What to wear: Opening Ball

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Opening Ball
An example of the range of styles on show at Opening Ball in 2011. Photo: Sam McCulloch

St Andrews’ Kate Kennedy Club will bring every girl’s Cinderella fantasy to life with an Opening Ball on 5 October. For freshers, this ball will be the first on their St Andrews social calendar. Black tie attire for men usually consists of a suit, bowtie and dress shoes, but selecting a woman’s gown is a far more complicated affair.

The haute couture shows for autumn 2013 showcased elegant and ethereal gowns that can inspire even the most fashion-shy student. At Elie Saab, a favourite of Mila Kunis and Angelina Jolie, gowns in rich jewel tones, such as the opening sparkling ruby stunner with translucent sleeves, fluttered across the stage. Gowns from other haute couture shows were predominantly in a similar vein: sheer, light dresses fit for a fairy tale princess. Zuhair Murad, a favourite of Taylor Swift’s, showcased gowns with rich embroidery and jewels. Dior’s collection featured flouncy fabric, sheer panels, and nudes contrasted against bright colours.

As beautiful as these couture gowns are, most students don’t have £5,000 floating around to spend on Opening Ball. Fortunately, the trends for fall gowns are prevailing beyond the runway, and St Andrews’ local dress shops have taken notice.

According to Jo, a sales associate at Phase Eight, the dresses available for autumn 2013 are very much “Downton Abbey meets Great Gatsby.” While St Andrews shops like Phase Eight can usually ship in dresses within a couple of days, ordering online is often the better option if you can’t find what you’re looking for in-store. Designers such as Asos, Topshop, Jovani and Sherri Hill offer dresses of high quality with a reasonable price tag.

Opening Ball’s central location makes wearing heels a possibility and coat check unnecessary. The event will be located at St Salvator’s Quadrangle, so most students won’t have far to walk and those in David Russell Apartments or Andrew Melville Hall need only take a quick cab ride.

Second year student Ariana Brighenti described the attire for last year’s opening ball as “fairly conservative,” so breaking out six-inch heels and a sexy dress would not be sensible. Instead, pumps with a solid heel of no higher than three inches would be a more appropriate option. Stilettos are not advised because they notoriously plant girls in the quadrangle’s grass and cause far too many cobblestone-related injuries. According to Jessica Findley, another St Andrews student, it is important to “take flats or your feet will get sore.”

Although Opening Ball is a formal event, wearing a long dress isn’t recommended by attendees of earlier years. A second year that attended the event in 2012, described wearing a long gown as inconvenient given the “nature of long trains and the exceptional capability of every drunken girl with the highest stilettos to find your train and step on it.” Most students agreed with this statement, especially if one is planning to get quite intoxicated or partake in any dancing.

Opening Ball is a great way for St Andrews students to show off their personal style. Thanks to the lady-like elegance of the runways, using high fashion as inspiration for Opening Ball attire is now easier than ever. Taking into consideration the trends and practical advice from former ball attendees will make Opening Ball far less daunting and more of a Cinderella fantasy instead.

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