Gathering for Gala

Think prom without the date. “I love Gala,” says Aubrey Nelson ’08 of Moultonborough, N.H.

Photographs and text by Phyllis Graber Jensen

“It’s classy and fun and everyone gets dressed up,” she adds. “But it’s more fun to go with all your friends.”

Before the bright lights and big sounds got going in Alumni and Gray gyms, a group of sophomore friends gathered at Davis House on Wood Street to dress for the 2006 All-College Gala.

And it is all about friends. Nelson helped me with some of the genealogy: Gina Capalbo ’08 and Emily Hopkins ’08 lived across the hall from her in the Bill last year; this year, Andrew Toplyn ’08 was Nelson’s next-door neighbor in Smith and also lived in the Bill last year; Amelia Hagen-Dillon ’08 and Nelson met as AESOP leaders in the fall; Leah Dembinski ’09 and Pete Klein ’08 play Ultimate with Nelson.

“Last year was a bigger deal,” Nelson said. “I didn’t know what to wear or what to expect.” This year’s prep was easier. “Low key.”

The soundtrack to Disney’s Little Mermaid blasted in the background as jewelry was rolled out and perfume spritzed. Ties unfastened, sophomores Toplyn and Mike Detweiler hung out, ready to help (they seemed expendable): zipper a dress here, try on sunglasses for effect there. Mostly, the guys posed for group photos and gawked at the primping.

Generally, women wear their old prom dresses to Gala, said Nelson. Male evening wear is less consistently elegant, ranging from tuxedos to rumpled corduroys.

Once the women squeezed into their dresses, the pre-partiers addressed the hair question. No pre-planning here, and Nelson had hair products available “just in case,” but didn’t use them. “I had no idea what I was going to do with my hair. I just fooled around with it.” After 10 minutes in the bathroom, with minor side-by-side mirror consultations with Gabi Anhalzer ’09, Nelson and friends were ready for the evening.