A Wardrobe Malfunction at the Opera, or “Deadstock Devil Dust” Is Not an Oxymoron

Last night, after a family chowdown at her favorite Korean/sushi restaurant, I took my daughter to the opera to celebrate her 22nd birthday. I’ve been taking her to “birthday ballets” since she was 9 or so, but this was her first opera (and, as a new subscriber to the Boston Lyric Opera, only my third!). She was a picture of loveliness in her DVF wrap dress and stiletto-heeled boots (if you’re wondering how she maneuvered the cobblestones to and from the parking garage in them, all I can aphorize is that youthful ankles work in mysterious ways…)

As for me, I threw together an outfit—mostly vintage–in the last 10 minutes before rushing out, mostly by pulling out some of my favorite pieces and trusting that the common denominator of their 50s silhouette (and the fact that I really, really love them) would result in a outfit that looked like I’d actually put some thought into it. I wore this:

opera duds

with a cropped cream turtleneck sweater and (non-stiletto) black leather boots. Accessories included this chunky glass mabe pearl choker:

along with a Trifari hinged bangle and baby blue leather gloves, all of it wrapped together under my sinfully soft Harilela’s Hong Kong black cashmere coat (which has the original owner’s monogram as well as a matching pencil skirt I rarely wear since I’m not built like a pencil and appreciate the freedom to exhale now and then). And to keep license, keys, and opera tickets safe, I took this black wool Triangle purse out for its second test drive (it was “new old stock”–aka unworn virgin vintage–when I bought it a couple of years ago):
triangle purse
All in all, a pretty spiffy ensemble for a chronically discombobulated phase of my life, and I escorted my daughter along, gratified and a little surprised that everything was running quite so smoothly. Then, however, I got confused about the location of the theater, parked on the topmost floor of a labyrinthine garage in Timbuktu, and, emerging flustered and flubber-fingered, dropped my purse on the elevator floor, whereupon it sustained simultaneous splits to the satin lining and bottom exterior seam and began effusing anthrax-scary clouds of gritty orange powder. Both my brief flirtation with composure and my lovely purse were, as they say, toast.

Apparently, even without a single visible sign of wear, the purse had been aging steadily through the years. The bright goldtone frame, unfaded wool body, and immaculate satin lining belied the disintegration of the cardboard that shaped and structured the purse, as well as of the thread that stitched it together. I spent the duration of the evening holding the oversized (12” x 16”) purse as though it were a clutch, trying to keep its innards from spilling out while performing stunts like milling around at intermission with a bottle of water in the other hand or buttoning my coat up when it was time to go. (My daughter wasn’t carrying a purse herself, so aforementioned essentials like car keys and license, not to mention a crisp bill for the parking garage, still stood their best chance of survival inside my exploded handbag). My fingertips were dusted in iron oxide, my wallet was coated in Shake and Bake, and my brush, if used, might have simulated a badly-done henna glaze.

Fortunately, the opera (“Rusalka”) was great fun: Gorgeous singing, impressive staging (rather than props or elaborate sets, wizardry with lighting and projected images created the enchanted realm underwater), and, most endearingly of all, amusement on my daughter’s part to find herself watching a highbrow version of “The Little Mermaid”. (She did speak contemptuously of the plot, which subordinated a magical female being’s destiny to that of a “jerky” Prince, and observed that opera fans are an incredibly opinionated bunch).

I’m still not happy my purse met its demise in a haze of devil dust, but I humbly accept the reminder that vintage requires very, very gentle (and sometimes limited) usage because, in addition to being a fascinating, often very well made, “green” antidote to mall fashion—it’s OLD.

Leave a Reply