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Can't bring back the past? Of course we can: a Roaring 20s ball for the Classes of the 2020s

<h5>Dillon Gym during OBB.</h5>
<h6>Zoe Berman / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Dillon Gym during OBB.
Zoe Berman / The Daily Princetonian

Daisys and Gatsbys on a discotheque dance floor, 20th-century pop hits, and elaborate 1920s-style entrees and desserts: Princeton’s “Roaring Twenties'' themed Orange and Black Ball (OBB) on Nov. 4 was filled with all the glitz and glam that many missed coming out of multiple remote semesters.

Undergraduate Student Government (USG) 2023 Class President Taryn Sebba ’23, who chaired the OBB Committee, highlighted the particular significance of the event to the current Princeton community.

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“I think it's an event that’s both very inspiring given the times that we’re in and everything that we as a student body have lost being off campus for a year,” Sebba said. “And, it also shows that we’re here to make up for that lost time, and be better and bigger than ever before!”

Many students shared Sebba’s sentiments. The ball saw an attendance increase of about 500 students since the last time it was held two years ago. According to Sebba, back in 2019, only 1,400–1,500 students attended, while this year approximately 2,000 students — roughly half of the undergraduate student population — made their way to Dillon gym.

Students at OBB came for a slew of reasons. For Calvin Hunt ’24, the ball was a chance to make up for opportunities lost during the pandemic.

“After two years of Zoom classes and sweatpants it was nice having an excuse to dress up,” he said. “I just had to [come]! I had to hang out with friends! It’s been a while. I haven’t been to a dance in like two years!”

Ananya Grover ’24 said she and Tanushree Banerjee ’24 showed up “to have fun,” and, as Banerjee mentioned, laughing, “to lose our voices!”

Grover is a web designer for The Daily Princetonian.

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Not only did Princeton students show up, many arrived outfitted fully in themed garb — they donned flapper dresses, fancy suits, feathered headpieces, and boa scarfs. But not everyone was dressed formally. Styles at OBB ranged from all-out 1920s regalia to would-have-been prom outfits to Halloween costumes to comfy sweats.

For Sebba, the variety is part of what made the ball so special.

“The beauty of OBB lies in the fact that people can come however they want,” she said. “You saw some people in sweatpants rolling up from Firestone. You saw other people decked out in 1920s gear.”

One such person, Bryan Perez ’22, came to OBB wearing a self-described “gangster vest,” completing his Roaring 20’s outfit with a pocket watch he said he purchased from Party City. Camila Vasquez ’23, who was with Perez, joked that the watch was a “family heirloom.” Vasquez came to the ball wearing her Halloween costume: a Gatsby-style dress topped with a headpiece and pearls.

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USG Class Vice President Ive Jones ’24 also came in style, showcasing what she described as “a black one-shoulder dress” with “a tulip hemline and some ruffling.” To complete the look, she wore some “black glitter shoes and a pink sparkly sash,” as well as “a flapper headband, and pearls.”

Deniz Erdag ’25 wore an outfit that exemplified the combination of formal and comfortable many of the student attendees opted for. She described the rationale for her sartorial choices: “I have a black beaded dress and leggings because it’s cold. This is the closest thing I had that matched the theme.”

Reflecting on the range of outfits and commitment to the Roaring 20s theme amongst the student body, Sebba said that what she “really wanted to push for was accessibility and also equity in this event.” One of the ways she thinks USG worked to make the theme more inclusive was by providing a collection of accessories by the photo booth for attendees to take photos in and later wear throughout the night.

“By providing accessories it really made it a lot more inclusive than previous years where people maybe don’t have the means to dress up or simply don’t want to or can’t because of their class schedules,” Sebba said.

For Sebba, the treasure trove of accessories, among other measures, played a role in maintaining the OBB as an event where “anyone and everyone can show up in whatever they want and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Amid the excitement of dancing, the thrill of dressing up or dressing down, and the allure of casino-like activities, many students enjoyed spending quality time with friends. When asked what her favorite part of the night was, Sally Jane Ruybalid ’22 said that it was “just being here with friends.”

Ruybalid is an Opinion Columnist for the ‘Prince.’

Sebba shared that the class government felt the need to bring back OBB to allow for students of all class years to come together.

“I think everyone [has] just really been missing the ability to freely interact with other students, and also to just celebrate life and celebrate being a Princeton student,” she said.

Overall, Sebba expressed how proud she was with the outcome of OBB, especially with the class government’s ability to keep the event safe given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and make it equitable, accessible, and inclusive for students of many different backgrounds.

When it came to inclusivity, Sebba offered thoughts for how she believes future OBBs could be improved. This year’s OBB fell on the same day as the Hindu religious holiday Diwali, which is an important celebration for many members of the student body.

“The date was already chosen by ODUS. We had the jurisdiction to choose the theme, different catering options, buy props and decorations, but we were handed the date,” she explained.

Sebba told the ‘Prince’ that her concern about the overlap with observed religious holidays for the future was expressed by USG to ODUS, and they hope for change in the future.

Looking forward, Sebba said she sees the Orange and Black Ball as an important and unifying fixture of the undergraduate social calendar.

“I truly and deeply hope the Orange and Black Ball never goes out of style,” she said.

Tori Tinsley is a Staff Features Writer and a Staff Copy-editor for The Daily Princetonian. She can be reached at ett2@princeton.edu.

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