As I have already mentioned, each evening at the hotel had an optional theme. On the first night it was Bond girls, which really didn’t appeal as much due to the nebulous nature of the theme as anything else. The third night really didn’t appeal (more on that later) which left the theme for the middle night, which also coincided with the so-called gala dinner. The theme? Snow Queen. Andrea and I had both agreed well in advance that this is the one theme that we would try to do properly, as it felt like it was the only one that would allow us to be feminine and elegant rather than a bit pervy.
For me, the quest to find a Snow Queen costume began almost as soon as I booked for the weekend. The first thing I tried was typing “Snow Queen Costume” into Amazon, but this returned either kids’ outfits based on the movie “Frozen”, kinky adult fetish gear, or cheap-looking fancy dress outfits. This was not what I wanted. So I had to think about this problem a bit more deeply. What does “Snow Queen” mean? White dress and fur collar? Yes, that was the obvious answer, so I started searching for white dresses. Buying one in a shop was a non-starter purely on the grounds of expense, so it was back to shopping on t’internet.
Surprisingly, I found something with potential almost on the first search. Just searching for “white dress” produced this, which I thought looked very elegant, even if it was cream rather than white…
I put in a bid on eBay, but lost out at the last minute. Undeterred, I looked up the seller. It was a company called My Evening Dress, an e-tailer selling cut-price women’s formal and evening wear. Turns out they had another such dress in my size on eBay, or I could pay full price direct from their website. I took a chance on another auction, and this time I was successful. An amazing price for what feels like a quality item, fully lined with a good weight to it. So by early May I had my dress. And being a halter neck, I had a bit of flexibility with the length, which is very useful given my height. The only problem was, it contains cups for the breasts, and is not designed to be worn with a bra. This was a problem because when I tried it on I discovered that my forms were too big (DD) and really a C was probably the biggest that could comfortably be accommodated. I explained my problem at the Butterfly Club one night and it was Andrea to the rescue. She had a spare old pair in a C cup going unused, so a loan was duly arranged and by the end of May I was in possession of a suitably sized set of forms to go with my new dress.
Of course, the dress was only the start of the outfit, I needed to accessorise. The first thing, which I found very quickly while searching for clip-on earrings for everyday use were these beauties…
Once I had tried on the dress it became very clear to me that I couldn’t just wear it without something to go over my shoulders. For a genetic male I don’t have the broadest shoulders, but when I’m bare shouldered in a halter neck dress they do still look unusually wide. So I decided that I needed some sort of wrap, bolero or stole. My first thought for a Snow Queen outfit had been to get one of those in fur, and I watched several on eBay but none of them ever grabbed me enough that I put a bid in. I suppose I just wasn’t sure that they would actually go with my dress. But then, in August, while searching for “cream stole” I found this;
It was completely different from what I had intended but for some reason I just thought that it would work. And even better, it was less than a fiver! However, limited opportunities for dressing at home meant that I arrived in Eastbourne never having tried it on with the dress.
Obviously I would need some suitable shoes to go with the outfit, so I found myself a nice pair of cream heels. I got them home and tried them on and I liked them so much I decided that they could be upgraded to part of the standard “going out” wardrobe. Which left me in a bind again. I guess I could just use those shoes for my Snow Queen shoes, but it would seem more special if I had some special shoes. And then, in early September, I found these on eBay;
Very elegant and a bit more ornate than the pair of plain cream wooden heeled shoes that I had originally intended for this purpose. So there we have it. Dress, stole, earrings, shoes, that’s everything isn’t it? Of course not. I can’t be dressed in a cream formal dress and cream everything else and then walk into the gala dinner carrying a mid-sized black faux leather handbag now can I? So back to eBay again, this time searching for a cream clutch bag. I found one quickly, and it was from a seller literally less than half an hour’s drive from my own house.
And there we really do have it. The outfit is complete, with one month to spare. Or so I thought. A few weeks beforehand I was chatting to my friend Lauren in work and telling her about the Snow Queen dinner, and she came up with make-up suggestions. Basically, glitter and lots of it. With a pale pink lipstick and white eyeliner, the idea being that it would look like there were ice crystals in my eyelashes and on my cheeks. So a few weeks beforehand, while on a shopping trip to Belfast with Andrea, I picked up the lipstick, glitter eyeshadow, glitter nail varnish and white eyeliner. But I also had to go back to eBay for more make up – glitter mascara & eyeliner, and roll-on glitter, a little tube of glitter with a roll-on ball, a bit like a little deodorant ball.
And then around a few days before leaving I realised that I didn’t really have any suitable necklaces to fill the gaping expanse of chest that would be visible in this outfit, so just two days before I was due to depart for Dublin I found the necklace I was looking for in my local Tesco of all places. And then on the very afternoon of the Snow Queen ball, I found the bracelet I needed in BHS in Eastbourne. My outfit was complete with less than three hours to spare.
I mention all this story of putting together my Snow Queen outfit really to illustrate how much I had thought about what I was going to wear tonight. For some, this type of event may just be another opportunity to dress up, to wear something flamboyant and outrageous. For me, it was a chance to be feminine, elegant, even beautiful. I wanted that more than anything in the world. I so wanted to be an elegant and beautiful woman.
It took me well over an hour and a half to get ready for dinner that night. The thing that took the longest to do was my nails. I did a bottom coat of clear, followed by a coat of glitter, followed by another coat of clear, on fingernails and toenails. It looked pretty decent in strong light, but in low light it wasn’t exactly an unqualified success. With hindsight I can see that it needed a pale coloured base coat, probably pale blue or pink. But for all that, the photos don’t really do my nails justice, they did look better in real life.
I also couldn’t decide if I should go barelegged or not. Bear in mind I was wearing peep toe shoes, and I had gone to the bother of painting my toenails. In the end the broken veins around my ankle persuaded me that barelegged was not the way to go and so I invested in some 7 denier natural tights, with no colouring at the toes, and which were borderline invisible while covering up those skin blemishes on my legs.
Slowly everything came together, the dress, the shoes, the make-up, the jewellery, even the clutch bag. And then finally I draped the stole round my shoulders and looked at myself in the mirror. I was a sight I never thought I would see. Me, Kirsty, elegant and, to me, beautiful. It was one of the most joyous moments I have ever experienced.
I took a photo of myself in the full length mirror in my bedroom. Writing about it now, I’m actually quite nervous about sharing it. Me, who has shared so many photos of myself here and elsewhere, now has an attack of the nerves. I think it’s because it means so much to me that I was able to do this and feel like this, that it almost doesn’t feel like “just” a picture. It’s more than that. It’s a dream. It’s the sixth form formal I never had, my day as a bridesmaid, my first communion, the day I became a princess, one of those days that every little girl has as part of her growing up process, and that I never had the opportunity to have because I was stuck wearing short trousers and a velvet bow tie instead. And I hadn’t even left my bedroom yet.
By this time it was 7.10pm, and dinner was due to have started ten minutes ago. I hadn’t heard from either Andrea or Ruth, and so I decided I would just go round to their rooms and knock on their doors. As I walked down the corridor, and with perfect timing, Andrea came towards me from the opposite direction. She looked stunning. I mean I looked good, and I really was over the moon with how I looked, but she looked completely stunning. Such a perfect Snow Queen. Clad all in white, with fur in all the appropriate places and an amazing make-up job. She looked at me and almost immediately her bottom lip started to quiver, and the tears were very close. “Don’t cry Andrea” I said, “I don’t look that bad do I?” Just at this point Ruth emerged from her room, which of course was right were we were standing. She had decided not to do the Snow Queen thing, but instead was wearing a fetching short blue dress.
We took the lift down to the ground floor to find that everyone else was already in the restaurant, including Claire who was sitting by herself at our table. Ruth went in slightly ahead of us, leaving Andrea and I to walk in together. I felt like everyone was looking at us, and I felt like the centre of attention, a movie star, a beauty queen, just so special. Then I sat down and ate a meal more carefully than I had ever eaten a meal before. No way anything was going to get spilled on this dress! As we ate, we looked round the room and couldn’t see anybody else in anything that could remotely be described as a Snow Queen outfit. Surely we couldn’t be the only two people on the whole weekend who had decided to go for it on the big night? Of course not.
The gala dinner could best be described as mostly edible, and after it ended we relocated to the downstairs disco for the competition for best costume. I hadn’t even realised that this was part of the evening. I had just thought that Snow Queen was a theme, and I was going along with that theme and feeling a million dollars in the process. But no, it was a competition. We arrived to find six other girls already lined up at one end of the dancefloor, and so Andrea and I went to join them. And this is where, for me, things took a downward turn. We were encouraged to parade around the dancefloor while everyone who hadn’t joined in the theme whooped and clapped. Some were really able to get into it, wiggling appropriately and blowing kisses, but I really struggled with it. I just wanted the earth to open up and swallow me. I felt so uncomfortable. For all that I had felt like such an elegant woman when I got ready in my room, and like a movie star walking into the restaurant, here I just felt like a silly boy playing dress up and I didn’t like it. In fact, I hated it. I am not the cabaret and I am not the entertainment.
Eventually and thankfully we were all lined up at one end of the dancefloor while the judges completed their deliberations. The results were announced in reverse order, third, second and finally first. Well I wasn’t at all surprised but I was pleased for her, because Andrea only went and won the competition. I was so thrilled for her. I knew how much this evening meant to her, and that it was as special for her as it was for me. Her outfit was so much more on-theme than mine, it would have been a travesty if I had finished ahead of her. So I ended up as an also-ran. I can’t deny there wasn’t a little pang of annoyance that I didn’t manage second or third, but I’m rationalising by telling myself that I wasn’t particularly “Snow Queen-y”, I was just wearing a cream outfit. Her Majesty Queen Andrea however, was completely in the theme. The only problem with winning it was that part of her prize was a feathery tiara that wasn’t actually as nice as the one she had worn herself.
I was so relieved that the competition was over, and looked forward to sitting back down upstairs with my friends. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Not yet anyway. All the Snow Queens were called back to the dancefloor by the official photographer for the evening (Alison?). We were lead out the fire escape and lined up on the stairs leading up to pavement level with Queen Andrea at the bottom, and a photo was taken. Then we climbed up to the pavement and lined up on the stairs leading up to the main hotel entrance. We all had to line up showing “a bit of leg”. I really wasn’t enjoying this. There were cars driving up and down the road tooting at us, shouting unintelligible gobbledegook at us – it may even have been complimentary, I don’t know! And then some of the “girls” started shouting back, in some of the manliest bellows I have ever heard. By this point I was so uncomfortable. Surely it must be over, I thought. But no, next we were marched off to Eastbourne bandstand to get our pictures taken there, so we had a fairly short walk but across the main promenade to the bandstand for more posing and blokish banter (ugh – I hate that word, sorry for using it). Next the photographer had this idea that we could all walk across the zebra crossing on the main road and she could take an Abbey Road-style photo of us crossing. Well the logistics of that were not easy considering the road wasn’t actually closed, and while we were standing there things began to improve, unlike my feet, which were in serious pain after about four hours in those heels.
As we were standing at the lights waiting for another opportunity to cross Beatles-style, a woman came along walking her dog. She engaged us in some light-hearted conversation, and began to ask questions about who we were, what we were doing in town, and so on. She introduced herself as Sarah and she was really lovely, with a great attitude to us. Andrea, as is her way, was keen to stress that unlike those who expressed the view that dressing up was their stress relief valve, for her (and for others like me, Ruth and Claire) it was more than dressing up, it was expressing who we are. She strolled back to the hotel with us and I went in to find Ruth and Claire, who were wondering why it had taken us nearly an hour to nip out to the fire escape for a photo.
I sat with Ruth, Claire and another girl I hadn’t met before, Penelope, who was really nice and also seemed to be coming from a similar place to us. After a little drink, we went outside as Ruth was going to take a photo of me (at my request), only to find Andrea still talking to Sarah on the steps. It seems they had discovered that they were able to help each other with various issues, but I won’t elaborate as I guess that’s Andrea’s business. Anyway, Ruth took a photo of me alone on the steps, which I love, and then one which I will treasure forever. Andrea and I, Snow Queen and Snow Princess, on holiday together, having the time of our lives, women, friends, happy in ourselves. Glorious, utterly glorious.