The Girl at the Viennese Opera

It’s Oscar night in New York City.  For the past couple of weeks, the storefronts of all Fifth Avenue stores have been adorned with the shiniest, sleekest, most “spark-tastic” dresses. Champagne Reserves, I’m told, are running dangerously low in the wake of Fashion Week, Valentine’s Day and this perpetually bleak and cold weather. I rarely watch the Oscars. I ,like many of my generation, prefer the Monday morning abridged version of the gaffes, epic tear jerking speeches, and opening acts. The one thing that I secretly look forward to is the fashion.

Mediarun Digital recently released wonderful infographic of every dress worn by the best actress academy award winners. It’s an interesting cultural repository of fashion memory. You’ll note that Designers for 20s-40s winners are largely unknown. By the time Edith Head made her mark on Hollywood, Oscar Winners, and to a large extent, the Oscars in general, became about the fashion- the designers, the cut, the style, the overall look.

© Mediarun Digital
© Mediarun Digital

As I curl up in my fleece sweatpants and my iPad filled with outdated New Yorker issues and that Tana French murder mystery that I’ve been dying to finish- I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane back to my very own first night of fashion.

Vienna, Austria 1993

My parents had booked tickets for the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera). Now I had no real clue what the Opera was— I was more focused on channeling my inner “Liesl Von Trappe” at the real life Villa Trapp’s estate, specifically dancing around the misplaced gazebo—I did know that this meant an occasion to dress up.

Ever since my mom allowed me to select my own outfits (read gave up trying to dress me)—I loved the thrill and freedom of dressing my sense. Every day of kindergarten I rocked an epic pair of purple, glittery stockings that went with every outfit regardless of the freezing temperatures of a New England childhood.

When the opportunity to dress up for the Opera arrived, I jumped at my chance. I opted for my finest evening wear—a simple chic black A-line dress accessorized with a red felt-rose pin, to match the red rose buckles on my patent leather mary jane flats, and my distinguished faux Dalmatian-spotted fur spaghetti-straps. Every thing was going splendidly as I stepped onto that red carpet ready for my big debut until…

Wait, what was that woman wearing? And that woman? I looked left. I looked right. A key advantage to sitting on Dad’s shoulders meant I had a great aerial view of the Fashion landscape.


Horrified, I almost climbed down to the floor to slink into the crowds, when a thought popped into my heads. I can do that. Subtly, I pushed my faux fur straps down to my shoulders and sashsay as best as I could while still sitting.

I mean, one cannot simply arrive at the Vienna Opera out of style. Not even a five year old.

Me at Five Years Old, with my buddy and fashion companion Zack
Me and my fashion companion Zach (1990)
Woman at the Opera, Mary Cassatt (1878)
Woman at the Opera, Mary Cassatt (1878)
Wiener Staatsoper
Wiener Staatsoper
Wiener Staatsoper
Wiener Staatsoper

Note: I named this post in honor of one of my favorite American artists- Mary Cassatt.

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