It was only a few weeks ago I was invited along with Hayley and Kerrie to the annual St Andrews University Charity Fashion Show. Held in an elegant, bespoke marquee erected especially for the occasion in the grounds of the affluent university. Made famous in 2002 by a certain Princess in a sheer slip dress, which of course left little to the imagination. The event in its 23rd year has since seen subsequent press coverage, sold out tables, lucrative sponsorships and eye catching collections from sought after British designers, and has deservingly become the UK’s greatest student run event.
This year a dream like theme named ‘Eyes wide Shut’ inspired by the delicate realm between reality and fantasy, with a risqué undertone taken from Albert Schnitzler’s novel ‘Dream Story’. This brought to the forefront of my mind a dream or perhaps a nightmare I’d experienced just few nights previous…..
Hayley and I arrived at the medieval institution, the drifting fog affecting our clear vision, we were greeted by Minotaur-like security guards in puffa jackets, their bull’s heads complete with gold, chunky septum rings. As we entered through the opulent, heavy baroque curtains we were met by a group of sinister looking photographers, luring us towards the red carpet and conspicuously persuading us to have our photographs taken, posing in front of the sponsors wall, blinding flashes glazing our eyes, the gaunt figures in draped black hoods, faceless and menacing behind their camera lens. Ushered through double glass doors we proceeded down a grand staircase and entered the main hall. A slim, well stocked bar ran around the outskirts of the lavish room. Bare chested waiters skimmed through the crowd effortlessly, feeding guests with delicate, crystal urns of baby pink champagne. An eerie shock of distress flooded through me as I gaped around the vast space, discovering Hayley and I had formidably underdressed and perhaps read our invite to the popular event wrong. Fellow females fashioned haut couture gowns complete with flamboyant headwear whilst our male counterparts dressed in tuxedo suits. The disconcerting thought not of our company’s attire but in their mythological hybrid image. Centaurs, goats, fauns and birds all with humanoid bodies, giddy and woozy, the bunch slurped their fizz through beaks and muzzles. A ripe feeling of delirium whizzed dramatically throughout and the creatures gave off a rattled feeling of emptiness, crazed with alcohol or more.
The catwalk show proceeded imminently and we took our seats in the VIP section, raised intrusively above the catwalk and the whimsical students below. Casting my eyes over the crowd, the scene reminiscent of Shakespere’s ‘A midsummer nights dream’ or an ancient secret society cult. Profoundly beautiful models strutted fiercely down the twisting catwalk, making their Hayley Scanlan garments look jaw-droppingly good. The masked crowd leering and lampooning the unsuspecting mannequins. Young men prowled the stage, stalking their prey, aggressively grabbing towards the girls as the skilfully slinked through the intimidating crowd.
Caught in the haze of our phantom reality, Hayley and I giddily downed flutes upon flutes of champagne, our minds effervescing and our body’s weakening to the music that pumped over head. Hazily dragging our way through the crowd, bumping and bashing into the rowdy animals that surrounded us, we escaped into the crisp night.
Unaware of my legs carrying me there, I looked across to the passenger seat where Hayley was strapped in and ready for her journey home, our damp skirts drying on the back seat, we were in the car and I was drunkly driving through the winding streets and hills of Fife. Tiny speckles of light danced in front of my eyes as the Dundee skyline came into focus and I realised we were crossing the Tay Bridge, driving through the empty streets I safely pulled the vehicle into a safe spot opposite The Westhouse on South Tay Street.
A short, firm tap on the window ensured I came to my senses. The police officer scowling ordered me to roll down the window, overwhelmed with panic and realising I wore nothing but a cerise pink thong I obeyed and pleasantly chatted with the confused constable. Looking down once more I realised I was fully clothed, my patent skirt fresher than ever and I awoke. Confused as to whether the vivid tale was a dream or reality.
In actual fact it is utterly difficult to determine fiction from reality as the night turned out to be just as imaginative as the story above. We met our friend Jonny at the Ogston hotel for a quick drink before hobbling along to the university grounds in six inch heels. The three girls looking rare and kitted out in Hayley’s latest HS collection. Our late arrival unfortunately determined us missing out on the complementary Lanson champagne. The show started and the models strutted there stuff showing off collections from Hayley Scanlan and her sister label HS. Other designers included Tom Morris and Persephone Corsetry. The event as always was precisely thought out and exquisite with an exciting auction bumping up the cash for the charities chosen. A constant flow of fizz kept our intimate VIP party alive as we all intertwined, mixed and networked, swapping business cards and blog details. The crowd as rowdy and as rude as last year, we decided to leave the event.
With the lure from friends and Optimo calling from the Reading Rooms we cut our fashion night short and stumbled on to the cobbled streets of Scotland’s most beautiful town. This time deciding against the inebriated drive home, we staggered to the bus station. Equipped with our goody bags, stolen plastic champagne flutes and a bottle of Lanson stuffed down my sweetheart swing dress, we managed to bully poor Glaswegian Jonny into getting the bus back with us. Keeping the late night travellers entertained with annoying stories, high pitched singing and the constant flow of alcohol.
A short pub crawl, then eventually making it onto the Reading Rooms, I end my story here. The rest of the night has a slight cellphone covering and I only recall snippets, including Hayley climbing and dancing on the stage, Kerrie swapping me coats and playing violin and myself nose diving through the hatch of the cloak room door. All’s well that ends well.
Long live the VEF and reality is not only stranger than you think QUEEN, it’s stranger than you can think.