By Donna Cronk
What most everyone wants to know about this week’s D.C. adventure is this, asked in excited, breathless voices: Are you going to an inaugural ball?
Oh, heavens no, I tell them. Those tickets are long gone and even the media passes have been maxed out. We checked. Remember, I got the last seat on this ride.
Then came Monday morning.
That's when State Rep. and trip organizer Tom Saunders sent a name and email contact for Thursday’s Indiana Society of Washington, D.C. Ball, suggesting that another email query couldn’t hurt.
I sent the inquiry, expecting nothing when up popped a response. A credential had already been issued to my boss, Katie. Was I asking for a second? The aide pointed out the “extremely limited space” available for media.
We were confused because Katie had heard nothing back after her initial request on my behalf. After further investigation, Katie discovered that indeed there had been an affirmative response. It was in her spam folder!
So the long story short is that I’m going to a ball.
That happened Monday afternoon. What in the world would I wear? I felt a little like a bride-to-be who hadn't considered her wedding gown the night before the rehearsal dinner. I had hours of work left, then a Monday-night obligation, and work on Tuesday. We hit the road for D.C. at dawn Wednesday.
I own nothing long and fancy. I own nothing short and fancy. What’s a girl to do?
Freak out of course.
Tom said not to worry, a non-fancy dress will do. But he’s a man. They see things differently.
I had to make it a power lunch and find something on the double. I visited a local bridal shop. The clerk was helpful but the news wasn't encouraging. They don’t rent dresses. The cheapest gown off the rack exceeded $200. But not in my size. The only in-stock possibility was a black pantsuit. Sorry Hillary, but no.
I felt a bit sheepish as I entered Classic Collections consignment shop the same afternoon. “Do you have evening gowns?” I asked. I’d been in that shop many times but never noticed formal clothing. That’s because they do not carry it.
Still, employee Jenny Bundy began digging around in the racks. Her eyes landed on a long, lightweight, black jacket, loaded with tiny multi-colored sparkles. It was $12. It was also pretty.
I own a black, all-purpose skirt, a favorite piece of clothing, actually. The fabric makes generous size allowances. With that, a black top and black tights, it could work in a pinch with the newly found sparkly jacket. In the glass case, I spotted a costume-be-jeweled necklace and matching earrings in the same hues of sparkle. $16.
Moving along, I scanned the shoe section and noted the black, kitten-heel pumps in my size. $13. They were comfortable and would serve me far better on the Metro and standing with the media pool than would my own high, black heels.
I bought the ensemble. But with no time on the clock for other options, and no fairy godmother showing up to outfit me in a Cinderella-style ball gown, the ensemble went into my suitcase.
The truth is, I think I’ll be more comfortable in this than I would in something Cinderella would wear. Turns out I won’t be dancing or announced on the red carpet. Oh, don’t feel sorry for me, it’s a press thing.
Here's how it works.
The Indiana Society requires credentials be picked up Thursday afternoon, hours before the event. No exceptions. That little errand will basically consume my afternoon.
Members of the press can take photos and do interviews during the gala's general reception but not during the ballroom portion of the evening. We’re to remain behind a roped-off area. And we're not to bother the ball-goers once the festivities begin.
So while it’s true that apparently I am attending an actual ball, and I will be sporting my $43 outfit by Classic Collections on Riley Road, it’s not likely anyone will ask or care about my designer.
Not even if I had chosen a dress worth hundreds, or thousands, or shown up in a black pants suit.
Oh, but that’s not the end of my fashion finds. There’s 100-percent chance of rain during the actual inauguration Friday. So Monday I shopped for ball attire and Tuesday's lunch hour found me in Walmart snagging a rain poncho.
And you thought there was nothing glamorous about a small-town reporter's life.
New Castle Courier-Times writer Donna Cronk is covering presidential inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C. Her reports appear for print and online subscribers in the New Castle Courier-Times and in Indiana newspapers owned by Paxton Media Group. She'll also post on The Courier-Times Facebook page and write this behind-the-scenes blog.