January 01, 2012

A Tale of One Dress

Steve's wedding 30th Birthday James' wedding NYE 2011

I have one dress that, over the years, has been my go-to for special occasions.

I don't remember when I bought it, but I remember where I bought it. It was at the Strawberry in Union Square, when I was still shopping at Strawberry, because everything was so cute and so cheap there. And there was something about buying clothes in Junior sizes that made me feel still young.

This dress, the strapless hot pink dress with the black polka dots, and the poodle skirt with black crinoline, made me feel thin and pretty. This dress made me feel like a girl.

I don't remember when I first wore it, but I remember I wore it to the party for my 30th birthday.

"I don't remember ever seeing you in this dress before," my friend George, the owner of the bar where I held my party, said.

"I don't wear it that often..." I said.

"Well," he said, looking at me deeply with those eyes, and one brow cocked just a little bit, "You should wear it more often."

Truth is, I usually wore it to weddings outside of New York. I'd worn it to Steve's wedding in LA, when I made our friend Eric drive my ass around, and I broke into the Beverly Laurel pool after hours and hooked up with Steve's best friend. I'd worn it to Jon's wedding in Upstate New York, when his best friend and best man got so drunk I had to lure him back to the car with my boobs. (I had boobs back then.) I wore it again to James' wedding in Connecticut, where I salsa-danced with the father of the bride, such that now when he sees me, he says, "I remember you - good dancer!"

In September 2008, I'd been invited to Jen's wedding as her friend Rob's date, but I'd gained so much weight that none of my dresses fit me anymore. I went shopping for a new outfit but couldn't find anything. And in the final hour, I resorted to the one dress that had done me right over the years: that hot pink and black polka dot dress.

Sure, it was tight on me. It barely zipped up. But I threw a sweater over it and took to the dancefloor like a pro, trying to forget my heft, trying to forget my heartbreak, trying to feel like a pretty girl despite how I suspected I looked.

That dress hasn't fit me in a while. After losing 51 pounds, I haven't been a size 13 in a while. But I couldn't let that dress go. I couldn't donate it to Goodwill like I had so many other pants, skirts, shirts, and dresses inside which I now swam. So I got it taken in at the tailors, and suddenly, years later, it was like new again.

And in my new hometown, far away from New York, on New Year's Eve, it was time to wear it again.

So I wore the hot pink and black polka dot dress last night with high hopes for a New Year's Eve that wouldn't break my heart.

I hoped for a midnight kiss, which at one point in my youth, was all I ever wanted on New Year's Eve night.

My wish was granted by the first guy I saw, who complimented me on my dress the minute he saw me (it).

But this year, I wanted more.

What I got?

"You look like a ladybug," a friend said, after I complimented him on his suit.

"Is that a compliment or an insult?" I asked.

"It's an observation," he stated, deadpan.

"So you're saying I look like a bug..."

"A very ladylike bug..."

At this point I walked away. My dress was hot pink, not RED. I did NOT look like a ladybug.

Did I?

Had I looked like a ladybug all these years?

I went to two different parties searching for something more, leaving behind my midnight kiss and friends, seeking affirmation, reinforcement, flattery, seduction, I don't know what. At the next party, I was complimented in kind by a cute guy: "I like your watermelon dress," he said.

"Uh, thanks," I said. Also not what I was going for.

So maybe I've outgrown this dress. Maybe the dress that got me through my 20s has been ready to be retired for some time now. Maybe Californians just don't get this dress. Maybe even though I got it taken in, it just doesn't fit me anymore.

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  1. I think you look great in the dress. 20's 30's whatever. I would never mistake pink for Watermelon, or red. People just say stupid things. Probably hushed by your beauty. Happy New Year.

  2. I love this piece, and can relate to it on many levels. My one dress has been on the chopping block all week as I prepare to clean out my wardrobe. Too tight, pretty faded, once flattering, now it just doesn't seem to look right. Maybe a little too bright and low cut and cutesy for a 36 year old woman who's put on 30 lbs. this year...

    I guess sometimes it's just time to recalibrate what your dress should be, and go find a new one.

  3. You don't look like a ladybug, but that dress screams 80s fashion. Keep it around if you want to recall the 80s every now and again, and if you do, add some unmistakably 80s accessories and say fuck it - I'm fabulous like Madonna.

    That said, you need a new dress. One that fits you - physically and figuratively (ha!). Something with a fabric that feels so sexy you can't stop moving around in it. Something that others want to touch, even strangers. Something elegant and generally appropriate for any future dress up occasion you might encounter (except the Oscars- that requires a very different new dress).

    You're in LA right? I cannot recommend Matrushka Construction highly enough, in Silverlake. She makes her dresses made by hand, alters them while you wait, so that they fit you exactly, perfectly, ridiculously amazingly. grab something that catches your eye, get a handful of things you like that you think will never fit you but that accent that stunning hair of yours. And I guarantee at least one of them will work. It will set the standard for new dresses, and you'll be back again and again.

    At least that was my experience. I've always been a stick boobless girl with growing hips, and her dresses are perfect for my weird, half-boy half-woman body. The designer is respectful of curves or lack thereof and are stunningly fitted, perfectly hued, and sexily draped - the best example of fabric-cum-attire (ha!) I've ever shimmied into. What's better is that Matrushka is AFFORDABLE, and that's what's really rare in LA. So affordable that I own five of them, and counting, purchased over a 3-year period.

    Good luck!! You're worth it.