While purging my closet last weekend, taking advantage of an extra two days off for the Fourth of July, I came across a garbage bag stuffed to bursting. Always in plain sight, the bag was wedged right in the very center of the closet, beneath the dresses, on top of the shoe rack, but I never registered its presence until now. Sure, it hid my favorite strappy sandals, but I could always push the light weight of it aside like a giant balloon.
Pulling it out, for the first time I considered getting rid of it. It took up prime space in the closet, adding to clutter already verging on wilderness. Would I ever wear it again? Did it even fit? No, of course not, I shook my head.
I reasoned with myself, sure most girls (truthfully, women) my age had long gotten rid of their prom dresses without a second thought aside from momentary nostalgia.
However, I conceded, my dress, with its voluminous petticoat, requires more consideration than the average ensemble from Macy’s.
It was not fashionable. I had picked the pattern from a retro Vogue collection at the local fabric store. Full satiny skirt with luxuriously abundant petticoat, tight, strapless bodice – it didn’t fit the au-courant princess styles or sleek modern sheaths other girls wore. It was Grace Kelly – except in bright teal.
This alone was not what made it special, though.
I remember her hands, slightly knobby knuckles, pearly pink nails deftly sticking me with pins as she fitted the bodice tighter through the waist at my behest. She refitted it several times for me, each time remarking in her unapologetic way, “I’ve never made something with boning in the bodice.”
“It’s okay, Grandma. I could never sew anything this beautiful,” I told her each time. It was true. So many separate panels of satin, such smooth, unforgiving fabric. I’d have made a snaggly mess of it within ten minutes.
She of course had to get it just right – the length, the bust (which always had to be taken in), the hips (which always had to be taken out).
Finally, she brought it over to my house sheathed in a plastic garment bag, the petticoat lodged separately into a garbage bag. She had even made a clutch with the scraps, embroidering it with beads. We had to have the whole thing dry-cleaned to remove the lingering odor of cigarettes, which I always associated with my grandmother but didn’t want as my prom fragrance.
It was gorgeous. It fit perfectly. It made my pasty skin seem luminescent. I transformed from an unruly teenager into a lady just by donning such a dress.
I was so very lucky.
Fingering the stiff tulle, I wondered, could I maybe keep the dress and get rid of the petticoat?
I stuffed it back in the middle of the closet, under the dresses, over the shoes. Maybe next year.
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