Dressed Down

I bought a dress online, a long black summer dress that I thought would make me look earthy and graceful. Dresses are foreign to me but I keep trying, like all the years I kept going back to Spanish classes thinking this next time I would become completely bilingual. Buenos dias!

The dress, so chic and classy in the photo, could double as an emergency tent. It’s that voluminous and heavy. Maybe it’s water repellent, I don’t know. It’s a lot of dress, folds and folds of black with a high elasticized waist. It makes me look like a yak herder’s widow on her way to milk the yaks. So I stuffed the dress in the back of my closet in case there’s a war or something where I need to cloak myself, you know, and dash from building to building unseen in the dark.

The other dress I bought online was because, on the model, the skirt was twirling. It looked merry and carefree and I thought ‘that could be me!’ When it came, I stripped down and tried it on.  Oh Lord. it was my grandmother, Millie. Millie in her triple D cups, the belt of her dress cinched tight five inches north of her waist, her skirt flared as she stepped back from putting her potato salad on the picnic table. Just potatoes and eggs and onions and some mayo, just enough to hold it together, to pack it like a snowball in case there’s a fight with other folks at the park.

Today, in my weeks-long effort to clear my office of twenty-five years of projects, photos, kids’ homework, and tax files, I found this incredibly accurate drawing of me done by my granddaughter. You’ll notice I am a mermaid, wearing a slight pink bra, my long blond hair gathered not once but twice by black ties. I have green fins and the world’s bluest eyes, saucers of eyes, because clearly I am happy. I am smiling. Who wouldn’t be? It’s the perfect outfit.

How we see ourselves, how others see us, how much we think about this or don’t. We love the times when we don’t think about it and that’s usually because we are being safe and timid in what we’re wearing. Camouflaged by the safe. I want to change that, break out of taupe, eschew my rivers of pants, twirl a little. I yearn to go milk the herd with flair and style.







14 Comments on “Dressed Down

  1. I think you are very brave to order dresses on line. I can’t even find one in the stores. I have turned into one of those old ladies who wears dresses from years ago. Now I understand why so many do.

  2. this is so well-written, funny, and rings so true. I love, love the ending and it really puts it all in perspective. you should keep your mermaid portrait forever and remember it when in doubt

  3. Dresses are for high summer (only) and must flow to lightly skim over the bulges. I love sheath dresses, but, sadly , that isn’t my shape.
    I don’t wear black. I gave up black in my forties – it made me feel like a crow. I also gave up white because I thought “who am I kidding?” I had my colours done in a lunchtime three-week course and was told that very few people can wear black successfully and I wasn’t one of them. White doesn’t suit me either. Taupe does, apparently. and pastels (boring…)
    Now I wear what feels right – even for weddings and funerals.

  4. I, too, have never been able to order a dress successfully online. Actually about one in three garments are disasters. I don’t know why I keep trying. I think the last time I wore a dress was at my wedding 33 years ago. Well, with one or two exceptions. I think your grandaughter’s picture looks just like you. With the fins cut off you look like a harem girl.

  5. I actually have found some dresses like that for very short money on Amazon. They are totally shapeless, but very light and airy. Actually, they are SO light and airy I’m afraid to wash them lest they come undone!

  6. Oh, Jan. I love this. Brought tears to my eyes. She obviously sees you in a beautiful light. My eldest drew a pic of our family when he was little. I was HUGE (as in tall) when compared to the rest of the family. I took it to mean I was a big presence in his life. Score:). Seems you’re the same for your granddaughter.

  7. I’m always in search of the perfect dress. I owned one once, and that’s what keeps me going.

  8. Pingback: Dressed Down — Red’s Wrap – All The Things I Could Do

  9. Oh, Lord, will I ever look like the model wearing the dress? Will I ever find a dress that makes me look like the vision I have of myself in a dress. Will I ever find a dress that I will actually wear?

  10. Love the yak herding/milking idea! How about something with green sequins, sort of mermaid-y ? good for sparkly twirling.

  11. Boy, I haven’t even finished reading this post because I can’t stop laughing at this line: “So I stuffed the dress in the back of my closet in case there’s a war or something where I need to cloak myself, you know, and dash from building to building unseen in the dark.”

    That line is perfect in every way – the tone, the rhythm, the vision, all of it. Now, back to reading.

  12. I have had no luck at all in ordering clothes online but I, too, keep trying. What’s worse, they come from China, so I wait for 4 months to be disappointed if not aghast!!!

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