So I was at my apartment studying German with the remaining member of my Western Coalition – we’ll call her P – when hubby rang with an invitation to a cocktail gala. This resulted in a flurry of concern of what to wear and a quick inventory of required accessories (hey, I’m a girl!). To P’s & my credit, we conducted this appraisal in German (these days, everything is an opportunity to practice speaking, thinking, & living German) so our study session wasn’t totally disrupted. We finally settled on my slate-gray sheath dress, cherry-red peep-toe pumps, black vintage Fendi evening bag, and diamond jewelry. Yes, I wore peep-toes in 0°C weather but my full-length shearling negated all external temperatures and I do subscribe to the school of thought that one must suffer for beauty.
The ‘Luxury Please’ gala is a much-anticipated annual event held at Hofburg Palace and claims to attract the upper echelon of Vienna society. Had I done my research before heading out, I’d have spiced up my wardrobe a bit more, but I am a busy housewife & student for whom high-society drama is only one more item on my list of to-dos (yeah, yeah, I know, I should know better but that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!). Besides, in The Bahamas and New York, cocktail attire is understood completely different from what these folks were rocking (didn’t my foray into Cafe Prückel with the tuxedoed waiter teach me anything?! Apparently, the lights were on but no one was home that night!). There was a tall, incredibly pale lady in an enviable full-length, fitted, leather dress with silver-studs on her shoulders – a bit too Cruella DeVille for my taste but suited her beautifully. Another woman was outfitted in a purple, dark green, and black feather dress that unfortunately made her look like an overfed peacock – not what I think she was aspiring to but you know the rule, just because it looks great on the display doesn’t mean you should wear it. Two younger women flitted around the bi-level exhibition in full-body latex and another not-so-young female opted for body-paint and a thong – I’d like to think she was part of an exhibition but upon further enquiry, I am forced to accept she WAS her own exhibition. Don’t get me wrong, not all of the attendees took the opportunity to walk their own catwalk; some, like me, opted for classic (i.e. Hugo Boss, Chloe, Gucci) while others wore avant-garde like second-skin. (Pictures of attendees)
On the other hand, the venue was everything I anticipated – ancient, elegant, pristine, cultured, and cold. Gorgeous marble floors, staircases, and walls were accentuated by exquisite, sparkling, crystal chandeliers which were everywhere and were too many to number. As I carefully climbed the two-car garage wide staircase to the second floor, my eyes were guided up to the ceiling by Sequoia-thick marble columns and here I found that the attention to detail had not ceased. The upper-third of the walls, ceilings, and trims were delicately ornate; sporting fantastically-carved cherubs and scrollwork. The wooden floor gave off a refined sheen and boy, were these rooms big! Normally, I find Vienna to be conservative (ok, fine, cramped!) with its space allotment for homes, gardens, stores, parking spaces but obviously, its good to be the King! Now, I know this place is old and has probably undergone many facelifts but tonight, the palace was the only lady in the entire event who was appropriately attired – perfect makeup, the right amount of bling, and that enjoyable haughtiness of true class.
After taking in the displays, I found that the place had a club (hello!!) and headed in – does anyone remember the club scene from the first “XXX” movie? So much smoke the air is blue, lots of dark corners from which I could feel eyes on me as I walked to the bar, and just the heady feeling that tonight was trouble! After securing a champagne, I headed to the only empty seats (a leather sofa with two corner chairs) and proceeded to entertain myself by perusing the crowd. The fore-mentioned leather/vinyl-clad crowd sipped drinks at tables while serreptitiously conducting conversations about me (you know how you know when someone’s talking about you). One old dame approached, asked if the seats were taken (definitely THE thing to do – no one sits without asking first; gotta love old-world manners), and proceeded to engage me in conversation. We spent a lovely 30 minutes discussing heritage, education, and the demise of true luxury. She even taught me a new Austrian-dialect word – schnauer (translates loosely into ‘wanna-bes’, ‘posers’) to which I nearly snorted my drink out my nose! I mean, she looked like she could be an aged queen, immaculately turned-out in Chanel, with probably two cans of spray and a ton of pins securing her silver-white bouffant, sharp blue-eyes, an undoubtedly enhanced nose, and oodles of heritage diamonds spitting out such a ….trashy word! After she left, others slowly lost the battle with their curiousity, each approaching in groups, spending 20 or so minutes before returning to their tables (freaking hilarious) while a new group took their place. Seems they all frequent such events, know everyone who attends, and wondered who the newbie (me) was. Hubby commented that I must be the only person in Vienna capable of creating a conversation hub even in a club! Guess its my new super-power.
All in all, it was an unusually surreal night, reminiscent of the luxury scenes in The Bahamas and New York (sans latex, body leather, & nudity). As hubby and I rode home, I chuckled softly to myself as a quote I’d read some time ago came to mind: ‘Bloom where you are planted’. I certainly seem to be doing so.