Getting peed on is not the most auspicious start to any evening, even less so when you're getting ready for a black tie event. Lucky me I didn't have my dress on yet.
My husband and I, along with my in-laws, were given tickets to the St. Louis Mayor's Mardi Gras Ball Friday night. It's an actual black-tie masquerade ball, held at the St. Louis City Hall (if you've never been to city hall, it's georgous...check the website for last year's photos..). I've heard of the ball before, and always thought it would be fun to go, but the tickets start at like $100 a head. Several years ago, in fact, we held our own sort of Mardi Gras masquerade party at our house, encouraging our friends to don masks and black tie and/or costumes, and we had a smattering of old bridesmaids dresses and dusty tuxes along with at least one friend in drag (who looked amazingly like his sister that night...).
When another friend called on Tuesday last week, wanting to know if we wanted to go to a real ball, it was all I could do not to jump up and down in delight (then again, I might have anyway...you'd have to ask my husband). I love getting dressed up, and going to fancy parties, and we have precious few excuses to do that these days. Reality hit home about 30 seconds later, when I realized that we had 3 days to find outfits and a babysitter.
My husband owns a tux, so I thought his outfit would be the easiest of all. Wrong. The tux is nearly 10 years old, and he's not quite the tailored 30 waist that he was back when it was purchased, and upon inspection there was not quite enough fabric in his pants waistline to alter it to fit now (not to insult him...he's a quite respectable 32 waistline now, but there were not 2 extra inches of fabric to work with). I went to Kohl's on Wednesday for hose for myself and found that they had tuxes on sale--for $120, I brought him home a brand new one (not inclucing the shirt & vest/cummerbund, which he owns 2 sets of). I'm not sure he could have rented one for that price. I'm not sure he could have found a regular suit for that price. I did have to hem the pants, and the jacket could use a touch of tailoring at the shoulders (he'd fit a 39, but no one sells odd-numbered sizes), but overall it looked wonderful.
I found in my closet the dress I'd made for our own masquerade several years ago (for about $10 worth of materials, if I remember right)--it's a 2-piece gown in purple taffeta, with a full, floor length skirt, and a strapless corset-style boned top that has lacing up the back, exposing about an inch of skin underneath the black cording. Appropriate. Flattering. Still fits (that lacing is fairly forgiving). Price is right. Except: it's impossible to wear a bra underneath it. Even a low-backed bra would show, unless the low back strap went across my butt or something. During my Kohl's trip, I was hoping to find a stick-on bra, preferably the kind that had real cups in the front, and sticky sides. I found only the stick-on cup kind. Those are completely useless, by the way. Maybe I bought the wrong size (they're sold by "cup" size, but a 32C and a 36C would have different "C" cups, so who knows what they intended by "C"), but 1) they weren't particularly supportive, and 2) got kind of itchy after about 10 minutes and 3) the only squishing they did formed my breast into a Madonna-style cone that was not flattering. I tried using some double-sided tape under my arms as insurance to hold the top up, but it stuck only to my skin and not to the dress at all.
In the end, I relied on the boning in the top, and used caution when raising my hands over my head, lest everyone think I earned my beads the old-fashioned way. I think it worked well anyway--the color was perfect for Mardi Gras, and the dress was both formal enough for black-tie and tart-y enough for Mardi Gras without being too slutty. The other accessories: a strand of fancy beads leftover from that party, a mask of the same vintage, black fabric high heels that I bought last year while I was pregnant (they were not too tight even after dancing for an hour! hooray for shopping with swollen feet!), and a little evening purse (that probably cost more than my dress).
We found a babysitter from our kid's daycare. I tried in vain to find a salon who could do my hair (with no appointment on a snow day). I didn't even get around to attempting to curl it myself, as I was busy feeding and changing Trystan before he would stop fussing and let me get dressed.
The ball was fun. The food was great. I made a pitifully small dent in the open bar's supply of wine (1 glass made me tipsy....I have no head for alcohol these days ). I think we missed dessert because we were dancing. The friend who was giving us tickets has worked on the Mardi Gras celebrations for years, and got up on stage at one point to present something to Mayor Slay from his krewe, Zulu (which is establishing their first chapter ever outside of New Orleans).
Hanging from the archways of the upper levels around the center hall and grand staircase were large (2-3 foot diameter) balloons in purple, green and gold. As the night wore on and the dancing got underway, the balloons began falling (with or without help, I'm not sure) and the dancers batted them around the dance floor. It was like a scene from a high school prom with the masses of tuxedo and gown-cladded forms pulsing to the music, except for the men in drag and the super-sized balloons. Looking down from above, the scene resembled a pan of boiling water, with large globe-shaped molecules occaisionally escaping up into the air.
I wouldn't mind doing that again next year...