Sunday, 3 November 2013

Learning Chinese in 90 lessons: lesson number 78 part 1 - "The ball gown and the budgie smugglers..."

'Hey, are you guys free on Saturday to join me as my guests at this charity gala black tie thingy? Should be quite an evening. I have a table!'

This delightful invite came through the cyber letterbox on Tuesday morning. Who could resist the chance to play dressing up and spend time with D. an old friend from the Lycee (old as in we've known each other for a long time as opposed to ancient, cos we're the same age so obviously he's quite young.) D. has got to be one of the most lovely and smart people I know -  like, if Warren Buffett and Toblerone had a baby, that would be my friend D. Like totally. 

Now all we needed were some serious grown up red carpet outfits to rock the night. Tux for hubby, gown for me. Easy peasy.

Not so easy as it turned out. Or peasy. First his tux: he needed a new one and seeing that he was in San Francisco for the week (without me but that's another story) I was on tux duty. In case you ever find yourself up the same proverbial creek without a paddle, I mean dilemma, here's a 10 step guide to purchasing a tux without a body:

1. Peruse the myriad of sites dedicated to the art of dressing men with style and good taste.
2. Check out the Brooks Brothers' website recommended by aforementioned sites.
3. Wait (7 hours) for it to be morning in California.
3. Call your husband and ask him to read you the sizes of the Brooks Brothers trousers and blazer he's taken with him.
4. Contact your local Brooks Brothers store and speak to the store manager.
5. Wait for the plumber to show up, fix the tap, and leave so that you can make it to Brooks Brothers before closing time.
6. Take one of your husband's suits with you as a proxy for a body.
7. Play tailor with Iliana the fabulously kind and competent store manager who I imagine moonlights as the fairy godmother.
8. Ask Iliana to put a tux shirt on hold for you (you will then need to run home, grab a measuring tape, follow Iliana's instructions and call her to give her your husband's shirt sleave length)
9. Hand over a some cash.
10. Pray that the tux will fit when your husband comes back and tries it on Friday afternoon.

With the tux sorted, it was time to find an evening gown. Did you know that you could rent a designer gown for the evening for £100 online?  I got a bit carried away and looked at hundreds until it dawned on me I couldn't tell how the dress would translate from the tall skinny model in the picture to me, or what size to order. So I decided to forego the online rental option but not before Google's algorithm  in its wisdom decided to plaster my screen with evening gown offers for ever more...

My next option was to go vintage - the only advantage of living in Shoreditch if you ask me - and so the next night I skipped Yoga with George and dragged myself shopping instead. The first two stores were an unmitigated disaster. One had the types of dresses you'd expect to see in a nightmare about having to shop for a dress the night before your wedding. The other... didn't stock evening gowns. With a heavy heart, I made my way to Rokit on Brick Lane.

Rokit is like Auntie Mame's wardrobe on steroids. You have to go in with a plan and stay focused. Within seconds, I was ambushed by some beautiful Chinese and Japanese robes and coats which I admired and tried on (I blame Amy Tan and her upcoming novel The Valley of Amazement) before coming to my senses and heading for the evening gown rack. Waiting for me were 3 black beaded gowns: 2 halter necks (my favourite option) and one Marilyn like spaghetti straps-ooh-la-la -I'm-not-wearing-anything-underneath chiffon and beads concoction.

I went back to the sales girl who'd joined me in admiring the pink Japanese silk coat and she showed me into the changing room.

The first halter neck looked great on but the beading was in pretty bad shape, so I put it aside as back up. The Marilyn number was... stopped by my shapely Spanish bottom so I never got a chance to see what it looked like because it was A SIZE TOO SMALL. The third halter dress was in beautiful condition with amazing beading. I tried it on and it fit like a glove - with that little extra wiggle room that makes you feel ever so slim! I bopped to Britney Spears' "Poison"  as I admired myself in the (appallingly lit) changing room (which actually gives you cellulite on the back of your hands). The song ended, I took the dress off, checked the price tag (£45!!!) put my yoga gear back on , and headed for the till.

Me: Hi! I'd like to buy this dress please.
Desperate-hipster till boy who was younger than the dress: Yeah...
Me: It's beautiful, and it fits me!
Till boy: Yeah... (pause) It's great for Halloween.
Me (slightly peaved): It's not for Halloween! It's for a black tie dinner!
Till boy: Yeah...


Fast forward to Friday. My husband went to retrieve his tux alone as I had an audition in town. (Brief from the casting director: 'Needs to have a very British awkwardness to them (everyone else go home then cos I'm a shoe in). Interesting to look at. Perhaps larger than average nose, eyes, mouth teeth or ears - maybe not all on the same face!' I love a casting director with a sense of humour.)

As I arrived outside the casting studio, my phone rang with the tux update:

- Tux: double tick, gold star, perfecto! Well done me.
- Tux shirt: not so good, hated the pleats, too big, all wrong. As they say in the Eurovision contest: nul points.

Me: So you're picking up another shirt, do you need me to pick up anything else for you?
Him: I'd like some trunks please.
Me (walking into the lobby and checking my hair in the mirror): Is that like boxers but not so loose? You don't mean the bugdie smugglers?
Him: No definitely not the budgie smugglers, I hate those. The not so loose boxers is what I want.
Me: Ok. No budgie smugglers. Gotta go I'm at the casting now. Call you later.

I walked up the flight of stairs into the open plan reception.

Casting director: What's budgie smugglers?
Reception dude: Like speedos? I think it's an Aussie thing.
Film director: I've never heard the term budgie smugglers...
Casting director: Interesting expression budgie smugglers.

I interrupted: 'Hi, I'm Isabelle Gregson. Sorry, that was my husband, he just bought a tux and needs tighter fitting under pants, but not the really snug speedo type ones, you know: budgie smugglers. Have I made an impression? I hope it's a good one. At any rate you won't forget me any time soon, me and my budgie smugglers. You asked for that very British awkwardness. That awkward enough for you? Cos if not, I can do more! Just say the word. Awkward is my middle name.

So we had a nice chat, all 3 of us, about the merits of male underwear and gala dinners, and then the reception dude handed me a script, I filled out a form, he took a mug shot,  and I went to sit down and wait my turn.

to be continued...

No comments: