When I finagled the invite to the Murakami Gala at MOCA, my girlfriends bombarded me with the same question:
"What are you wearing?"
It was a legitimate one, considering my sparse excuse for a wardrobe, overrun with tattered t-shirts, baggy jeans, moth-eaten sweaters and a few other shapeless things, all dappled with holes, stains and snags.
Kanye West was performing and Marc Jacobs was attending, which meant a slew of fancy fashionistas would inevitably be there, wearing designer frocks and high heels and jewelry.
Seeing how there was no way to compete, I decided to go DIY. Inspired by Isaac Mizrahi's ball skirt circa 1994, I headed downtown and found a deep red/black tafetta that I could kind of afford. I brought it to a seamstress I found on the Craigslist who had a thick South African accent and knack for brutal honesty.
She wrapped a tape measure tight around my waist. I pushed it down to my hips, explaining the look I was going for.
"Honey, you're short-waisted. And short. It won't work," she explained, moving the tape back up to my waist.
My mother implored me to have a professional do my make-up.
"Don't try it yourself," she said. "You're such a spaz."
It's true, I don't wear make-up. In fact, I don't even own make-up, but there was no way I was going to pay someone to paint my face.
"Go to Nordstrom," she said. "Pretend you're going to buy something and have one of the sales people do it."
The thought of going to Nordstrom was as hateful as the thought of wearing make-up. I told her I'd think about it.
In the meantime, I googled "How to make a bun," in preparation for the big night and found out that aloe vera gel makes an excellent volumizer. The technique seemed a little complicated, and I recruited my writing partner/friend for help.
She asked about the overall look I was going for and I broke it down, explaining what I was wearing and how I intended to do my make-up.
"Go to Nordstrom," she implored. "Let a professional do it. Don't try it yourself."
I woke up the morning of the gala with a veritable set of luggage beneath my tired eyes. My mother called to check in.
"Go ice your eyes," she instructed.
"I'm making jewelry, " I replied, attempting to make eleventh-hour onyx and rose quartz bracelets out of two of my roommate's necklaces. "You told me I need to accessorize."
"Un-puffed eyes are more important," she said. "Prioritize!"
After fifteen minutes under a bag of frozen peas, the swelling kind of subsided, though the spooky dark circles remained.
"We can fix that, honey," soothed Colby, the only sales person I could find at the MAC counter who didn't look overdone. Turns out he actually was wearing make-up, he'd just gone for a very natural look.
I told him I had no idea how to put on make-up (true). I told him I had a lot of holiday parties coming up (it could happen). I told him my mom was going to buy me make-up for my birthday, which was coming up (lie, lie). I told him I wanted to look so beautiful that Jason Schwartzman would cross the room to introduce himself (true).
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I brought my own lipstick - a dark bloody berry stain from Whole Foods made of organic ingredients. Colby frowned as he painted it on, trying to sell me on a "Christina Aguilerra red" (as if that was a good thing) instead.
I bought a concealer out of guilt, and promised that my mother would be in sometime next week to purchase the rest (LIE!!!).
I met my girlfriend back at my apartment and she spent forty-minutes scraping the glitter off my eyelids. She sculpted my hair into a delightully fat flower sort of bun and supervised as I paired my new tafetta ball skirt with a sample from my t-shirt line, Perv, and a pair of black patent leather ballet flats. My date was running late, which gave me a few minutes to make a couple more bracelets.
The gala was fancy and fabulous (read: boring). No one gave a shit about my red tafetta skirt, my fancy flower bun, or my Perv original, amidst all the supermodels, the movie stars and the art, which drew far less of a crowd than the bar. Local art star Gary Baseman gave my tee a giggle. An otherwise cranky novelist told me I looked like a "stone fox," which almost made the whole ridiculous hassle of preparation worth it for a few seconds. But in the end - a mere three lackluster hours of "fabulous" - I just felt stupid for having gone to so much trouble, and Jason Schwartzman was nowhere to be found.