London

Priceless Ballgowns at the V&A…

Every little girl remembers the first time she saw that Disney Princess sweeping down a grand staircase, ready to meet her Prince Charming at the bottom. Belle from Beauty and the Beast in that unforgettable yellow dress, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty in her pink fairy tale number and, my personal favourite, Cinderella being whirled round the dance floor in her sparkly pale blue gown.

Keira in *that* dress (it's not in the exhibition, unfortunately)As we grew older, our taste in movies probably changed. Maybe we watched Jessica Rabbit saucily saunter around the stage in that incredible glittering red cocktail dress slashed to the thigh, or Grace Kelly dancing by the pool in the mint green embroidered outfit with Frank Sinatra. Maybe it was Audrey Hepburn as she emerged from her makeover in My Fair Lady, shimmering from head to toe in silver, covered in diamonds and pretending to be something far more exotic than she was, or maybe it was one of the most memorable movie scenes of my generation: Keira Knightley, in green, in Atonement (need I say more…?).

Now we’re not saying that this is the most important thing in the world, or that it’s all we care about, but sometimes is really is just all about The Dress and nothing else.

With this in mind, I could not have been more thrilled when a friend invited me along to the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington for a private view of their Ball Gowns exhibition as part of the MasterCard Priceless experiences. Even better when I found out that the dress code required us to wear ball gowns ourselves! “Oh bliss!” I thought. It may have been a Monday night, but the opportunity to dress up in something entirely over the top was not one to miss.

“I’m strangely excited. Although I look a bit trampy…never mind!” my friend’s message read as she headed in to town to come to meet me – she didn’t for the record, but I knew how she felt walking along the streets of London in broad day light in floor length evening gowns. It certainly was a new experience.

We arrived on the red carpet and were immediately handed some fizz (good start).  Although the fizz soon ran out and we had to wait a WHOLE twenty minutes for another glass of wine! (I feel it is my duty to point out here that my friend and I are both extremely spoilt when it comes to parties having been to many, many events in our relatively few years and, in hindsight, this probably wasn’t actually as big of a deal as we thought it was at the time – it had been a long day.) We were soon distracted by professional ballroom dancers working their magic, a feast of sequins and feathers for the eyes. It was magical.

Next up was our own opportunity to learn. We started with a basic Waltz (I think) and were guided by some of the former cast from Strictly Come Dancing so they clearly knew their stuff.

Now, you might be aware that I haven’t actually said much about the dresses. Well, save the best for last and all that…or better yet, go and see them! They were so dazzling that we simply couldn’t resist acting out some of the poses the mannequins were in (and consequently getting told off for talking photos…naughty girls us…). The exhibition feeds the imagination of the little girl inside you who watched Scarlet O’Hara descend the staircase (there’s always a staircase isn’t there?) and want to be as pretty as her.

I love running around an empty museum at late night. There’s something irresistibly naughty about it, priceless in fact. And that what’s the whole point isn’t it? Mastercard gave us the opportunity to do something truly special. For a Monday night, it was definitely special to get dressed up like a princess myself, and be whirled around the dance floor of a beautiful old building, by a gorgeous boy, who could almost be mistaken for a Prince Charming himself.

To explore Mastercard’s Priceless London events for yourself and unlock some unique experiences, sign up here:  http://www.mastercard.co.uk/priceless-cities/london/

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