Story N˚ 25: Vintage for Easter

When I started thinking of my array of floral dresses that I choose from for Easter Sunday, I remembered a dress I haven’t worn in years.  In fact, I couldn’t remember if I still had it, and if I had altered it or not.  Sometimes, I start chopping up a dress to make into a skirt or top, and then get distracted and find it mangled years later.  And I usually can’t remember what I was going to make it into.  I know I have thought of how to alter this particular dress many times.  When I went to look for it, I couldn’t remember if it had gotten chopped or not.  I was a little worried.

This dress is the first truly vintage piece I ever bought.  I was in high school, late 1980’s. One summer when we were visiting family in Salt Lake City, my sister and I who were already thrift shoppers, found ourselves in a vintage shop.  I’m sure I didn’t understand the difference back then between thrift and vintage except for price; all I knew was we were surrounded by great clothing.  This green and white floral print must be rayon, and I think the tag read circa 1930’s, maybe early ’40’s.  It looks handmade, although the buttonholes and buttons look commercial.  I honestly don’t know how it has lasted this long in my rambunctious wardrobe.  It is worn out and yellowed in some places, but the rayon is strong and still drapes beautifully.

vintage 01
Note the grosgrain ribbon running through the crenellated tabs and on the buttons.
IMG_0384
Do you look inside of clothing to examine the stitching?  I do.

I wore it constantly in Florida where dresses are great for the heat.  I remember my high school art history teacher, Dr. Earles, complemented me on it.  My first year of college, I wore it with no socks and men’s dress shoes. I’m talking early-grunge, so this was ultra feminine. I remember one late summer evening I went to visit a guy in his dorm.  I had a new haircut, my vintage dress and no shoes on. I knew he liked green, and was hoping he liked the dress, that is, liked me in the dress. The kiss didn’t happen till later that semester, but I’d like to think the dress had something to do with it.

I would also wear it to the university’s performing arts center, where I volunteered as an usher with my best friend so we could see the play or opera or symphony for free.  This was an easy dress for such occasions.

vintage 02

I realize I haven’t worn this dress for decades. The dress does have a homely, hausfrau look to it from here. I don’t remember it that way. Maybe that’s why I didn’t wear it for so long. I found it at the bottom of a pile of clothes (one I keep for sentimental reasons); it wasn’t cut up at all!  I’m glad my past self had the sense not to change it.  But I want to freshen it some way, maybe wear it again this summer.  For now, it will be my Easter dress, maybe with a shorter skirt and cap sleeves.

Happy Easter

IMG_0388

 

Advertisements

Story N˚ 23: The Disappearing Act

The #metoo movement has inspired me to think of my own history of being sexually abused and harassed. Fortunately, I haven’t encountered it blatantly as an adult; I think because I mainly work with women and gay men. I understand that abuses occur with women and gay men too, but I have been fortunate in my surroundings. Or I have learned to fly under the radar of straight men…

What I want to connect to sexual harassment, assault, rape, etc. is what I see as a result of said abuses: the disappearing act that occurs in some girls and women. There is a disconnect from our bodies. Maybe we put on weight, and then start wearing large, shapeless clothing, usually black, to hide.  Clearly, not all girls wearing black, slouchy clothes have been abused, but some of us who have will do anything to make ourselves invisible.

My sex abuse/harassment history started when I was very young. The most memorable event was a playground scene, when I was 10 years old, that still makes me bristle. My friends and I were playing in the middle of the yard surrounded by the swings and jungle gym. Suddenly, a boy in my class, Bruce, started running at me from across the field. He hit into me full force and grabbed me between the legs. I pushed him away and he dashed off to do it again and again, hitting me full force with his body and clamping his hand on my crotch. I couldn’t believe what was happening. My classmates had all stopped to look on, and I could hear them making comments to each other. I was hysterical with shame and panic. Finally, our teacher called us over. I don’t know that she saw what happened, because she made us sit side by side on the picnic bench in front of her and yelled at both of us for bad behavior. I remember the feeling of having no one on my side to protect me or stand up for me.  I think this is when I started to disappear rather than suffer humiliation. As more harassment occurred in my school years, I tried more and more to recede into the background. By high school, I was wearing black, baggy clothes and doing my best to play invisible.

I love fashion and dream up outfits in my head all the time, but what I actually put on is considerably pared down by comparison. Too much shut-down training, too much beauty ideal stress. I mean, why look sexy if I will just be harassed?  It’s complicated.

I found this entry in my journal from early December:

“Sister Jones has on a cream-colored, ankle-length fur coat. I think she’s Gladys Knight for a moment because someone runs to get a photo with her. I watch her, can’t break my awe. People who are good at disappearing don’t trifle with such elegance, we don’t even play at it.”

A photo will appear in this post eventually. Maybe of my teenage self, maybe a foray into elegance… Until then, #metoo.

Story N˚18: A Dress in 3 Acts

Act 1:  2008. Woman in her mid thirties visits NYC with her husband. She enters a bohemian boutique in Manhattan and finds a subtle, well-draped dress in a watery Japanese print.  It’s on the sale rack, so it’s worth a try in the fitting room.  A little snug through the shoulders, but it’s so different, so beautifully grey and blue, and affordably priced.  She takes it back to Florida where it gets compliments and stains in the armpits because of the heat, and the fact that it’s snug through the shoulders.

dressact01

Act 2:  2010, Florida. Woman wears the beautiful dress to her estranged husband’s BFA  show at the university they both attend.  She wants to look good.  Her hair hangs long down her back. She puts on orange peep-toe platforms to create some pop with the grey tones of the dress.  She is feeling confident and happy.  Her husband really wants her to be there, so he said.  All of their friends, her in-laws and classmates are there to support him in his exhibition, including a professor they both took classes with.  The professor looks very dressed up in make up, an open-back dress and heels. Her hair is also hanging long down her back.  The Woman notices the professor looks nervous. 

Act 3:  2012, New York City, a rented room.  It is only a few months since her divorce. The Woman found out that the professor and her husband were sleeping together.  The Woman found out that she and her husband want different things in life.  She is feeling lonely and sorry for herself, and decides to go out.  She puts on that grey dress and a little make up.  She runs her hand over her head that is now a cropped lawn of hair.  She shaved her head in mourning after the divorce, and as a way to start anew.  The Woman goes to an open gallery night in the Lower East Side.  She looks at art and boutique goods; she sees beautiful things.  She sees people struggling on the streets.  She eats a slice of pizza and watches people go by.  She knows she has it good; she goes home contented and ready for her new life alone…

-Emily