Friday, October 28, 2005

Screaming Memies

Lifetime Top Five Items of Clothing

1. Vintage suede jacket
--from The Antique Boutique on Broadway in the Village, I believe still extant, unlike Unique, my other big hangout. Starting when I was 13 I was allowed to prowl the city with a friend, but my parents usually arranged to be on the same island. In the era before cell phones, I'm not sure what this really accomplished except to make them less reachable in the event of a crisis. Then when I was 14 or 15 I could take the train and be truly on my own, which I did as often as I could. I still own this jacket, wore it yesterday. It's a kind of mahogany color, lined with iridescent greenish rose acetate (looks better than it sounds) medium length, somewhat boxy cut. It had a self belt which I tossed long ago, and now I'm kind of sorry.

2. Lavender Indian cotton sundress--this dress was one of those mysterious successes Nancy Hale writes about in A New England Girlhood: "Certain dresses had a cosmic importance in my wardrobe. There were dresses in which I always had a good time and those dresses, as smart or smarter, which seemed to possess no magic." Although I was not a Boston Brahmin debutante in the 20s, I did have this magic dress, which I bought at "$5-a-bag-day" at the Friends of Animals thrift shop. It was lavender, a color I have always loved, sleeveless and trimmed with eyelet and coarse lace; the bodice buttoned down the front and it had a slightly flared skirt. It actually fit me rather poorly, the waistline hitting neither at my natural waist nor at any other convenient spot; but boys fell all over me when I wore this dress.

My first boyfriend and I had a little routine in which he would say "I like your dress," and I replied "That's because it's a dress." (var. also for "skirt") It was more than that, though. In high school my skirt day/pants day ratio was higher than it ever will be again but not every skirt was magic. I especially enjoyed revealing the thrift shop origins of the fawned-over dress--rather than explaining the $5 bag I would just say it cost $.50, based on how many items I thought I had bought--and the boys would exclaim, "And thrifty too!" It was like "Kind of Woman" from Pippin.

Eventually fell apart in the wash.

3. Tattered Jeans--Another bulk thrift find, these from a loft kind of place in Cambridge where you could buy clothes by the pound out of random piles all over the floor. I was visiting friends living there for the summer, in between sophomore and junior year of college. I spotted these very worn jeans, already with significant holes in the knees, picked them up and held them in front of me. They looked about the right length, so I stuffed them in my garbage bag. As it turned out they were boy's button-fly Levi's and they fit me perfectly. To paraphrase Barbara Mandrell, I was low-rise when low-rise wasn't cool. These jeans had a magical quality not unlike that of the lavender dress. I particularly remember one time when my roommate said, "You know, if you had described that outfit to me (vintage suede jacket above, ecru lace blouse, the jeans) I would have said no. But you look awesome."

One sad day they had to become shorts, and then...I don't know what happened to them. On the same trip I bought a wide-brimmed black straw hat in Quincy Market, which I left on the airplane coming home.

4. My wedding dress--it was exactly what I had in mind, the first dress I tried on. (I took three off the sample sale rack. The salesladies made me try on number two, but I refused to bother with number three.) My mother-in-law was recently reminiscing about all the family wedding dresses, and she said "You looked beautiful in your dress. Like Grace Kelly." Mission accomplished! It was a ballgown with a tulle skirt (sweep train) and silk satin bodice with a portrait neckline, appliqued all over with beaded Alencon lace. I'd love to wear it again. Sigh.

5. Three hats--a hat lover like me can't pick just one. Two hats I bought for my sister-in-law's wedding in 1998 (I always buy the hat and then get a dress to match. It's easier than the other way.) Both are fine straw with tulle studded with tiny roses around the crown. I wore the pink and white one to the wedding, and I have worn the taupe and white one to every Easter ever since. The third hat is a huge black straw with big black crepe roses and veiling around the crown. I get to wear it tonight as part of my Holly Golightly costume!

So, to sum up: three vintage items, all having waistline issues. The remaining two rely heavily on tulle.

I tag ergo.

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