How to Attend a Ball


All right, everyone, here are the fool-proof steps to prepare for a posh ball in Vienna. (Subject to personal outcome, of course)

Step 1-Buy your ticket

Ok, so this one is pretty simple…if you know where to buy the ticket.  Speaking German helps.  Also a good sense of direction.  It all worked out in the end.  I mean, people don’t really complain when you’re giving them money.

Now that the easy part is finished:

Step 2-Buy a dress

Searching for a ball gown in Vienna is ten times easier than prom dress shopping in the states.  There are small boutiques everywhere with dresses of all shapes and sizes, specifically tailored to the proper dress code for each ball.  My friend Emily and I went out the Saturday before the ball in search of the perfect, and cheap, ball gowns.  While finding a proper dress for the ball was simple I ran into my constant problem…fitting into it lengthwise.  The saleswomen proved their incredible knowledge of this tradition by buttoning, zipping, and tying us both into the many dresses we tried on.  And, of course, every gown saleswoman knows what is appropriate for which ball; not surprisingly, having your dress almost a foot too long is kind of inappropriate.

They kept giving me a pair of incredibly tall heels to put on with each grossly long dress I put on.  Even with the ugly red heels, the dresses were all still 5 inches too long.  In the end, I accepted the inevitable-that anything I tried on would be too long-and chose the dress I loved, paid for it, and walked out of the store, content in my purchase.

Now to deal with how to actually wear it…

Step 3-Figure out how to wear a dress a foot too long

So, after choosing the dress I was on a shopper’s high-very rare for me-and the concern of how to even wear the dress in public flew out of my mind and into the voided space I shoved all other thoughts of doing well on the German final the day after the ball.

But the reality of a dress the length of the Great Wall of China soon came rushing back.  Buying the dress a week before the ball left me with few choices.  Finding a seamstress and having it hemmed in less than three days was highly difficult, not to mention rude.  So, I decided to take it upon myself to fix the dress…whatever way possible.  Seeing as I have barely used a needle and thread before, the prospect of hemming the dress myself was nerve-racking.  I think the Skype conversation with my mom sums it up:Hemming my Ball Gown

“You’re going to hem your own dress?”


“Have you ever sown on a button before?”


“Have you ever even picked up a needle and thread before?”


“Okay, then.”

Regardless of her reality reminder, I decided to challenge myself and try. And what a challenge it was.  First of all, I could not have chosen a more complicated dress. It had three layers, with pleats in the front and back that flowed down into the full skirt.  Whatever.  It was either hem the skirt or not go to the ball…and the latter was NOT an option.  So, with my roommates’ generous help, I pinned the dress and began to hem.  it took forever! Making sure the hemline was straight and all the layers matched up was frustrating.  Also, with my lack of experience, the thread kept breaking and I would accidentally go through too many layers…numerous times.  But, in the end it was SO worth it.  I was so exhausted when I finished, but the moment of truth was still imminent.

The night before the ball I finally tried on my dress…and it fit!  The hem was (rather) straight and was the perfect length.  I was so relieved.  Here’s the moral of the story: Buy a dress enough in advance that you can perhaps get it professionally hemmed.  However, if this is not possible, sometimes you may discover a hidden talent.  The feeling of accomplishment and success is the best in the world and made me even more excited to attend with the perfect dress.  Now for the ball…


2 thoughts on “How to Attend a Ball

  1. Paula

    This is the cutest photo ever! It reminds me of Cinderella when the mice fix the ball gown while Cinderella cleans the house! I was so proud of you, Chloe, for even attempting to hem your own gown.

    Love you!

  2. Katja

    I must admit that I am most impressed that you hemmed your dress without knowledge of sewing, a sewing machine, or ample time. My mum taught me to sew when I was a little girl, I have a good machine, and I still often shy away from hemming my many ball gowns and evening dresses. The biggest obstacle is not having assistance with pinning it properly. My husband is utterly clueless, my daughter too young, and my mum too far away, which means I usually pay somebody to do the hemming.

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