Hazelbrook, New South Wales
I once bought a dress. Not the sexy little number that I’d gone out to buy (which looked great on the rack, but crap on me), but a dress that the boutique owner wouldn’t even consider hanging in the window. I still don’t know what I saw in it at the time, but I took it off the rack, tried it on and, well, it came to life with a real person inside it. It accentuated the bits that I wanted accentuated. It drew attention away from the bits I wanted ignored. It was every woman’s dream! And so I bought The Dress.
It was an amazing dress and we worked together so well. It was light enough for a cool summer’s day, perfect for mild autumn weather with a light bolero jacket, and made me look shit-hot when I wore it with knee-high boots and a trench coat in winter.
The two-tone pattern was nice and small and not too obvious – again, just perfect for me. (For once, my mother approved wholeheartedly of my pattern choice.) And it was one of those wear-it-to-work-then-after type dresses. In fact, not only did I wear it to work and after, I wore it to funerals, discoes, dinner dates, movie dates, job interviews and birthday luncheons. It just seemed to be whatever I needed it to be whenever I needed it to be that. We had some great times, The Dress and I.
Over the years, of course, we both changed. Sometimes, I had to work a bit to be able to fit back into it – especially after having the kids. And sometimes The Dress changed, too. I remember one particular occasion when the back hem dropped due to The Dress having stretched across my expanding derrière. We had to seek professional help for that issue.
As times and fashions changed, The Dress changed, too. In the 90s, the hem came up over my knees. On another occasion I dyed it that lovely fuchsia colour that was so popular at the time. The pattern still showed through. In fact, it even brought the pattern out more strongly!
The years passed and one day I realised I hadn’t worn The Dress in over a year. I pulled it out of the closet and tried it on. For the first time in eighteen years, we just didn’t gel, and I couldn’t work out what was needed to fix it. Did I need to reshape to suit The Dress? Did The Dress need to reshape to suit me?
I slept on it for a few nights in the hope that the answer would come to me in the wee small hours, as it often did when I was seeking a way forward. But no. Nothing. Nada. Nyet. For the first time ever, The Dress and I weren’t right for each other and I couldn’t work out a way around it.
I decided that we should seek professional help again and tracked down my favourite seamstress—the one who had so carefully let out the darts and adjusted the seams as my weight and shape had fluctuated over the years. She looked at us together, listened to what I had to say and studied The Dress carefully, but could only offer some textbook suggestions. It was over. The Dress and I had outgrown each other.
We went home, The Dress and I, and I folded it carefully, one last time, and put it in a charity bag with several other bits and pieces, dropping them off on my way to work the next day. There seemed no point in delaying, yet it felt such a callous thing to do. The Dress had served me well, and it wasn’t as if it was falling apart, or had become useless, or as if I had come to despise it. We just weren’t a good ‘fit’ anymore.
Over the following months I bought a few new pieces for my wardrobe, simply to fill the physical gaps, but I knew it would take a long time before I would find a suitable replacement for The Dress.
Many months later I joined the checkout queue in the local supermarket behind a young lass in a real vintage-looking outfit. There was something very familiar about her, yet I couldn’t place her. Then it struck me—she was wearing The Dress!
It was no longer fuchsia, but a deep, warm purple-brown. The collar had been removed and the zip opening down the back replaced with shiny new buttons. How retro! A new cinch belt brought The Dress in tight at the waist, accentuating the bust and hips in a way that I’d never been able to master.
The Dress looked good. Different. Younger. Brighter and sassier. Its new owner clearly cared about it and saw its potential, helping it to a new lease on life. But boy, did it hurt seeing it look so fantastic on such a younger, trimmer ‘model’.
I walked home, sad that I’d not been able to see that potential in The Dress myself. If I had, maybe I could have kept it. But I knew deep down it wouldn’t have worked. A colour like that would never have suited me, and as for the whole vintage look … I’m far too old for that now!
I changed over the years and The Dress did, too. I truly doubt that I will ever find another dress as suitable and as wonderful. And sad as it is, I have to accept that.
So tomorrow I’m going shopping again. In fact, I’m going hunting for a pair of well-tailored trousers. But no matter how flattering they might be, no matter how many years I get out of them, I’ll never forget The Dress, nor the good times we shared.
Bio: Jenny is the founder, publisher and Editor-in-Chief of narratorINTERNATIONAL and this is the first time she has entered anything into the contest. Jenny felt compelled to write The Dress following the surprise break-up of a couple she cares about. For more about Jenny, visit http://jmoshereditor.com