Occasionally one gets called upon to perform at one of the great formal affairs. Such a call comes perhaps once or twice a year and I always feel that it is worth making an effort and attending. Admittedly one never gets paid and rarely gets tipped, but one meets people and it’s rare I do not get a couple of new patrons. Still it comes at a cost.
The biggest issue is the ‘outfit.’ I do not own a formal coat, britches and wig. Such garments are a century or more out of style and men are only forced into them on these very rare occasions. Indeed they are obligatory only for the top-table and those asked to perform, although many who possess such garb will turn up wearing it if only to flaunt their affluence.
I will instead turn to Saval who hires out suitable garments. Initially his prices seem reasonable but closer inspection can be revealing. A vintenar to hire the costume for an evening may not seem expensive, but you dress in his shop and what is more have to have it back to the shop before midnight the same night. I recommend that you hire the day before the event and return the outfit the day after, which means you’re committed to three vintenars already.
Not only that, but your work doesn’t end with the hire. When I get an outfit home the first thing I do is turn everything inside out and work the seams slowly and methodically with a lighted candle. I’ll then put everything in a pan of very hot water and stir in some shavings from a block of hard soap. Whilst doing this, you can bake the wig in the oven as well.
At the end of this process everything is relatively clean and probably louse free. Ironing helps to ensure the lack of lice and powdering the wig with plenty of fresh chalk probably has a similar effect.
Next day, when your outfit is presentable, you still face the problem of getting to the event. Merely putting it on and walking there is asking for problems. Not only will you become a target for beggars and footpads who would normally shun you as unworthy of their efforts, but frankly it is not an easy outfit to walk it. It’s tight where it needs to allow you room to move and the wig is so heavy you can end up staggering along under the weight. Not only that but you arrive at your destination looking like a plump conscript who has just finished his first route-march.
So you wear something sensible that you won’t miss if somebody should perchance steal it, and carry your costume with you in a case. In all candour I tend to go to the event dressed as a kitchen porter and once there, find a quiet corner to change. The advantage of the kitchen porter guise is that nobody notices you and provided you arrive at the servants’ entrance you can enter any building without comment. Not only that but never, in the history of larceny, has anybody ever stolen a kitchen porter’s overall.
Finally we come to the performance; your chance to get back some of your outlay. I’d advise you to stand tall and turn slowly and with grace. Given the weight of the wig, sudden turning movements can lead to embarrassment. Similarly I’d avoid rapid or sweeping gestures, and be sure to take small steps. Having a garment split at the seams detracts considerably from the effect you were trying to convey.
And the work you intend to deliver? Frankly I’d stick with something classic and well known. It’s my experience people are torn between drinking too much to distract themselves from the discomfort they suffer from their dress, and the rising panic that comes when they realise they’re not entirely sure which buttons or panels they have to unfasten when they come to relieve themselves.