas I was wishy washy on!). It was really important to me that it’s a book you can travel with and take on the go. As a book lover, it’s often hard for me to decide what to carry with me when I travel because so many books are so heavy.

The book not only is meant to disrupt through its form, but also the words inside. It’s designed to be written in, pages folded, marked up, add sticky notes, and loved. This is not a precious object. It’s designed to be used and revisited. Read straight through or turn to any page on any given day for a message or reminder you may need to hear. A playbook doesn’t suggest you do everything at once, but rather run the play that you need in that moment. We have to stop taking life too seriously and PLAY.

The book feels like both a stepping stone into, and extension of my workshops Write Your Own Rules and Mapping Your Path. So many conversations inside my community helped shape so much of what I explore inside, which I’m incredibly grateful for.

Even the way I decided to publish—self/independent rather than traditional publishing—feels like part of the mission of this book: to shake things up and leave behind the status quo. I knew this book needed to be out in the world sooner rather than later, hence I never even considered traditional publishing. I didn’t want to deal with months—or years of trying to get an agent, publisher, and rejection (all par for course in the publishing world).

Publishers want an outline and a plan but that’s not how I work. I needed to write my way through this one. I also had way more creative control by self-publishing. I not only wrote it, but I designed it, and did all the illustrations (cover and inside). Oh, and on top of it, I started my own publishing imprint: ANOTHER WAY PRESS.
When you buy OVERRIDE! You’re directly supporting me as a writer and creator. My book is already available worldwide too, unlike traditional publishing. Each copy is printed on demand, making for less waste. Books are printed in the US, Canada, UK, France, India, and Australia. Talk about global!

At the moment OVERRIDE! is only available in print (it’s designed to be touched, held, and marked up), but an e-book is in the works. I plan on opening up distribution to include Amazon and others (however, Amazon takes a bigger percentage and the cover paper quality isn’t as good).

To get more updates on my book, sign up for my companion OVERRIDE! Substack (currently a work in progress), and be sure to sign up to my Connect the Dots newsletter and follow me on Instagram (@pretavoyager + @overridebook) for upcoming book events, both online and in person).

Oh, and of course, you can order your own copy at! Tell all your friends!

Author portrait by Your Paris Photographer.

‘Mise en Page’ at Le Bon Marché

Mise en page translates to “putting on the page”—in other words, layout. It’s also the name of the current installation inside Le Bon Marché department store imagined by Sarah Andelman (who was behind the iconic concept store Colette) alongside French illustrator Jean Jullien.


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Outside the windows start to tell the of Jean Jullien’s “Paper People” which become larger than life in the iconic department store. When you first spot them you can’t help but smile, but so much of the joy comes from seeing the figures from different angles, and levels. The takeover also includes wonderfully curated book-themed products (with independent bookstores from around the world) featured inside. For me though, I was completely sucked into the café! The chairs were books!!

Mise en Page is on at Le Bon Marché until April 21st. If you can’t travel to experience it with your own eyes, check out my Instagram reel and post that’s closer peek inside the collaborative café with Nounou and Phamily First. The icing on the cake was my new friend Emily and I met in the café to talk books, and she captured this proof of the complete and utter delight I felt in this space.

Are you signed up for my newsletter? Sign up for the latest updates, news, announcements, and workshops. The next cohort of Mapping Your Path opens for enrollment in May.

Mini Mapping Your Path into 2024 workshops (online + Paris)

What if this year you gifted yourself time for reflection, intention, and connection to support yourself going into the New Year so that you feel grounded, EXCITED, and ready for whatever comes your way?

IMAGINE what could be possible if you put yourself first….

Mini Mapping Your Path into 2024 is inspired by my 3-month workshop + guided community that I’ve been running since October 2020. I’ve seen lives transformed, participants leaving lighter, feeling more like themselves, and excited for the path ahead (even in these uncertain times). The secret? Making yourself a priority.

In this version of Mapping Your Path you will:

  • Make the time to be intentional and reflect on what you really want out of the year ahead—and beyond. (When was the last time you carved out time for YOU?)
  • Have the opportunity to reflect on what 2023 has taught you
  • Be guided through a series of fun, reflective exercises to get you out of your head and reconnect with yourself
  • Create multiple maps to explore the path you want to be on (not the one you think you’re supposed to follow) + to support future you
  • Develop a “guiding force” which is a word or theme to help you navigate the year ahead
  • Connect with others at the workshop
  • Leave feeling energized, excited, and with new clarity about where you want to go in 2024!

How do you want to FEEL going into 2024?


Think embracing your inner child with pen, paper, marker/colored pencils. No artistic ability required. (It turns out [re]connecting with the kid in you has unlocking powers!) I’ll provide materials, but feel free to bring any favorite markers and pens if you so desire, and your favorite journal.

You’ll be guided through a series of quick, reflective exercises to anchor you and get you thinking creatively about how you want to show up in 2024—and beyond. You’ll walk away with new tools in your toolkit of life to support you throughout the year, including a map to guide you into and through the year ahead, no matter what comes your way.

You’ll make more progress in three hours than you do in three months through intentional focus and reflection. You’ll leave with good vibes to go into the New Year! ⚡️

You’ll get to connect with new people. You never know who you may meet in the room or how they may inspire you.

You’ll even get to tell your friends you mapped on a banana! 🍌🗺️ Trust me, banana maps are my signature workshop move, and they’re great to help you stop over-thinking and have some fun!

Come with an open mind, and anything is possible! ✨

Materials, coffee, tea, and light snacks will be provided for the in person workshop. Online is BYO.

Keep your eye out for an email a couple days before the workshop with (low-pressure) pre-work to ponder to help get you primed so we can make the most of our time together.


+ Friday, December 8th from 5-7pm CET/Paris
+ Saturday, Dec 9th from 10am-noon CET/Paris
Join either session! This is a 2-hour workshop with bonus “after hours” if you want to keep working (and connecting) for another hour. Everyone who signs up will get access to the replay, so there’s no pressure if you can’t join live. You can still set yourself up for the year ahead!
Sign up HERE!

+ Saturday, Dec 16 from 10am-1pm in central Paris
This is a 3- hour workshop. Space is limited to 10 participants.
Sign up HERE!

Anne Ditmeyer is a Paris-based creative coach + workshop facilitator who uses her design background to encourage creative exploration through mapping exercises (including making people map on bananas!) while giving participants the confidence to explore and get lost. She is best known for her workshops Write Your Own Rules and Mapping Your Path. She’s also created workshops for Adobe, HP, CreativeMornings, Parsons Paris, Skillshare, OpenClassrooms, Louis Vuitton, and more. Her work has been featured in Forbes and Psychologies Magazine.

Stay up to date on my latest offerings by signing up for my Connect the Dots newsletter!

Mapping Your Path into 2024 (Kick-off: Oct 6!)

Mapping Your Path into 2024

What could be possible if you had a map and a destination tailored for YOU rather than aimlessly wandering into the New Year with half-baked resolutions? What if the journey felt FUN, joyous, and spacious, with a sense of CONNECTION to yourself, and to others, as you make real strides towards what lights you up?

Set yourself up for success in the New Year starting now.
Give yourself permission to explore, flourish, and thrive.
Take off the pressure. Find focus.
Enjoy the ride!

This experience isn’t about more work for you.
It’s about defining your own way, taking steps toward the life you want, and getting things done with ease and flow.


The FUN kicks off Oct 6th! 🚀

Where do you want to be?

Maps help get us where we want to go. They give us the confidence to explore and to get lost, to find our way back, and reroute where needed. Use your map as a tool to help you make decisions, or detours, as you gain perspective of the new lands you’re uncovering. You can get anywhere when you do.

Together we’ll build a toolkit that will serve you in the New Year—and beyond!

  • Exploratory maps
  • New exercises for your personal toolkit
  • Your own mini guidebook to refer to when things go off course
  • A word, theme, or mantra to carry you forward (your guiding force)
  • New friends + support system
  • A new, empowered mindset!
HINT: Revisit these tools throughout the year to feel grounded and anchored no matter what life throws your way!

It’s time to be intentional.

Mapping Your Path into 2024 is a 3-month workshop + community that follows you into the New Year. It’s about taking stock of where you are now, and where you want to be. We’re using the last quarter of the year to explore and set ourselves up for success—and any curveballs that come our way—as we enter the New Year.

Every month we’ll unlock new insights through creative exercises as you build your toolkit for life. Join the global community as you carve out time for you, and what you want out of your futures. MYP is time for you to reflect and come back to what truly lights you up. ✨

There is power to doing this work in community and knowing you are not alone. This is the vibe you can expect, along with direct support with Anne along the way:

The way we connect in MYP isn’t like other online programs.
The MYP experience is designed for maximum flexibility whether it’s a busy season of life, or you’re taking time off to travel. There’s no expectation for you to show up perfectly, and there’s NO BEHIND IN MYP. This journey is about the small steps and making real progress. 
Components are designed for participants to be able to join all over the world and join live, or on their own time. You’ll soon discover just how magical this community is. ✨





OCT 2023—Jan 2024
Kick-off: Oct 6 🚀
Follow your curiosity to learn more about Mapping Your Path into 2024!

Street Wisdom + the World Wide Wander (Sept 29)

If you’ve never experienced Street Wisdom you’re in for a treat! All you need is your feet to guide you as you experience a few “tune ups” that will help you tune into the world around you before taking a question into the world during the “quest.” It’s great for finding new solutions to anything you’ve been struggling with. It’s a great tool for business or life!

Street Wisdom can be experienced anywhere, at any time (the audio prompts are free on Spotify). Even inside your home. September 29th you can experience it to the next level during the World Wide Wander when free walkshops will be offered around the globe, but in person, and online. (I first experienced Street Wisdom online and spotted Keanu Reeves!)

I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Street Wisdom to be hosting a Paris wander. I’ll also be Zooming into wander 5 of the online program.

Even if you don’t fully know what you’re signing up for, I highly recommend giving it a go!


P.S. Mapping Your Path into 2024 is currently enrolling! The fun kicks off Oct 6th. Don’t miss out!

CreativeMornings Make A Map! FieldTrip (Sept 12)

We’ve become so dependent on phones do we even know how to read maps any more? And when was the last time you made your own map? In this FieldTrip we’ll be getting lost and making your own hand-drawn maps. (NO artistic ability required.) Maps are an amazing tool to help give you clarity on where you want to go. In this Make A Map! FieldTrip we’ll be using them to help us unlock our imagination, embrace our inner child, and dream.

Participants should bring paper and their favorite pen (it’s good to have a ballpoint pen on hand too). Bring a banana to map on too (trust me)! This is an all-inclusive workshop—an orange, lemon, or other untraditional thing to map on works too.


✔️ Disconnect and engage your creative juices in analog form

✔️ We’ll be making 2 maps in the course of 1 hour. This is a fast-paced workshop, but the joy comes from creative constraints.

✔️ Anyone who is open to sharing will be invited to share their maps! Prepare to be surprised and delighted. (Use #MakeaMapFieldTrip to share online)

Sign up for FREE on CreativeMornings to join the FieldTrip on Sept 12th!

Connect the Dots Workshop London with Stefanie Posavec

A collaborative, in-person workshop using creative mapping and data visualisation to connect with others and make connections in your life!

WHEN: Sat, 2 Sep 2023 14:00 – 18:00 BST
WHERE: CitizenM Tower of London

When was the last time you were in a room with strangers? When was the last time you took the time to connect with others? With yourself? With where you’ve been and where you’re going?

CONNECT THE DOTS is an interactive, creative workshop about connection. Using creative mapping and data visualisation alongside other visual strategies, we’ll explore our worlds from different perspectives and directions in a way that gets us out of our heads and onto paper. Together Anne and Stefanie will draw upon their superpowers to help you discover new connections, patterns, and reconnect with yourself.

You’ll walk away from the analogue workshop with three concrete exercises to help you stay connected moving forward. It will be hands-on, interactive, and participatory as you uncover patterns in your life. All you need is an open mind to join: no creative, artistic, or data visualisation skills are required!

This workshop is perfect for you if you’re:

  • Looking to stir up your creative juices
  • Interested in building some new skills
  • Curious about how data visualisation can help you understand yourself through mapping your closest relationships
  • Are open to making new connections and meeting new people
  • Looking for an excuse to disconnect from screens
  • Want to do something fun and for yourself

What you can expect / topics covered:

  • How to get out of your head and think differently
  • Data collection as a reflective practice
  • Visualising your closest connections through drawing
  • Pattern spotting
  • Creative mapping exercises

By the end of the workshop participants will:

  • Make new connections in the room
  • Have laughed and enjoyed themselves
  • Gain new insights from their personal data
  • See the bigger picture and new visibility on their next steps

You’ll be able to apply the skills and exercises you learn in this workshop to other aspects of your life. Prepare to unplug, have some fun, and connect the dots!

Materials will be provided. Keep your eye out for an email the day before the event with the pre-work to ponder. (We promise it’s easy!)

This is a rare opportunity to join Anne and Stefanie in the same room together (where you can also expect beautiful views over London). Space is limited.

About the workshop leaders

Anne Ditmeyer
is a Paris-based creative coach + workshop facilitator who uses her design background to encourage creative exploration through mapping exercises (including making people map on bananas!). Past clients include CreativeMornings, Adobe, Parsons Paris, and Louis Vuitton. She is best known for her workshops Write Your Own Rules and Mapping Your Path. Her work has been featured in Forbes and Psychologies Magazine. You can find her at,, and @pretavoyager

Stefanie Posavec is a London-based designer, artist, and author exploring experimental approaches to communicating data and information to all ages and audiences. Her work has been exhibited at major galleries including the V&A, the Design Museum (London), the Centre Pompidou (Paris), and MoMA (NYC), where her work is also in the permanent collection. Her latest book (with Miriam Quick) is I am a book. I am a portal to the universe. Previous books (with Giorgia Lupi) include Dear Data and Observe, Collect, Draw! You can find her online at and @stefpos

Sign up on Eventbrite to grab your spot for Sept 2. It’s also a great excuse to travel if you don’t live in London ;)

A Magical Night at the Bal de Versailles

My 7+ year dream of attending the magical masked Bal de Versailles lived up to everything I’d hoped it would be, and more. I already shared the behind-the-scenes of preparing for the Bal de Versailles, but I know you’re dying to see what the ball was actually like. It was MAGICAL. ✨

Watch this (and make sure you turn the sound on):


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The official Bal doesn’t start until 11pm, but guests can arrive starting at 9pm for the fountain and music show. This is open to the public as well (with tickets), so we definitely underestimated how many tourists would be there fun. It took us awhile to get through the initial gardens and fountain near the Chateau because tourists would ask us for photos. We took tons of photos too as it was completely surreal!

The perk of arriving earlier is you have better light (the sun sets around 11pm in June in Paris). It also meant you could clearly see the incredible spectrum of outfits! Best people-watching EVER and people truly looked amazing. If you’re going to go, why not go all out?

The fountain “show” really is music playing with the fountains on. Not much of a show. Around 10:30pm the fireworks started (along with fireballs!). Some of our group arrived later so they got cool photos with the fireworks up by the chateau. My friends I was with by the time watched down closer where they were setting off the fireworks.

When the show was over, the tourists headed home, and the rest of us headed up to the Orangerie where the masked ball took place. It was so cool to get the overhead view of where we were going. There’s a big stairway to head down, and then you walk along a row of illuminated palm trees to the grand entry.

This year’s theme was “space” which you noticed a bit at the entry and some early acts, but didn’t seem to carry through beyond that. There were some pretty impressive costumes of the performers who were part of the entry area. It was a true experience!

Friends who had been in the past had suggested getting VIP tickets, and now I understand why. It’s nice to have a place to sit and take a break. It’s not only hot outside, it’s hot in the costumes, so it does help to pace yourself if you want to make it sunrise breakfast.

My group had regular admission tickets, but by a magical twist of fate got gifted 9 VIP spots the week of the Bal (you receive a wrist bracelet after your ticket is scanned that gets checked when you enter the space). It was sweet having an easy meeting place, own bathroom, bars, and the real appeal: two free coups of champagne (which we dubbed thimbles because those glasses definitely didn’t hold much), and a buffet! Also VIP guests had some truly incredible costumes!

Having food was definitely good for keeping us going. While you’re at a Bal at a chateau one is probably imagining elaborate silver chaffing dishes and a big spread. These were more small bite sized foods you could pop into your mouth. You never knew what was coming next. You weren’t actually sure what you were eating either (not ideal for vegetarians or people with food allergies as nothing was labeled.) Still every time I was in the area, I’d try to get a bit of extra fuel for me.

My only “complaint” of the evening is the lack of water. It was hot! Not unbearable but definitely summer (and it had been sweltering earlier in the day). You were expected to buy bottles of water, which were 7€ a pop. Most of the bars poured the bottles into cups. Our bar seemed to give us the bottle. Some friends would then refill that bottle in the bathroom. While the bathrooms were quite nice for temporary bathrooms, they weren’t actual bathrooms, so the water was not marked potable nor non-potable (no one got sick so think it was good!).

The whole food and drink system worked by a token system (“les jetons”). You could buy a pack there. I ended up only spending 35€ on tokens for the entire evening. Basically soft drinks were 1 token, and alcoholic drinks were 2 tokens. Our VIP free drinks helped. (There are fancier upsells as well with a guaranteed table and unlimited champagne, but I actually preferred the VIP area; the other levels did give you a view of the stage and performers). I was grateful I paced myself with the alcohol because it meant I enjoyed myself more and could make it all night.

The music went all night. Every hour (or maybe twice an hour?) there were main stage performances. They all had a different theme. Some were more acrobatic, others were full on dance. They were fun.

It was great the windows and doors were open for fresh air all night. We often navigated between the dance floor and the VIP area outside so we didn’t have to battle the crowds. I never made it too far without running into one of my friends too, so I ping-ponged between groups all night which was great fun.

Those without VIP would enjoy the cushioned areas along the window wall of the dance area, or have a seat in the garden (chairs or on the grass). Throughout the night you definitely found people asleep! (VIP had the best area for naps too.)

The ultimate goal is to make it to sunrise. Much of our group opted for sleep before then. I’m glad I made it. After the final musical act they announced that coffee and croissants were being served. It felt like a rite of passage!

Alas, the sunrise was more like the lights gradually coming on outside in this epic movie set we’d spent the night in. There was no actual sunrise, at least not one that we spotted.

To complete the experience, I somehow convinced my friends to take public transportation home. We’d taken a van to the event—the right move, especially given the heat and we surely would have been paparazzied! We even had our own carriage of the train—shockingly a 6:30am train [RER C] on a Sunday is not very crowded ;) There were earlier trains, but it was about an hour between trains, so it’s just good to check on Google to make sure you’re not sitting at the station forever. We enjoyed a slow stroll to the station. Versailles is a very charming town.

It most definitely was a night to remember.

Sign up for my newsletter Connect the Dots to stay tuned to my latest adventures. The next 3-mo cohort of Mapping Your Path opens for enrollment in mid-September.

How to Prepare for the Bal de Versailles

For years I’ve dreamed of attending the Bal de Versailles, an all-night masked party in the style of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette in the gardens and Orangerie of the Chateau de Versailles. (I have my friend Sara to thank for writing this Marie Claire article that planted the seed.) Despite a few misfires in past years, it somehow feels fated that the year I would attend also happens to be the 7th anniversary of my getting my French citizenship. Vive la France!

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of planning, first I must point out this is not an event that you half-ass. It’s not the kind of place where you feel like you’re dragging people along to go with you (although I’m fairly certain that they’d still have fun). You want to go with people who are just as—if not more—enthusiastic about going as you are.

For my “crew” it all started shortly after Christmas when my friend Shweta and I were talking and realized we really wanted to go and bought our tickets. We spread the word amongst friends, and it soon became clear who was ALL IN. It also became clear that the anglophones were far more into this hoopla than my French friends. I extended the invite to friends overseas, but knowing the likelihood they’d come was slim, but I wanted to ask and there were some close calls. (Apparently, there are a lot of folks who travel just to come to the event.) Thankfully, we were all enthusiastic enough to get our tickets before they sold out a couple of months later.

Before I knew it I had a posse of HELL YES friends who were in. Most of them didn’t know each other, but that didn’t stop them from wanting to join anyway. I realized it’s what I love doing in life—connecting awesome people. So the first order of business was starting a WhatsApp group. This became fun when we started finding our dresses, but also thinking about details like masks and wigs.

We’d only be in touch sporadically in the months leading up to the Bal, but I found great joy in the ridiculousness of this planning. It was immensely helpful having something fun to look forward to during the winter months.

I first went to the costume shop, Sommier & Fils and reserved my dress in mid-February. I went to Sommier in Passage Brady in the 10th because two friends who’d attended the Bal in the past had told me they were the best. (The Versailles website did include a list of costume places.) I thoroughly enjoyed the bizarreness of this experience. I felt like I time travelled by walking into a high school (or theater) costume room and I wasn’t totally sure how it’d unfold. It also was one of those experiences where doing it in French just added to the surrealness of it all.

When I walked into the shop guy handed me a photo book (think 1980s plastic photo album) with lots of dresses while he was helping someone else. It’s funny I picked a favorite but it didn’t matter when he took me to the back to see what they had. None were actually the dresses in the book!

He pulled at least 5-6 dresses (at the shelf I had been yes, no, no way, yes to decide). And brought out a couple others later based on what I liked. For women the only thing that matters is the size of you’re top. The length of dresses can be adjusted (hemmed or lengthened, which is included in the price—you just have to know to ask! The other thing you tell him as he pulls dresses is your budget (think they run ~50-200€). (Make sure you request a bag too! It’s in matching fabric.)

The changing area was rather spacious, so you easily could go with a friend or partner. You’re amongst other eras as you try things on (and there’s clearly more storage nearby in the passage.)

I fell in love with the first dress I saw but it was a bit tight. I decided that it was too long of a night and I wanted to be able to breathe. (It was a rich brown color but honestly looked like vomit colors in the lighting 😜). Another one I liked was hot pink but velvet + a flannel under skirt—so that was a hell no when I remembered that there was a heat wave last year during the Bal. A yellow one was too short, and I didn’t realize at the time it could be lengthened, but I didn’t love it enough. I wanted to LOVE my dress, and I was willing to splurge given how many years I’ve been waiting to go to this event.

For women, dresses come with an underskirt. I could have chosen between 2 varieties, rather than with the two side hip ones. I went with the one-piece hoop, but it’s also what worked with my dress. Overall the dresses are shockingly heavy! And they always go over your head (I almost got stuck a couple times when I forgot that). I also definitely needed help from the shop guy to tie and untie me. The other perk for women is dresses are so long that you can wear sneakers underneath! My friend Mark’s shoes don’t look as comfy! We also get bags that match the dress in the same fabric.

The initial dress I selected ended up being on the more expensive end, but I didn’t mind the splurge. I paid a 40€ deposit (will pay another 140€ when I pick it up — you can pick it up the day before or day of). A few weeks later I was chatting with another friend going and I realized I still wanted the first dress I tried on—the one that was too tight. On a third visit to the store, I tried it on again and realized as long as I didn’t hook the waist hook I could actually breathe. And it made me very happy. It conveniently was cheaper, but most importantly, made me feel good.

Hair-wise, I was keen for a wig, but I found the wigs shockingly hideous—on me at least. I ended up making an appointment at a salon to curl my hair, and also made a last-minute online purchase for a Marie Antoinette style wig hoping it’d arrive in time. I’d heard from past bal-ers that wigs are hot! In the end I was thrilled with my hair that my friend did, even if most of it was hidden by my mask.

The shop had masks you could both rent or buy. I tried on a few, but knowing I had months, I decided to wait.  But tried on a few. One had a giant feather. By a stroke of luck, when I was home I found a mask in my bedroom that my mom had that worked perfectly with my dress.

I didn’t expect to spend 1.5 hours at the shop, but got a kick out of all the same. It’s more fun when you can grant yourself the luxury of time. There’s more choice the earlier you reserve, but also know that there are more options in their storage. A lot depends too on your size.

The week of the Bal I called to confirm when I could pick up my dress. I thought it was the day or the day before, but he asked me for the date on my receipt and checked and told me my dress was ready and I could pick it up any time this week and it’d be less crowded. (There was a guy trying on his outfit in the shop, so clearly there are last-minute rentals too.) I paid a 600€ deposit (I’d forgotten about that detail, but was grateful that some of my doctors make me pay with a check, so I had one on me), and left with my dress boxed up like something from a 1920s department store, and I was on my way.

As for getting ready, do it with friends, it’s far more fun! I also needed someone to lace me up. Luckily one of my friends did my hair (there’s a hair donut under there + tons of bobbypins and hairspray)! We took a van to Versailles because it was hot and we needed space with our hoop skirts (we took the RER/metro back for kicks!). MakeupbyJoleen is a fun account to follow and she does professional hair and makeup for people attending the ball.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post about the actual ball… It did not disappoint!

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