I live in a city where the opening night of the opera season is still an Event. Men pull their tuxedoes from the back of their closets, practice tying their bow ties and search out the studs for their dress shirts. Some of them even polish their patent leather shoes to their glossiest shine.
Women visit their hairdressers and their manicurists. They plan their ensemble for the evening weeks in advance. Some of them, like me, put in extra hours at the gym to fit perfectly in that favorite gown.
Despite all this forethought, I experienced wardrobe malfunction Saturday night as I readied myself for Bennett to ring my doorbell. I pulled on my flesh-colored sheer pantyhose. I looked with dismay at my feet with reinforced toes. Wrong. My dress calls for my open-toed black sandals with glass beads decorating the straps. Reinforced toes would destroy the whole outfit.
I threw that pair on the floor and dug out my black sheer dress pantyhose. I rolled them up my legs and over my hips. Reinforced toes. Wrong again. They ended up on the floor next to the other discarded tights.
Next I scrambled through the drawer and found a little plastic bag that I haven’t opened in a couple of years. I pulled out my silkiest, sheerest stockings with delightfully nude toes. I bought them in Paris 20 years ago. Obviously, I don’t wear them often.
These sheer beauties are stockings, not panty hose, so I opened a second drawer. From the back corner I pulled out another Parisian indulgence, my black garter belt.
Wardrobe malfunction solved, I slipped on the sleeveless column of a dress with its snug bodice and high neckline in front that plunges to a low V in the back. So low that it prohibits wearing any kind of bra at all.
I looped feather-light dangly leaves of gold on my mother’s diamond studs and slipped them on my earlobes. I pulled on the tight black gloves up over my elbows to the middle of my bare upper arms. On my right wrist I carefully clasped my grandmother’s diamond and ruby studded gold bracelet. Over my left wrist I latched the Swiss watch with diamond studs my father gave my mother.
The doorbell rang. I quickly dabbed a drop of the perfume Poison, by Christian Dior, behind each ear and at the pulse point of my throat. When I opened the door, there’s Bennett, looking dapper in his black tuxedo. He helped me arrange my hooded black velvet cape over my shoulders. I slid into the front seat of his vintage Mercedes and we were off for the evening.
The restaurant was full of similarly attired couples and foursomes. Bennett and I chatted away contentedly, enjoying the dinner, conversation and sense of occasion.
I crossed my legs. Only to discover another wardrobe malfunction. With all the switching of pantyhose and stockings, I’d forgotten to put on panties. I was completely naked under all this velvet.
Not that it mattered, really, Not that anyone in the restaurant would ever know. Nor would anyone at the opera ever know.
But, as we strolled through the lobby, Bennett and me, with his hand on the small of my back in that protective, guiding gesture of men, I knew. The sensuality of it all was almost more than I could stand; the touch of the velvet, the lush scent of the perfume, my black gloves on bare arms.
Good thing Bennett didn’t know. In the car on the way home, he said, “Georgia, I had the hardest time keeping my hands off you in the theater.” At my door, he proved the truth of that statement. I sent him off, using the excuse of the lateness of the hour. He left before finding out about my wardrobe malfunction.