This past weekend, my sister and I took our six-year-old niece to see “The Nutcracker” at our local theatre, a lovely, ornate building rich in warm golden light, beautifully carved wood trims and sparkling light fixtures. It was an all-around beautiful occasion on so many levels — a charming ballet with spritely dancing and gorgeous costumes, a cultural event in a gorgeous setting and a fun family occasion for niece-auntie bonding. (You know how into being an aunt I am.) It was worth it just to hear my niece gasp, “Oh my god, it’s so bee-yoo-tee-full!” when the curtain went up on the Land of Sweets in Act 2. Introducing a child to beauty is one of my favorite things ever. (Also: decided Tchaikovsky’s score is some of my most favorite holiday music ever!)
But what was most fun was going to the ballet and seeing how mostly everyone else was all dressed up in their holiday best: lots of lovely velvet dresses, sharp suits, glittering jewelry, spandy-nice shoes. Nearly everyone was in alignment with the setting and occasion by way of their dressing up. My niece had worn a red polka dot dress and cute dress shoes; my sister wore a pretty sweater dress; I wore a dark blue chiffon dress with lovely pleating and beading at the bodice that makes me feel vaguely like a Henry James character. The minor agony of getting ready was deciding which of my “joyous clothes” would come out that night, a flurry of my prettiest frocks piling up on the bed.
So often I think dressing up is as much fun as the event itself — maybe even more than the occasion itself. (I submit high school prom as an example of this. I don’t even remember where we went out to eat for my senior prom, but I do remember my dress!) Going to the ballet reminded me of one of fashion’s primal powers: it marks the joyful rites of life, it helps us contribute some visual beauty to the world, and it also helps us feel part of the occasion and the larger world itself. And it makes life so much more fun.
I did have more opportunities when I lived in NYC for dressing up; after my friends and the art, dressing up constantly may be what I miss the most about life in the city. After this weekend, I made a note to self: I need more occasions in my life. I already have the dresses waiting in my closet, like showgirls lounging in the dressing room, waiting to take the stage.