Secret Lives of Dresses #12

by Erin on March 16, 2007


ebay item 260097663640

I don't drink the cocktails, of course, but I like them anyway. I like the sweaty short fat glasses that look so sure of themselves and smug, their little swords impaling the glossy maraschino cherries gleefully. I like the graceful martini glasses, too, with the smoky olives lurking in their depths, or the tiny onions. "Like eyeballs!" she said once, and I agreed with her. After that I was happy that she didn't drink the ones with the onions. Sometimes he makes her one of the short fat ones even before they leave for the party, when she's running around in stockings and no shoes, putting her earrings in while trying to find her favorite lipstick, which she was sure was in the pocket of her coat, but which usually turns out to have been left in the car.

On the way they don't usually listen to the radio, but when they get to the parties there's always music. I like that man with the sad voice the best, but I like the dancing songs, too. She's a good dancer, and she knows how to use me when she dances, how to make my skirt swirl just so. I especially like that moment when the dance has just stopped but she's still standing there in somebody's arms. Usually they're his arms, unless there's a card game starting up, and then it could be anyone. I like him the best, but there's another one, Bill — he's a very good dancer. Sometimes, when they're dancing, he whispers into her ear. I can't hear what he says but I can hear what she says back. "Oh, Bill, you're terrible!" is what she says, but she doesn't sound upset. She's usually laughing.

I like seeing the other dresses, too, although of course we don't really talk. It's more like a series of little nods; I might nod to Alice's black crepe, as if to say "nice seeing you again," (although of course you see her everywhere, she really deserves a rest). I might give a little acknowledging nod to a new dress; there's usually at least one new dress at every party, and the new ones always get the most scrutiny. Everyone wants to make sure the fashion hasn't changed so much that their wearers will think they've become dowdy. I'm not one of the oldest, but I'm not one of the newest, either. I hear from her other dresses that sometimes the ones that have been to too many parties here go to her sister in Baltimore. I'm not sure where Baltimore is, but I hope they have parties. They must, or why would she send her dresses there? I don't want to go anywhere that doesn't have parties.

Sometimes unexpected things happen at parties — there was the time that Gerry decided he didn't want to wear pants, for one. (I always wondered what the other suits thought about that, but of course we hardly ever talk to them, even when we share a closet. They're so uncommunicative.) Once she walked in on Phil and Amelia in the spare room. I thought they were dancing, but it seemed odd for them to be dancing so far from the music. Amelia's dress was all askew, too. It wasn't hanging right at all. And I'll never forget the time, at Harold and Pat's Christmas party, when Pat brought out that flaming dessert and the dangling ball fringe on her party apron went right up, just whoosh! Harold had to squirt her with the soda siphon. Luckily her dress was okay, it was a bright red polished cotton. I don't think cottons make very good party dresses, but maybe that's why Pat went all-out with such a fancy apron. After that party, on the way home, she laughed so hard I thought she was going to split my zipper.

On the way home from the parties he holds her hand, and they talk about everyone they just saw. "Can you believe he brought that woman from his office, and the divorce not final?" and "Jeff's not doing well, not doing well at all. Putting on a brave front, though, for Georgia." Sometimes they're quiet, and then I know they're tired, or that they had too many fat little glasses.

When we walk in the door her shoes come right off, and her coat goes over the nearest chair. Her earrings land next to her bag on the table in the hall, right by the mail. She whispers hello and goodbye and thank-you to the babysitter. Sometimes she and the babysitter yawn at the same time, and that makes them both laugh. The babysitter just lives two doors down, but he always walks her home. As soon as the door shuts again behind them, she rushes up the stairs to his room. First she stands in the doorway for a minute, making sure he's still asleep, that the noise of the door opening and closing didn't wake him.

I can see him in the dim light of the bunny nightlight, so I'm sure she can too, but she always goes closer. Sometimes I'm a bit afraid of the little boy; his hands are always so dirty! But I'm safe when he's asleep. She sits on the edge of the bed, and brushes his hair away from his forehead. Every time I see him, he needs a haircut. She always bends to kiss his cheek, something he usually doesn't allow before they leave for the party. His face is slack with sleep, and he doesn't turn away.

Then she just sits and watches him. I never thought watching someone sleep would be interesting (I think pajamas are really boring) but watching the little boy is, somehow. Maybe it's just feeling what she feels that's so interesting. Once, I remember, he laughed in his sleep. He must have been dreaming. I'll never forget that sound; it was so beautiful, like something made of crystal suddenly turning into bubbles and floating away.

She sits there until she hears the door open. Then she leans over him and whispers "I love you, darling boy," kisses him again, fusses with his covers, and heads downstairs. Sometimes he makes her one more drink, they sit on the sofa, talk a little, but usually she just helps him lock up and turn out the lights, before going to take me off. She always hangs me right up, which is nice. It's not comfortable to spend all night on the floor, especially after a party. I hope if I go to Baltimore her sister hangs up her dresses right away, too.

[Click on the image to go to the eBay listing for this dress.]
[Edited to change # — this is actually #12, #11 was here.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

knitgirl March 16, 2007 at 10:01 am

Just beautiful! Thank you

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Rayna March 16, 2007 at 10:09 am

A fabulous story for a fabulous dress. Thanks.

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Julie The Vintage Goddess March 16, 2007 at 11:26 am

Oh Erin, you made me cry before I had even properly woken up…lovely little story.

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Anonymous March 16, 2007 at 12:16 pm

I ran across your site when searching for wedding dresses! I read through all of your stories of the “secret lives of dresses”, great personalities in all of them. I often see dresses in vintage shops wondering who they belonged to and where they were worn. I’ll have to check back to your site, hope to find more stories to read!

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Mary Tess March 16, 2007 at 1:11 pm

I’m deeply touched once again, Erin. I love it that the dress feels safe when the boy is asleep. Thank you.

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Susan March 16, 2007 at 1:43 pm

What a lovely story, Erin; I especially loved the description of looking in on the little boy. I have a 6 year old, and while he’s awake, he’s a normal 6 year old, but watching him sleeping is the most wonderful thing – he looks like a little angel, just like I imagine the boy in your story looks.

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Suzy March 16, 2007 at 3:08 pm

you’ve outdone yourself again. Lovely story. Nice ending too.

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Anonymous March 16, 2007 at 4:13 pm

I want to go to a party too! In a dress like that. When my girl sleeps, it’s the only time I can see the baby she once was.-MB

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Charles March 16, 2007 at 7:41 pm

I loved the bit about the uncommunicative suits! That made me laugh out loud.I have to check on my 5-1/2 year old daughter every night. Partially because she tends to end up with the covers thrown off before she falls asleep, but also because I just love watching her sleep and wondering what she’s dreaming. (Usually about dresses and Princesses, she assures me.)

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Anonymous March 17, 2007 at 12:25 am

Great story!

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vicki jane March 17, 2007 at 12:33 am

My baby has been living overseas for a year and is coming back home to live. I admit i occasionally sneak in and tuck her in and give her a kiss. she will be 20 in a month but shes still my little girl.

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z-silverlight March 17, 2007 at 2:15 am

Your secret Lives Of Dresses is wonderfully done and well conceived.

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Nora March 17, 2007 at 10:27 am

So sweet! I’ll have to re-read the old ones but this may be the happiest dress story. Someone get this dress and take her to a party in Baltimore – maybe chez John Waters, I’m sure he’d appreciate her!

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theresa March 17, 2007 at 10:30 am

BRAVO! BRAVO! CLAP CLAP CLAP! Fantastic! The part about the sleeping boy, the noncommunicative suits, checking out the new dresses! Nothing sad or bad happened. I absolutely loved it! I missed reading them. So nice to have a new one.

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Tamsin March 17, 2007 at 10:54 am

Hello – these stories are absolutely brilliant and the dresses are amazing too. So glad I stumbled across your blog, I shall definitely be back. Dresses are one of the things that make life worth living. :-)

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Elrond Hubbard March 17, 2007 at 11:01 am

All positive comments echoed. “Secret Lives” is a wonderful vehicle for storytelling, and you are doing it wonderfully.

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Melinda March 17, 2007 at 11:27 am

…big happy tears!…Thanks ever so much for this…and thanks for sharing!

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BeckaJo March 17, 2007 at 11:56 am

This was my favorite one yet.

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stefani March 17, 2007 at 2:09 pm

That dress is adorable! I just discovered your blog, and I love the fact that you like dresses so much because I also really like dresses… and skirts, too!When I was a little girl I refused to wear pants. I just loved dresses because they were so pretty, and I hated the feel of having pants on my legs. I think I was in the fourth or fifth grade before I finally found a pair of pants that I liked.Now I wear pants almost every day, but I still LOVE dresses!:-)

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Karen March 17, 2007 at 3:20 pm

I love the polka dots and the swanky parents’ parties–I have a skirt that looks very much like the dress, in fact–you’ve made the dress so much more complex and tender than at first sight. Beautiful, as always!

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Amy A. March 17, 2007 at 5:37 pm

I wish I lived in a world where grown ups went out in together in nice clothes. It must have been wonderful. I love your stories. I wonder what a book would look like from the perspective of the protaganists clothing. Care to write one?

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oracle March 17, 2007 at 11:14 pm

“I always wondered what the other suits thought about that, but of course we hardly ever talk to them, even when we share a closet. They’re so uncommunicative.” What a line! Just wonderful. I really enjoyed the whole story.

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Shannon March 18, 2007 at 1:29 am

*happy sigh*This one was lovely.

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Carolie March 18, 2007 at 5:28 am

I LOVE these stories…but isn’t this #12? I thought #11 was a lovely, sad little grey and yellow dress last month?

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Isabelle March 18, 2007 at 7:18 am

This has to be my favourite of your stories, Erin.

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enc March 18, 2007 at 11:50 am

I love this–story AND dress. I was wondering, was that dress made of layer upon layer of sheer polka-dot, or was the pattern made to look like it (i.e. gray shadow dots among the black ones)?

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Maddy March 18, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Oh, I do love these stories, they are such an interesting concept. Why didn’t I think of this first, write a book, and make millions?

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mojogeno March 20, 2007 at 5:53 pm

wonderful read as always Erin! thanks!!

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Diana May 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm

beautiful! i love that dress

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