When I was invited to cover The Forties Before Forty, launch party for the St Mary’s Ball, I had no idea what to expect from the evening – all I knew was that the dress code was to match the decade in the name, and that there were free cocktails. Both of these things I highly approve of, so it was with great anticipation that I sauntered into the college, humming an Ella Fitzgerald tune as I went.
The night began with a performance by the Alleycats, whose a cappella harmonies resonated perfectly in the high-ceilinged Senior Common Room. Their songs were punctuated with quirky dance moves, and set the tone for an evening of fun, music and more than a hint of glamour.
This was followed by a performance by a band who sang various tunes including Antônio Carlos’s “The Girl From Ipanema”. Fronted by Gabi Machado, along with Chris on drums, Bruce on piano, Jo on trumpet and Erik on bass, their chilled sound was the the ideal accompaniment to such an atmospheric get-together.
Cocktails in hand, my photographer friend Yuchen and I decided to grab some snaps of vintage outfits adopted by the partygoers, who got into the spirit of the 1940s perfectly. The guys were perfect in their suits with twists from days gone by – trilbies, braces and tweed.
Then there were the girls, who had really pulled out all the stops to look the part. Don’t get me wrong, the dresses were excellent, but the beauty really lay in the details. There were strings of pearls round almost every neck, while hairstyles were either thick ringlets or sleek updos. Sequins glittered under the chandeliers and I saw more than one pair of silk evening gloves clutching third or fourth rounds of cocktails… It’s times like this I wish we dressed like this every day.
But perhaps the most surprising thing about The Forties before Forty was that, despite all its fabulousness, it wasn’t even the main event. It was just the warmup for The Candlemas Ball, which takes place on the 2nd of March at, (you guessed it) Forties. If this is what St Mary’s can do for a launch party, I can’t wait to see the real deal. See you there.
Photography: Yuchen Shang