I read an amazing book once called The Secret Lives of Dresses. It was the story of a woman who takes over her grandmother's vintage clothing store and finds that her grandmother wrote down the story of each dress.
I've thought a lot about this concept since, especially being a lover of new-to-me dresses. I've wondered about the dresses' history and thought about the stories I'd be adding to their histories. But when I look at my dresses, I don't see a series of stories, or any kind of timeline. Each dress makes me think of one event, the most memorable time I wore it, so strongly that it's like a scent-triggered memory. And I've noticed that this happens most often when I travel.
For instance, the picture I've used for my Etsy shop is of me in a dress I've worn on multiple occasions. But to me, it will always be the dress I wore to a wedding in Cancun. Even more specifically, it's what I was wearing when I was on a beach, watching the wedding party taking photos, standing shoeless in the sand, in my perfect weather (80s and above), wearing a pretty dress, when the servers came and offered me my very favorite wine. That was a nearly perfect moment.
The next dress I wore just this weekend to a baby baptism in Saratoga Springs. I also wore it to a rehearsal dinner the last time I was a bridesmaid. But that's not what stuck. Instead, every time I look at this dress, I'm back shopping in Oviedo, Spain, with my new sister in law.
On our fourth wedding anniversary, my husband and I took an amazing trip to Manchester, England (he's a Man U fan). I had a fabulous dress all picked out to wear for our overseas anniversary dinner... and the airline lost our luggage. We bought last minute outfits from a local discount store (Primark), and that dress has become one of my favorites. It will always speak to me not only of the happiness of being someplace awesome with my awesome husband on our anniversary, but of the innocence of that trip - the last pre-cancer anniversary. The following anniversaries have been just as happy, thankfully, but they've been a very different kind of joy.
When your cuzbud (because we're cousins AND buds) gets married, that's pretty memorable. But when you dance with all your cousins to a song about vacuum cleaner hose-nosed aliens from your childhood that you all still know every word to, you'll never forget that dress. It reminds me how lucky I was to have that kind of a childhood, and of how very very lucky I am to still count those cousins as best friends.
In Portugal, my husband and I wandered Porto one beautiful summer day.
A few magical things happened that day. First, I got to visit the bookstore where JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter. They wouldn't allow people to take pictures inside, but I swear I was there!
I got to do a port wine tasting... in Porto, Portugal!
I tried to blend in with a tiled wall.
But the thing that I think of every time I look at this dress as it hangs in my closet is the moment when Greg and I had been wandering for hours and wanted to stop and sit. So we stopped at a place along the river Douro, and I remembered that my sister-in-law had mentioned a type of wine called Vinho Verde. I ordered one, and that's the moment. Sitting by the water, in the heat, with my husband, drinking a lightly effervescent glass of "green" wine. Every bit as magical as Harry Potter.
We visited Madrid during that same trip, and even though one of the highlights of my trip was getting to visit a thrift store in Europe, that's not what I think of when I look at this particular dress.
I think of the feeling of the heat. It was, as they say, a dry heat. My nose bled and our lips cracked and you could feel the heat rising off the pavement. They had mist at every restaurant to try to combat this. You can see and almost feel the heat that I think of with this dress here:
The day I wore this dress in this picture was the first day of summer vacation that year. My husband and I went to the beach, ate at a restaurant by the water, and got ice cream and walked along the shore. For those of you who aren't teachers, you might remember the feeling of the start of summer vacation from when you were a student. That feeling of anticipated freedom, and warmth, and excitement at a couple of months of playing outdoors and in pools. That feeling still comes to me every single year, and it is joy.
But the best, strongest memory is one that isn't connected to just one of my dresses, but a whole closetful of them. I call them my "back yard" dresses because they're comfy and I don't mind if the dogs get them dirty. There is no better memory or feeling in the whole world than sitting in my back yard with my husband and dogs in the summer heat. Not in any country in any land.
What stories do your dresses tell you? I would love to hear about them.