The Secret Histories of Dresses, pt. 1

by Erin on December 27, 2005

ebay item 8367312434
I knew there was trouble when I saw the grocery store. I mean, look at me, I'm not a grocery-store kind of dress. I mean, maybe now you'd wear me to the grocery store, kids today and so on, but when I was new — no. But there I was, in the grocery store, with house slippers, no less, and her husband's windbreaker. No one said anything. We bought three cabbages, five bags of marshmallows, and beef bouillon cubes. The cashier rolled her eyes, but I didn't know why that was unusual–for all I knew that was a week's shopping. I was more of a cocktail-party dress. I knew weiners on sticks, and little cubes of cheese, and crudités.

After the grocery store, we went home, and lay on the sofa, watching television, until the man got home. There were a lot of nice dresses on the television. "Where are we going?" he asked. He didn't notice the house slippers, or the lack of makeup. He just saw me.

"Hell!" she shouted, and threw her drink at him. None got on me, not even a spot, and I was thankful, because bourbon stains.

He just stood there for a moment, dripping, and then walked into the other room. I heard him dialing the phone, but I couldn't make out what he was saying. He didn't come back in the room, even though she was sobbing. She wasn't watching the television, although it was still on. Soon she stopped crying and then she was asleep. I don't like being slept in. It makes creases. When she had been asleep for a while, the man came back in with a nightgown, and took me off her. He was pretty gentle. I'd heard stories of men ripping dresses, but he didn't. He was upset that she wasn't wearing anything under me, not even a slip, but he just sighed and went off for a minute. He came back with a bra and panties, though they didn't match. I guess he hadn't noticed that hers always matched, or maybe he didn't think it was important. Then he put a coat around her and carried her out.

I didn't get hung up until the next day. It was odd to spend so much time off a body but not hung up. She always hung me up right away.

He hung me up, but put me way in the back of the closet, not near the other dresses I'd been by before. That felt strange. And then no one opened the closet for weeks and weeks. When the door opened again, she looked in and said "Oh! None of these will fit now, I've lost so much weight." She didn't seem happy or sad about it, either way. Her voice seemed kind of flat, not bubbly like it was before. Anyway, she never wore me again, and I was given away a few months later, to her sister who lived in Tucson.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 27, 2005 at 8:15 am

Aw man. That’s the saddest thing I’ve read in a while. =(–Lydia


vintagecrochetgirl December 27, 2005 at 10:07 am

Lydia, I was thinking the same thing. At least this lovely number doesn’t end being cut up for a quilt or some such thing…Or maybe this frock would like that and would feel more useful.


Gidget Bananas December 27, 2005 at 11:39 am

Makes me want to adopt that dress to give it a good home.


Anonymous December 29, 2005 at 4:53 pm

A mini novel about the secret life of dress! How deliciously divine! What a creative concept!I think this arena deserves to be explored on a more serious level.Who knows, a publisher may soon be knocking at your door. ;-)kitschkittie


Anonymous May 27, 2006 at 3:52 am

There really is no home for this dress it sits in my store waiting… hoping…. for another trip to the frozen food aisle.


Hope June 25, 2006 at 3:32 pm

Of the four stories this one is, by far, my favourite. It is sad but I think the beginning is funny. Mostly that’s what I like about it. But I really liked this one the best.


Jassy July 7, 2006 at 9:52 am

Truly wonderful. It’s sentimental and it pinches your heart. Short and simple, and yet it has the most amazing effect on anyone. It’s a story which poses a lot of questions to the heart, although never in a bad, hopeless way. It’s an unrequited love…..


Lady Arwen of the Silver Rose July 16, 2006 at 4:45 pm

I’m still wondering what she did with the marshmallows.


Anonymous July 17, 2006 at 1:29 am

I’m wondering what happened…why she acted that way then and now.


Anonymous September 28, 2006 at 3:14 pm

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alchemist October 29, 2006 at 6:21 pm

Wow. just wow.


Elrond Hubbard January 22, 2007 at 11:04 pm

The “Secret Lives of Dresses” series is genius. I have only read nos. 1 and 10. I suppose 9 comes next. Genius.


Anonymous January 26, 2007 at 2:34 pm

Her husband sent her away to “Rehab”, where they fired her brain with electroshock therapy so she would “behave”.


Julia Sommer March 31, 2007 at 5:22 pm

that was so fun to read. what a story. I laughed a lot when she threw her drink at the man.


Anonymous July 20, 2007 at 1:49 pm

how much, this dress, and where I can buy it??? thanks. ANA


Jacqui October 4, 2007 at 6:23 am

Oh my God this is too weird, I just posted this bit about my Granny and my Mom and included links to my Flickr site (jacquiscloset on Flickr) and the discussion about their fashion history going on over on the vintage fashion forum at eBay and then I was browsing your site and saw this. Does this dress have a label? Because if it doesn’t say Peggy Hunt, and it’s silk and well made, I think my Grandmother designed it because I have one very much like it in my collection. Too weird.


Anonymous June 22, 2008 at 11:34 am

Who cares about the story look at that dress. I can’t wait till I make a dress, that is mine.


Omega 605 September 16, 2008 at 9:40 pm

I agree. The story is great but the dress….absolutely gorgeous!


Sarah Von December 7, 2008 at 10:49 am

Fantastic! I just stumbled onto these vignettes and am in the process of gobbling down every last one. So good!


Anonymous December 4, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Sort of Julianne Moores character in The Hours. The dress is amazing!


000sundancer000 December 11, 2009 at 9:07 am

You are sooooooooooo creative!!!!


Toni January 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Very pretty dress! What type of fabric did you use?Yes.. that dress says, Im just beautiful and take me someplace special!Toni


Peggy January 22, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I dont feel bad commenting 3 years after you originally posted this. All i can say is MORE PLEASE!


Diane June 6, 2010 at 11:45 am

I too think this should be a series of books published. I loved the story. Not only connecting to the dress but also the people around the dress. It shows how an article of clothing would see life around it.
I can’t imagine a publisher has not by now picked this up as a book.


Zab January 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Wow wow wow! You are a wonderful writer! I just found your blog through a link on facebook to the You Don’t Have To Be Pretty post. Loved that post, love this post, bookmarking now.

Also, I used to have a very similar dress. 1950s vintage, fuller skirt, background silver, not pearl, But the same neckline and sleeves, and very similar big blue roses. I loved it.

I assume you have read Love Loss and What I Wore by Ilene Beckerman? If not, you must. Wonderful book, you are certain to like. She tells her life story entirely through what outfit she was wearing when each significant event happened in her life.

Zab, a new admirer


Erin January 16, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Oh, thank you — I’m glad you like! (And yes, I think Love, Lost, and What I Wore is a fantastic book.)


martine February 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Oh I want that dress. But I didn’t miss the story. Thats good.


martine February 24, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Yeah, a woman having a nervous breakdown in the 50’s or 60’s (or a man for that matter) was not going to do well.


Rose Rose Rose May 24, 2011 at 7:40 pm

I love reading the secret lives of dresses.


Maleeha January 29, 2012 at 7:36 pm

the dress is stunning. i want it, i want it, i want it! i’ve just starting reading these stories, and i can’t wait to read the rest! so creative!


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