Lady Clothes

The Naked Dress That Set Me Free

As an enemy of fashion, purchasing a formal dress requires effort and concentration for me. When I was a senior in college, I spent my hard-earned money on one fancy dress with hopes it could be worn to three upcoming black-tie events. The dress I chose required extensive measurements for altercations, but I was excited about slaying three dragons with one dress.

I swung by the store to pick up and try on the dress on my way to the first event in Boston. Despite my insistence that they leave extra room for a multi-course meal, they clearly thought that was unnecessary. The dress was a touch snug, but I was late for the ball. I hauled down to Copley Place, found a spot to change in the parking garage and packed myself in the dress, hose and heels. By the end of dinner, my tits were climbing up my neck, and my breathing was impaired. I had to excuse myself from the table to walk out some digestion before the dancing began.

When the lights came up after hours of dancing, people around me backed away staring in shock at my appearance. I looked down to discover that my stockings were shredded and the velvet on the front of the dress was crimped after fighting with my substantial rib cage and layer of frosting. My hair was flying in all directions. The real topper was that the puffy 80s sleeves of the dress were blown apart with threads sticking up. My bare, unfeminine shoulders were exposed as if I was the Incredible Hulk after a big night.

Fortunately, the store gave me credit to get a new dress for the next events. I chose a loose-topped dress with and slightly fitted bottom. The open back of the dress required a bra with a complicated hooking system OR some odd cup items that held on with glue.

I went with the glue on cups but managed to stick them on off-kilter for my sister’s rehearsal dinner. Partway through the dancing, one of the cups dislodged along with half the skin on my ribcage. The good fortune of a dress incident at a wedding is that guests are too focused on the married couple or preoccupied with their own outfit challenges to pay any attention to a scrappy Maid of Honor. By the last song, the slit in my dress was split to the top of my bum crack. My matching slip saved me, but dress number two was down for the count.

Considering my tendencies to take the shortcut through the woods, enthusiastically dance and climb fences even in a formal dress, I had to reconsider my shopping approach. My outfits needed to be industrial strength, flexible and comfortable.

A few years ago, I needed a quiver of lady clothes for several events for a wedding weekend at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee. I went out shopping in my usual uniform of jeans, old running sneakers, a baseball cap, a “dress tee” (no writing or logos) and a fleece top. The women who sell dress clothes are trained to not take shopping slackers like me seriously. I am used to them taking one look at my shoes and not hiding the sadness they feel for me. However, my straightforward approach and clear dress criteria usually disarm them.

I watched the saleswoman’s borderline sneer dissolve into sheer delight when I said, “I am looking for a dress for a formal event. I am not going to worry about the price too much because it needs to be appropriate for the occasion but also be comfortable. Here are my three criteria:

1. I eat all the food. I need room for some expansion

2. I dance with gusto (demo a few moves) and have a history of blowing dresses out.

3. And it needs to be comfortable enough for me to be able to climb a fence in a pinch. NOT a small fence that holds in the lower animals like sheep or goats. I want to be able to tuck the dress in my underwear and get over a chain-link fence if I must. I don’t drink a drop of alcohol, however unexpected adventures in a dress occur with regularity for me.”

When I got to the part about climbing the fence, a huge smile broke over her face. She bounded off and returned with five dresses that I hadn’t even seen on my first look through.

While they were all comfortable, my former ski racer stumpy troll body ruled out a few. Then I put on a The Dress. I felt naked in it. It was definitely a fence climber. I was hesitant because the colors of the fabric were a bit strange, even ugly. Then the saleswoman showed her true expertise. She crumpled the dress into a ball and shook it out to demonstrate the no-iron feature. SOLD to the lady in the linty fleece.

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