Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Dress Code - Pac-a mac or pearls

Absolutely fabulous, hot autumnal afternoon in Sydney with golden light slanting through the trees round the outdoor café I am sitting in, but as with all good dramas this is now the point for a line of dramatic dots……………… the weather forecast for the next few days is not good.

Rain is normally not a problem in my life, however in a crazed social organiser moment, crossed with the desire to embrace my inner cultural being, I have revved up several of my friends about what fun it would be to go to Turandot the Sydney Opera production staged outdoors on a floating stage on Sydney Harbour.  I fear I have perhaps waxed too lyrical about the operatic and dramatic delights in store, to the extent Husband is convinced he is going to see a fire breathing dragon – and whilst it is true there is definitely a giant pagoda and a mechanical dragon, I am not completely convinced it is going to spit fire – but as a result of my enthusiastic sales pitch, I now find myself in the fairly unaccustomed role of heading up a party who qualify for a group discount – am considering whether to get one of those little flags to wave so I can marshal them?  Meanwhile I am haunted by a craven fear that it will pour,  and my loyal concert party of opera tragics will be glaring at me from beneath plastic hoods as the rain drums around us.

However there are few things as spectacular as an evening spent sitting on the purpose built seating in the Botanic Gardens, complete with the bars and restaurants that appear for a couple of months whilst the Outdoor Cinema and the Opera on the Harbour are on.    The scenery is out of this world with the Opera House and Bridge as a backdrop as the lights go down and then the lights around the Harbour providing a sparkling frame as darkness falls.  The Flying Foxes (large and incontinent bats) used to make sitting in the back row of seats, underneath the overhanging trees, a bit of a sartorial challenge – what to wear that you don’t mind getting covered in bat shit was always a puzzle, but now the bats have been persuaded to move on, it is possible to sit in the back rows without more that an occasional glance upwards.

I am not a great opera buff – hence have had to consult Sydney Opera’s helpful ‘cheat sheet’ to discover that the final “t” in Turandot is not pronounced – bit like the Drama Queens’ pronunciation of ‘water’ which also generally lacks any mention of the ‘T’ sound, but I do love the drama of the outdoor opera – and boy do they go to the max on set and effects.  Fireworks are completely obligatory and are apparently going to light up the sky during ‘Nessum Dorma’.  During Carmen, a couple of years ago, a vintage car appeared to great effect whilst one of the highlights of Aida last year was getting up close with the camels that made a star appearance.

However the biggest nightmare is of course, what happens if it rains?  And the closely related question, what on earth am I going to wear, pac- a- mac or pashmina?  Normally I am never particularly stressed by dress code questions, taking the fairly characteristic, eg lazy, view that unless one looks spectacular or dreadful, people rarely notice and I would prefer they remember me for my sparkling repartee rather than outfit.  Note this attitude is mirrored by my thoughts on hosting dinner parties, where I feel that unless the food is beyond delicious, or I poison people, then that’s fine.  (Anyone who has been subjected to my dinner party food – please feel free to rebut this statement).

However I do at times get the dress code so spectacularly wrong that I am out of sight on the fashion front – and not in a Kardashian type way.   The worst I think was the Derby Day – part of the racing festival centred around the Melbourne Cup, in November– it was unfortunate that in the excitement of being invited down to Derby Day in Melbourne I had failed to ask anyone about the Dress Code – it turns out it is traditional to wear black and white to Derby Day.  It was perhaps a tad unfortunate I had gone for a celebratory fire station red outfit topped off by a red hat – if the expression ‘sore thumb’ comes to mind then you have the correct and bizarrely quite accurate picture in your mind of me, clad as the scarlet imposter, in the midst of a sea of black and white – it was like an inverted “Where’s Wally?” picture.

The good news is that being Sydney, anything will go at Turandot, so I can get it wrong in good company, and if the rain lashes down, I’ve got some great raingear that I wore daily in my northern hemisphere life that now hangs in the laundry unused most of the year.  And as for the under layer, as it were, I’m going to take Dan Porta, the set designer’s words to heart – “We have to temper the aesthetics to the weather …… but still make everything look dangerous and exciting” so I’m mentally channelling the black jumpsuit rather than jeans and sweater.

And just as a footnote, I have just heard on the radio that today was the hottest April day recorded in Sydney - no wonder it all seemed glorious - keep those opera loving fingers crossed it lasts.


  1. You'll love the Opera and I am sure you'll look fabulous whatever you wear - I have been to Glyndebourne in a very swish dress and high heels and sat and enjoyed a picnic. Never know when a Blighters rain mac will come in handy but hope you don't need it !

  2. So wish we were part of your Group discount mob! Have fun and wear Pac a mac with pearls ALWAYS daaaarrrling!

  3. It was a totally fabulous evening - rain threatened and indeed sprinkled at one point, but in the end a hint of watery danger added a frisson to the evening and it really was spectacular - and the fire breathing dragon did materialise despite my scoffing at Husband's expectations.


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