Right in the heart of Vienna, Austria’s famous fashion district, the ‘Golden Quarter’, lies the Radisson Blu Style Hotel, standing side-by-side with international designer labels and luxury bespoke couture. An absolute dream for those who like shopping, particularly if shopping for haute couture is your thing. Houses like Valentino, Armani and Prada jostle for attention with Mulberry, Roberto Cavelli and Alexander McQueen (which opens in summer 2014), tempting you to make that very special purchase for that very special event.
And what better place to wear your new purchase than the Opera Ball at the Vienna State Opera at the end of carnival season – the Thursday before Ash Wednesday to be precise?
The dress code is strict: large, long evening gown for the ladies and black tuxedo with tails for the men, and glitteringly dressed famous people from all walks of life mingle with the international guest list. One of the most famous traditions is that of the debutants. This is the entrance and opening dance of the ‘Young ladies’ and young men’s committee’ – very traditional, very spectacular and very sought-after – even tickets for the dress rehearsal of this ‘entrance’ are like gold dust. A rigorous application process for dancers is in place, particularly for those outside Vienna – and dancers can only ever waltz in one Opera Ball. Like a scene from a bygone era, they parade into the magnificent Vienna Opera House before the ball, proper, starts.
There’s something utterly charming about the whole thing: it’s so un-digital! If you want tickets, you must write a letter (or send a fax) - nothing so new-fangled as an email – and there’s no room for movement on the dress code. The female debutants must wear a snow-white ball gown (without crinoline) and white gloves – so bear that in mind as you’re browsing in the Golden Quarter.
Not everyone has the luxury of browsing and choosing, however; sometime these things are very last minute indeed. In 2014, we received some very panicked guests at the Radisson Blu Style Hotel in Vienna: it was 7pm and they had arrived on a delayed flight and without their luggage – just two hours before they were due at the ball!
Even the couture shops need some time off from all that luxurious design and so most were closing. However, our front desk team, all great fans of our über-stylish neighbours, used every connection they had to source gowns and accessories for all the ladies, and equip the gentlemen with their tails. Just in time…
So, as the fairy tale says: “You shall go to the ball!”