Waaay back in March Megan and I took a little escape from everyday existence when we attended the incredible Gala Nocturna, at Antwerp Zoo. Finally I have time to tell you about it…
(Ok, so I’m a few months behind in writing up about this, I’m now on summer break from my studies, so normal blog service will be resumed shortly!)
After cramming the enormous and elaborate costume I’d made (more about that later) into my suitcase, Megan and I took the overnight Eurolines coach to the lovely city of Antwerp, arriving waaay before the laid-back residents had woken up. We retired to a coffee shop until the city stirred into life around 10am (can we just move there now please?!) and went to check out the Ruben’s House, getting in there with some culture straight away.
We stayed in the same hotel Emma and I used last year, Hotel Postiljon, right next to the walls of the Cathedral. This year we had a studio room with views right out over the stunning stained glass windows, and of course we had the bells as our alarm each morning! I adore the hotel, it is such a bargain for the location and the staff are delightfully friendly and helpful.
We were blessed with the hottest weather ever recorded in Antwerp in March during our stay, and the long weekend was crammed full of sitting in the sun outside cute little cafes, exploring Antwerp’s characterful streets and squares (we loved the Antique district around Klooterstraat) and hitting the bars in the evenings, as well as a rather short visit to the red light district (awkward!). We fell head over heels for the vibe at hipster jazz bar De Muze on Melkmarkt. Click those fingers, jazzzz!
Saturday night was the big one, the night of my second Gala Nocturna (You can read the adventures of Emma and I from 2013 here). This year the location was the stunning marble pillar lined Belle Époque ballroom at Antwerp Zoo. As well as the main room, there was a sweeping staircase which provided a wonderful backdrop for some action, the decent of the hosts Beauty and the Beast himself (and a very handsome Beast he was too), living statues and some sword fighting, all very exciting! The room at the top of the staircase housed market stalls offering anything from fascinating fascinators to fang fittings.
My favourite room was the winter garden, an Art Noveau style conservatory filled with lush greenery and vines and spiral metal staircases. I could really imagine the Beast being at home here.
The ball itself was incredible, the few grumbles I had about last year’s event were not a problem this year – there was much more space for twirling of dresses, the music seemed more varied, there seemed to be less queuing (with the exception of the relentlessly popular Absinthe bar). The balmy weather certainly helped, many of the beautifully dressed guests lingered on the veranda enjoying views over the zoo, which was lit by lanterns and a carousel. I had a pinch-myself moment when this song from Labyrinth came on, I looked around me taking in the grand surroundings and fairytale costumes, and saw a dream come true
The end of the evening, although sad, was fun too. We bid goodbye to our friends who had also made the trip from London and walked back to the hotel, and were stopped by so many lovely people on the Antwerp streets for pictures! Before finally hitting the hay we went to the Brabo Fountain in the Grotemarkt and climbed up it for some photos (naughty!)
Megan and I both went for a fauna theme for our costumes, making us part of the Beast’s court. Megan was as incredibly inventive as ever and created a striking and unique Jackalope costume. A Jackalope is a legendary creature, like a rabbit with antlers. Megan put together a pretty headdress of huge fluffy ears, flowers and horns to wear with her corseted costume. She looked so stunning!
I decided to go for a swan theme (possibly stretching the definition of beast, but hey-ho!). The dress was made up of a crazily cheap (less than £30!) enormous wedding dress purchased on Ebay, which I shockingly took a pair of scissors to! The top half was a white corset to which I added some feather trim, and a sheer embroidered top from Primark underneath. I had small white feather wings (any excuse to wear wings!) and I wore a long, white wig which I’d styled with plaits. The key part of my costume was the swan headdress, which I made by hand. It started life as a plain wide headband. I cut the swan’s body shape from white felt, stuffed it and sewed it on. The head was a little more detailed so I made that separately, using some different coloured felts for the beak and toy eyes. Then I used ostrich feathers for the wings and tail feathers, and attached some white artificial roses with hot glue.
I was pleased as punch with the result, the swan is definitely one of the grandest costumes I’ve come up with. I’ve used it again since in a slightly scantier form at the Torture Garden Birthday Ball, I just lost the undershirt skirt, added some frilly undies and sexy heels and the sinful swan emerged…
A big thank you to the dream weavers, the organisers of magical Gala Nocturna, I will see you next year!