Friday, October 21, 2011

One formal, two formals...

Yesterday was St-Hilda's first Non-Freshers Formal Hall of the term.  It was specifically for graduates too, meaning that we get to sit by subject with our college tutor (who doesn't necessarily teach any of us...) and wear our (graduate) gowns with our formal wear. There are three levels of dress codes at Oxford: formal (smart business), black tie (cocktail dresses/dinner jackets) and white tie (full-length dresses/white ties & tails). Therefore "formal hall" usually means formal dress + gowns, although some colleges which do formal hall weekly require only for the gown to be worn.

Sartorial lesson of the day: gowns and the weather will
render useless any cute outfit you put on.

The dinner itself was quite pleasant. We got served some stout English food by what appears to be volunteer undergrads (though the dessert was a very French-inspired lemon tart) and conversed about...well, a whole lot of random things, actually. Hilda's is known for being not very formal and its people generally easy-going; so far I have definitively felt both. I'm really happy with my college overall, actually. 

Our table of lawyers.

Then tonight I attended Merton's Formal Hall, courtesy of the History Society (one of the 4000 clubs and societies I managed to sign up for --- more on this another time). Christopher Wickham was giving a talk about feudalism and its instrumental use in understanding medieval history, and there was the possibility of dining with him and a few members of the Society beforehand. Free food and the chance to eat in a 13th-Century college? Count me in! 

Portraits, long wooden tables and college-crested dishware?
Very different from St-Hilda's indeed!

The vibe was most different from Hilda's as well. Much MUCH more formal, we were served by white-gloved waiters (not undergrads, hah) and the conversation was more polite dining table-talk than anything. (Although, the last one is probably due to the fact that I don't actually know anyone at Merton...) It was also grand and impressive on a whole other level. My master plan this year includes attending formal hall in as many colleges as possible...we'll see how it goes! 

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