Waking on Friday I felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness. Today was the day that I was debuting the Pretty Princess Dress. I can’t help but feel a little nervous when wearing a new dress out in public for the first time – I’m not sure if that’s because I’m concerned that something will malfunction or if it’s because people will be seeing it in the flesh instead of carefully curated photographs. But, the excitement of the day’s events won and after a shower and some time spent arranging my hair (and hair extensions), I was ready to get dressed.
Hannah and I made our way down to the Scottish Hall for the ball practice – an incredibly valuable two hours every year. It was a great refresher for Hannah, who hadn’t been able to make it to Oamaru for three years, and also a great refresher for me too since I have no other excuse to partake in any of the dances at any other time of the year. It was also a great introduction to some of the dances for Anne and Dianne who were also at the practise. When we broke into sets to learn the Alberts they joined us, being the couple opposite us. To begin with the different sequences were a little confusing but after a couple of demonstrations and some practice they became a lot easier. There was the occasional moment of getting muddled up by each one of us at some point but we got there.
A Chance Encounter
After the practice ended I stayed back to talk to Jen to find out when the Hall would be open the following morning so that I could organise setting up for the Fashion Show. Exiting the Hall I couldn’t find my people but then spotted them down the street talking to a couple with their children. I started walking down to catch up with them, taking my time. Hannah waved at me to hurry and, when I did catch up to them, the lady was asking to take a photo with us. It wasn’t until someone called her Nadia that I realised why she looked familiar – it was Nadia Lim! She was in town promoting her new cookbook and, like many people, was unaware that the Heritage Celebrations exist, suddenly finding herself in amongst it.
You can see Nadia’s Instagram post here.
We took a break at Casa Mia for a coffee and a chance to sit and while there I received a message that I had won a double pass to the Fete on Sunday. Hannah and I took a detour to collect them before walking down towards the Opera House for the Group Photo Opportunity. People were already gathering, and just before we crossed the road to join them we saw Liane skating up and down the footpath. We hurried over to see her and to take some photos, I have to admit I was a little concerned about her losing her balance but she roller-skates and ice-skates all the time so has pretty good balance.
The Group Photo Opportunity
There were plenty of familiar faces outside the Opera House that hadn’t been at any of the previous day’s events so more hellos were exchanged. And I had some people come up to me to say ‘oh, this is the dress! I’ve been watching your progress online!’ which took me a lot by surprise because even though I do post pictures online I don’t really think about the fact that people can see what I’m making or what I’m up to. Let alone follow a project and look forward to seeing the result in person…
As with every year, photographers and tourists assembled in the middle of the street and had started snapping away even before we had arranged ourselves on the steps. Before the Official Photograph was taken the winner of the best Store Window Display was announced, as was the Best Dressed to Theme Lady, Gentleman, Couple and Family. Liane took out the Best Dressed Lady and was also requested to do a skate past by the Otago Daily Times photographer.
The group started to disperse, to form smaller clusters, or started migrating inside to find seats for the talk. I had originally planned to attend the talk myself but the weather had turned out so lovely I suggested to Liane and Hannah that we take some photographs in the Botanic Gardens prior to the Garden Party. Liane wanted to change and Hannah and I had a couple of errands to run so we agreed to meet up a bit later on to do this.
A Bit of a Photoshoot
The Garden Party
There were already a lot of people present at the Garden Party when we arrived and a game of croquet was in full swing also. Lorna, Russell, Jacqui, Karen, and Garth were having a go so I got to watch them play before we mingled with all of the splendidly dressed folk taking tea, sandwiches, scones, and cake.
Maree and Scott arrived, with Max and Lauren, who had come down from Christchurch (our paths had crossed previously during the Easter festivities the year before) so I joined them. As Scott had his leg in a cast, they were able to claim some seats so he could sit down for a while. We did get a chance to take some photos though and I played photographer to get some photos of the four of them together, as well as some couple shots. And, of course, we had to get some photos of myself and Maree together – including an obligatory American Duchess shoe showing off photo! (It seems that I couldn’t stop showing off my shoes and, therefore quite scandalously, my ankles, during the course of the Heritage Celebrations).
It would not do, however, to leave the Garden Party without taking a turn in the horse and carriage, so Liane and I joined a small queue to wait for our turn. Bee was, once again, being a very well behaved horse, and it was lovely to see Julie again. The ride was, as always, very enjoyable and sadly came to an end far too soon. I can definitely understand why ladies would take drives through parks in their carriages.
Some Down Time
Liane and I walked back to our accommodation after that, to have a rest before getting ready for the ball. I had not been back in my room long before Maree messaged me to tell me that they were on their way to come and collect the 1890s Plum Ball Gown that I had packed so that Lauren had a dress to wear to the ball. I carried it downstairs and stood outside on the footpath, dress and accessories in hand, not all that bothered that I had by that time removed my hat and gloves (again, scandalous!). They soon arrived and I handed the dress over, hoping that it would actually fit (for the most part it did – phew!) and told them that I would be sure to reserve chairs for them that evening.
In theory, all I had to do was to change my bodice and redress my hair which shouldn’t have taken too long but it took me some time to arrange my hair in such a way that my tiara would be securely positioned and could not, at any stage of the evening, accidentally come loose. Once I had got myself all sorted, it was nice to have some down time to put my feet up and to scroll through the photos that I had taken so far. And, to write myself a list of what I needed to do the following morning in preparation for the Fashion Show.
Queen Victoria’s 200th Birthday Ball
Finally, the time to walk down to the Ball arrived and Hannah and I set off together. A few of the tables had already been claimed but their were still plenty to choose from. We spotted Anne and Dianne seated at one table and went over to join them after checking that it was okay to reserve some of the chairs for the rest of our party. We sat and chatted, watched our fellow ball attendees enter the hall, and inspected the dance list, as well as the menu.
Maree, Scott, Max, and Lauren arrived and I ran over to hug Maree hello and indicated our table. It seemed a little strange to see one of my dresses being worn and seeing how it actually moved when on a person, but I was so glad that it generally did fit and Lauren had something to wear that evening. As Scott was unable to dance that evening, Maree had fair warning that I was going to be dancing several of the dances with her (due to her being much taller than I am she ended up being my ‘gentleman’). So, when we were getting ready for the Grand March to begin I grabbed her arm.
I ended up dancing maybe two thirds of the dances, with Maree and Hannah as my partners, apart from the Friendly Waltz where you dance with all the gentlemen. Partway through the evening it was time for the Albert Figures and Hannah and I, Anne and Dianne, and our other two couples from the practice in the morning found each other. We were all given a run through of each dance for the benefit of those absent from the practice and then off we went. We had much better luck remembering the steps and whose turn it was than we had and had a lot of fun.
Though, there was the incident that went largely unnoticed when I accidentally stepped back on my hem, lost my footing, and half fell backwards into a chair at our table. Lauren, who was seated, helped me regain my balance, while Scott and Max, also at the table were completely oblivious!
It usually is my custom to stay until the very end of the ball but Liane and Hannah decided to call it a night with a couple of dances left. I decided to depart with them as I had a big day ahead of me, so we said our goodbyes to all of our friends and headed back to our rooms. I wanted to fall into bed as soon as I stepped back into my room but had to let my hair down and untangle the tiara from it first. With that mammoth task done, I crawled under the covers, ran through my plan for the morning through my mind, and fell asleep.
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Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations 2019: Part 4 – coming soon!