With suitcases full of handmade dresses, skirt supports, petticoats, corsets and wigs, Taylor Shelby and a group of five friends flew to Venice’s Carnival in February with one goal in mind: to live like 18th-century women of means.

Shelby, a 36-year-old reproduction jewelry designer who lives in Washington, D.C., and runs the website Dames a la Mode, is part of a growing number of would-be time travelers, people who plan their vacations around the past. Festivals in cities such as Versailles and Venice are giving international travelers the opportunity to don period-specific clothing and frolic as if in another age.

For costume enthusiasts, Versailles’ Fêtes Galantes — a one-night-only, baroque-themed throwdown in the French royal residence — provides a time-hop sensation. Varying price tags and levels of participation — from a Hall of Mirrors grand ball (about $150) to an elegant feast, complete with unlimited buffet, private visit to the Royal Opera and a dedicated cloakroom (about $570) — lure roughly 700 guests each year with the promise to party like the Sun King. But for her money, Shelby says Venice’s Carnival offers a lot more time to indulge.

Carnevale di Venezia has been entertaining travelers for centuries. Though it began as a celebration of the Venetians’ victory over Aquileia in 1162, the city eventually turned it into a pre-Lent festival.

As Thomas Madden writes in “Venice: A New History,” the Venetians had noted by 1600 that the number of foreign visitors swelled during Carnevale. Venetians quickly realized they could capitalize on tourist revenue by extending the celebrations as long as they wanted, from weeks to months.

Padding the calendar with even more diversions — opera, plays and plenty of prostitutes — Venice quickly became a must-stop destination for 18th-century gentlemen on their Grand European Tours, and Carnival, with its seductive promise of masked anonymity, made it an even more powerful draw. By 1700, Madden writes, nearly 50,000 people were showing up for the festivities.

Today, Carnival is two weeks long and culminates on Fat Tuesday, but many of the same attractions persist. With varying levels of merrymaking, 3 million visitors will descend on the Venetian lagoon next year from Feb. 8-25. Most of those revelers will be wearing rental costumes, many choosing the Commedia dell’arte classics popularized in the 16th century, including Harlequin, the witty rake; Pantalone, the aging merchant; and the Doctor, with the half mask featuring the famously long nose.

But for history connoisseurs good with a needle and thread, the combination of the festival atmosphere and rich architecture make it an ideal setting to strut about in homemade 18th-century duds.

“One day we toured the Ca’ Rezzonico museum, and there weren’t a lot of visitors,” says Shelby. “In the 18th century there was this fad where European tourists would go to places like Italy and look at fancy houses and art, and it felt very much like we were 18th-century tourists who were looking at a beautiful Italian home full of art because the museum is just so immersive.”

Immersion is the key here. Shelby spent six months sewing her ensembles, which spanned a couple of hundred years; fantasy-style Mucha dresses, Moulin Rouge-inspired outfits and an 18th-century ballet costume. She says the costly reams of fabric, $600 round-trip flight and $3,300 Airbnb palazzo split among six people were a small price to pay for gondola rides, Piazza San Marco parades, and going to parties clad in layers of reproduction shoes and stays.

Travelmate Carolyn Dowdell agrees. The 41-year-old dress historian, who holds a doctorate from Canada’s Queens University and runs the website Modern Mantua-maker, says that there’s something about strolling in a Française gown down a narrow Venetian alley that’s akin to hopping in Doc Brown’s “Back to the Future” DeLorean.

“It adds a depth and an immersive element to the experience when you’re in an environment that is genuinely historical,” she says. “It makes you feel a bit more like you’ve actually time-traveled.”

To get the right effect, Shelby brought four outfits, plus two lounging ensembles featuring a robe and peignoir. Dowdell packed seven. With an investment of roughly $500 in supplies, including 47 yards of fabric in addition to notions like feathers and ribbons, she says her only major purchase was a custom-styled wig. That said, Dowdell confesses that during the day the travelers often wore streetwear.

Night was a different story. Thanks to a fixer in their party, the women had ins at all kinds of private events, including the Black and White Dinner, a Bohemian-themed fete; and the Medianoche Venitien, a 17th- and 18th-century-themed harpsichord concert where the guests spoke English, French and Italian. So how would a Carnival first-timer find out about these intimate gatherings? “You have to have a sherpa,” says Dowdell, meaning a Carnival insider to hook you up. Dowdell suggests visiting Caffè Florian to gather party intel. “That is sort of like Carnival Central,” she says. “That’s where the people who are in the know hang out.”

Of course, there are plenty of public parties with tickets for purchase. The candlelit Mascheranda Grand Ball takes place in Palazzo Pisani Moretta and offers attendees a masked palace gala with tickets starting at about $270 and reaching up to about $1,450 for VIP treatment. Pro tip: The 18th century tends to be the go-to period for Carnival in general, but by no means does everyone do it. “Costumes totally run the gamut,” Dowdell says.

On the days the women did wear their historical costumes, they got the occasional stare or request for a photo, but Dowdell insists the trip was in no way attention-seeking.

“We don’t really like the attention,” she says. “We just enjoy visiting the past.”

And she does mean visiting.

“We all appreciate the advantages of modern life: penicillin, modern dentistry, Tylenol, toilet paper, voting, all of these things you wouldn’t have back then,” she adds. Not to mention the freedom for women to travel independently.

But that’s of little matter. When you’re playing pretend, you get to make your own rules, and that means setting the time machine for 1775.

Shelby and Dowdell’s time-traveling troupe is already planning next year’s trip. Dowdell says she’s also eagerly anticipating another costume-clad gondola ride. “We were just a group of women hanging out in our Française gowns, and, God, we were kind of fabulous,” she says, adding: “It was like, OK, this is the way to experience Venice.”