Oxford’s virtual formals: smart attire or just satire?


Image description: A traditional Oxford formal 

It’s 7pm and the tables are set. Candles are lit, wine corks are flying, and the bells call for supper. As you look around you can see a gaggle of sub-fusc wearing students. Some you recognise, others you are interested in meeting. You really do care about their research, you promise. But first, the food. As you get impatient, a blessing seems fitting to get this started. As you try and raise your voice, nothing comes out – seems you were muted.

The Dos and Donts of hosting a Virtual Formal: 

If Oxford is all about formals, then these times call on you to organise one, online. How? Well, with too much time on our hands and too little ethanol in our systems, we first made a Facebook event to pitch the idea. It went a bit like this: “Put on your wrinkled sub-fusc and join us for Half Term Trinity Formal! We will send all of you an (easy) exclusive menu with recipes to cook in the comfort of your very own Zoom college hall”. On the night we asked everyone to prepare this feast in advance, light up some candles, put the silverware on the table, and dress at least the upper part of their body. It’s now time to join an actually enjoyable Zoom call.

In the hope you will never need these tips again and we can all go back to real life Formals, here’s some thous and thou shall nots of virtual formals:

  • Thou shall send invitations well in advance. These are busy Quarantimes.
  • Thou shall set up your table with college-branded silverware and candles. If you have not borrowed silverware from your college, make do with Ikea.
  • Thou shall prepare the menu as instructed. A starter of bread & butter, an arugula and feta salad with balsamic reduction, Pasta Alla Pommarola (aka tomato sauce), and a dessert of your choice.
  • Thou shall not overcook the pasta.
  • Thou shall use your sub-fusc as an apron. You will likely not be using it again anyway.
  • Thou shall make sure your Zoom background a lovely historical college hall. This will greatly improve the atmosphere.
  • Thou shall not make that background a Hall from the other The chances of someone in the room having been rejected from that very college are much higher than what you would think.
  • Thou shall ask people how they would rename Parks College. Ehm, sorry, Reuben. Or is it Reubens?
  • Thou shall create breakout rooms for small groups to eat each course together. Thou shall not fill these rooms with only people that know each other. We all need some excitement in our lives.
  • Thou shall showoff your dessert, without revealing its Tesco’vian origins.
  • Thou shall not forget to pass around the Port. Because we did.

As this Trinity Term remained remote till the end, I am glad we took the time to create one more memorable moment. It might not have been the formal we would have imagined, but it is something to look back to when reminiscing about our time here. Whilst we wait to come back and sit next to a stranger in a hall: farewell, Formals.

Image Credit:  skittledog, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (Creative Commons) 


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