Wednesday 3 August 2022

Prohibition Party!

It’s one of my favourite things to get an invitation where the person says “Vivienne is welcome too”. A few weeks ago I got an invitation to a friend’s birthday party. It was to be fancy dress, with a Prohibition theme. While I could use this article as an opportunity to show more pictures of myself (and I will!), there are actually other aspects to it which I’ve been reflecting on since.

How do I look?
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t normally enjoy “dressing up”. It feels like pretending to be something I’m not, while dressing as Vivienne feels like doing something that I am. But this was an opportunity to do the latter while pretending to do the former—I don’t know if that makes any sense at all!

There were several obvious problems. I don’t possess the elegant willowy figure of the 1920’s flapper—or the gangster’s moll. But secondly I had no idea where I would come up with any sort of costume to wear.

Missy’s mum came to the rescue and had very nearly everything. She’s extremely fond of rummaging in flea markets, op shops and charity shops, and has a huge collection of all sorts of amazing stuff. She provided the dress, the wig, the fascinator, the feather boa, the pearls and rings and necklace. Even a vintage black clutch bag (foreground).

The white gloves and choker came from a dress-up shop, and the tights and shoes (which you can’t see) were model’s own. I had to take the gloves off for the mirror selfie because my phone screen wouldn’t register my touch when I had them on!

I spent ages getting ready. Among other things, I had never worn stick-on false eyelashes before. I took an hour to put them on in any sort of reasonable position, and I had to take them off and reposition them several times!

Meanwhile Missy decided to go as the gangster: the fedora, the black shirt and white tie, and a plastic gun from the dress-up shop. It was a great outfit and she looked fantastic. In fact, everyone did; it was like walking around in a scene from Bugsy Malone.

Flapper girl in a Gatsby world.
As we walked in, I realised, for the first time, that aside from a few people that we know, most people would be strangers--and not necessarily expecting to see me turn up in a frock. There were a couple of dozen people there, including teenagers, and everyone seemed to react positively. One or two of the men looked slightly taken aback when I introduced myself, but after that nobody showed the slightest discomfort. One of the women asked me where I got my tights, and I asked her where she got her corset. (Interestingly, two of the women were also dressed in male gangster gear, and looked fantastic).

The house had been done up beautifully as a speakeasy with darkened windows, decorations and soft lighting. There was a very well-stocked drinks table, and plenty of nibbles. There was even someone "on the door" and we had to pretend to give the password. But the most impressive feature was a full-on gambling den, with a full-sized roulette wheel, a blackjack table, and a professional croupier to run the whole thing. No money was won or lost--we played only for chips, though there were prizes for the biggest winners.

The croupier kept referring to me as "the gentleman with the green chips". I wasn't in the least bothered about this; I really just found it funny. In fact I joked with him: "What have I got to do here to get treated like a lady?!"

The chat and the company were outstanding. We mingled and met some lovely new people. We played roulette and blackjack. We enjoyed the nibbles and drinks. I felt wonderful. From time to time, I was suddenly struck by the realisation--all over again!--that I was out, dressed, and feeling fabulous.

Baby needs a new pair of shoes!
Looking back on this splendid evening, my first impression is how far I have come. An evening like this one--glamorously dressed and having a wonderful time with a group of lovely people--would have been pie in the sky only a few short years ago. Every time I've looked back on it, it's given me a little emotional boost.

My second reflection is that, perhaps in some sense I was also being an ambassador for trans people in company. Perhaps the people at the party hadn't come across someone like me before, and perhaps having a laugh and a chat with me might make them feel more comfortable encountering other trans people in their lives.

But the third boost it gave me is that I had told quite a lot of people, including people at work, that I was going to be going to a party "in drag". And naturally they wanted to see the photos afterward. And so I've had the experience of showing people who don't know about Vivienne some photos of Vivienne! I've had nothing but positive comments from them; many of them said they thought they were looking at a woman in the photos, although they obviously recognised it was me.

All of this makes me feel just that little more confident in myself, a little more confident about coming out to more people (slowly does it!), and a little less nervous of future encounters. How can any of this be a bad thing?

Now, let's blouse. I gotta go iron my shoelaces. Don't take any wooden nickels!