You Did It!

The total raised for homeless women veterans (including some off-widget donations through Paypal) is now $1692. You rock!

So, as promised, I have a new Secret Lives for you. This one has a twist — there's no picture. Nope, nothing. Nada. Zilch. I "found" the story first and then couldn't find the dress — either dress, any dress — that's in the story. SO … if you have the dress that this story's about, send me the link, and if I find The Right One, I will send the sender a couple of the Dress A Day measuring tapes as a thank-you! You can email the links or leave them in the comments. (It's better not to send images by email if at all possible, thanks!)

So here goes …

I’ve never been one to step in, you know. I’m not a meddler, and I think it’s better when you leave folks to fight their own battles. Makes ‘em stronger. But there is one thing I won’t tolerate, never have, and that’s bullying. I just won’t have it in any closet I’m hanging in, and that’s a fact.

We’d been doing all right. Sure, the closet was crowded, and she didn’t use nice hangers, and we weren’t what you’d call organized, but that didn’t seem to matter. We all felt rescued, in a way. She was a collector, she didn’t really wear us very often, but we weren’t in a box or in some little girl’s dress-up chest, and that’s saying something. I personally didn’t mind not being carefully sectioned off — jackets and even pants can have real interesting opinions, you know. Once you get to know them you see they’re really just like you. I don’t hold with prejudice. And some of those evening gowns, well, they’re so fluffy and light, they’re just like kittens. You can’t be tired or mad with a kitten.

Well, as I said, she’s a collector, and she buys a lot. Every few days there’d be another bag on the floor of the closet, and then, unless it was something wool, she’d hang it right up. The wool stuff always went to the cleaners, in case they had the moth. We sure appreciated that. We didn’t really quiz the new ones as to where they came from; it was something we’d let them tell us themselves, in their own time. Some of them had been having difficulties, you know, and we’re not the prying kind.
Lots of the new ones had hems hanging down, or a seam that had come undone, or lost buttons. Sometimes she’d get them fixed up right away, but sometimes she didn’t. If she didn’t we tried to be careful, not jostle them too much. Those undone seams can be painful, and nobody’s happy without all their buttons. I myself had been missing a few when I came, so she pulled the rest and gave me a whole new set. They’re not quite like my old ones but I get by all right. And they’re a good deal whiter and shinier than the ones I used to have, that’s for sure.

Now, some of us say they knew immediately that the new one was going to be trouble, right when they first set eyes on that bag, but I think they’re just trying to make themselves more important. If they had really known, wouldn’t they have done something? If just one of them had slipped off the hanger and covered the bag, it would have been weeks until they were hung up again and she was let loose — we all know that.

Me, I didn’t know a thing. I was talking with a suit about how she went to vote once—which sure was interesting, I can tell you—and I didn’t even look up until we got shoved a little more to the side to make room.

And, Lordy, did the new one need room. I’ve never seen so many ruffles. And red? Redder than fire. That was a dress, all right, and didn’t she know it. Not a seam out of place, or a hitch in her zipper, either. Coulda been new, except that she came in a flimsy plastic bag just like the rest of us had. New dresses like that come on their own hangers.

She didn’t set out to be trouble, I’ll give her that. Or if she did, she hid it until she knew there was no one around who could give her any back. Sweet as pie she was, the first couple days. Talked real nice to the dresses on either side of her, asked questions, giggled a don’t-mind-me, I’m-just-silly after every answer. It wasn’t until she’d done all her reconnaissance, I guess it’s called, that she really dug in.
She’d been next to a good dress, been with us for years. Nothing red-ruffle fancy, just a solid, dependable office-y type shirt dress. Full skirt, all original buttons in good condition. Even her white collar hadn’t yellowed or frayed. So despite being unglamorous, she had a bit of her own glory, in that she got worn probably more often than any of the rest of us.

Well, ol’ Red started up whispering to her, from the first day. Playing her up, making her feel like it was her and Red that were special ones, and the rest of us little better’n rags. Once her head was well and turned, though, Red cooled it way off. Started talking more to the dress on the other side, paying that one special little attentions, until that poor shirtdress was about to go crazy, not knowing what had happened, or why.

And of course we saw what always happens, when folks set out to be deliberately cruel; the poor shirtdress, goaded too far, blew up, and there was an embarrassing scene. Red didn’t move a ruffle, just hung there patiently, with an air of waiting for a tantrum to be over. Then she was all “Are you done?” and when the shirtdress was “NO!” she just went on, cutting as a pair of shears. “Well, I am,” and turned back to the other dress.

Poor shirtdress, she was so miserable, she didn’t know what to do. She worked one of her own buttons loose and got herself off the hanger. I never saw a dress so crumpled on the floor. A couple days later she was borne away to the mending pile. Most of us tried to avoid the mending pile, as there was no guarantee we’d ever come back, but I could see her as she was carried away, and she didn’t look like she wanted to come back.

And of course this meant there was a new dress next to Red, again. Now this dress was fairly young, as dresses go. Cute, cute as a button, with her short skirt and big patch pockets, all covered in big flowers, big as plates. She was young, but she wasn’t dumb, and at first she didn’t want anything to do with Red. She and the shirtdress had been real good friends, at least until Red came. So she was smarting a bit at being ignored for Red, and mad at what Red had done to her friend.

I think Red took that as a challenge. And Red seemed to like a challenge. She started talking to that dress on her other side, the one she’d turned away from shirtdress for, a bit louder. Telling her stories of adventure, so that little miss miniskirt couldn’t but hear them. And we all know if there’s one thing young folks want, it’s adventure. Red got her pulled in deeper and deeper until of course she forgot she wasn’t speaking to Red, and squeaked out “What happened then? What did you do?” And Red just paused a tiny bit, hardly noticeable, just savoring having caught her fish, and finished the story.

Now that other dress — the one on Red’s other side, away from miss miniskirt — well, let’s just say she wasn’t well-liked, before Red came. She had a bit of chip on her shoulder (as well as a stain she always moaned about, wishing she had a brooch to hide it). She’d been a good solid dress, lots of faculty dinner cocktail parties and such; she’d always claimed to have met a Nobel Prize winner once, but since she couldn’t remember his name, that tended to diminish the tale. Not that we’d know the name, but it would have added something. Or added more than “he wore a c
orduroy jacket with leather elbow patches” did, which was all she could remember. But she had that way about her where you felt she was always counting up the breaths everyone was taking for fear they’d get more air than she did.

Faculty dress was a bit disdainful of flowered-miniskirt. She’d try to pull Red aside, to make a little quip or joke at her expense, to make some snide remark about miniskirt’s callow youth. But Red wouldn’t play; she was doing to faculty what she’d done to shirtdress, all over again. And faculty couldn’t see it. She just kept trying and trying, and that made Red happier and happier to ignore her.

Now, to give miniskirt credit, she didn’t like what Red was doing. She kept trying to bring faculty into the conversations, and asked her opinion about things and even listened to the answers. But she was young, and she was impressed by Red, and she couldn’t help but laugh when Red made poor stuffy faculty dress the butt of a joke or two. Or more.

You know that there’s nothing a stuffy person hates more than being laughed at, and nothing harder to fight against — fighting just makes you more ridiculous. So faculty tried to take it in good part, and pretend she wasn’t hurt by the jokes. She even made one or two herself. But Red couldn’t have that — she didn’t want to see faculty putting on a brave face. She wanted another breakdown, and she was scheming to get it.

At this point I made up my mind to do something. If shirtdress had her head turned, that was one thing, and you had to expect that in a crowded closet relationships were going to go wrong every once in a while. But from what I could see, Red was setting out to do it again, and that made it a different thing altogether.

Red and miniskirt were doing a lot of whispering and laughing, and I could see faculty was worried. It was obvious they were going to try some prank, at faculty’s expense. Maybe sticking her with a pin, if they could get one, to see her jump, or covering her with loose threads, or worse. Something hurtful to her dignity, which was really all she had left.

I know I look old and washed out and unfit for more than the rag bag myself, but I’ve been around a long time, since the closet was nigh empty, and I know things. I can do things I don’t brag about, which is how you manage to keep doing them. And one of the things I can do is get myself worn. It’s a knack, really, and I’d like to tell you I could teach you how, but I can’t. It’s like teaching someone how to wiggle their ears. You can either do it, or you can’t.

You can’t do it any old time, but I know how to pick my opportunities, and so it was the next Saturday that I got myself picked up off the hanger. All I really needed was to be tried on — I wasn’t angling to be worn all day. So once I was on I did just a little twist, and no matter what she did I wouldn’t hang straight. I can be quite uncomfortable when I try, for all that I’m washed and soft otherwise.

So she shoved me back on the hanger, and — just as I’d asked — back in the closet, the other dresses had shifted around some, and I was shoved right between faculty and Red.

As you can imagine, Red didn’t like that one little bit. But she tried not to let me see that; after all, I was just an old grandma dress. Making me upset wouldn’t be worth the trouble. She acted real pretty towards me, and I didn’t let on that I’d been watching her and knew her tricks.

I wasn’t sure if Red and miniskirt were still going to go through with their prank, with the shuffling around and me being their new neighbor and all, miniskirt seemed to have lost her taste for it. Planning a prank is all very well, but doing one needs a different level of interest, and miniskirt, being young, was a bit flighty. She had gotten into a game that came around every once in a while, where all the dresses had to talk about which shoes they’d like to be matched up with. That one was always good for quite a bit of laughing. If I ever need to get everyone in a good mood all I have to do is say “cowboy boots,” in a moony kind of way, and they’ll all be giggling for weeks. I don’t care — I do like myself a good cowboy boot. They make such a nice clomping sound, they do.

Red, though, wasn’t going to be thwarted. She kept signaling past me to faculty, little rustles and flutters that I pretended to be deaf to. I knew she was trying to bring faculty around again, starting with a pretty apology and building up to confidences, only to tear her down again first chance she got. Isn’t it a shame when folks who are so beautiful on the outside have their seams all unfinished and raveling inside?

I hadn’t been sure what I was going to do when I got close, but it was getting close that let me know what I should do. Red had been so loud about her adventures — the parties, and the people, and the dinners, and so on — but there wasn’t a mark on her. She didn’t have so much as a salad-dressing spot. She kept herself pretty well straight on the hanger, but you can always see what you need to if you try, and I saw what I needed to see.

Red was new.

I mean, she wasn’t new-new, in the sense of having just been sewn. No, she was deadstock, an old dress that had never sold, that had lived its whole life without ever taking off its tag. I could see the tag hanging down, right inside the armhole. She’d been expensive, but that didn’t matter. One word from me and all her celebrity would be over; her tales changed from anecdotes to flat-out lies. She’d be pitied, not envied.

I s’pose that’s why she was so mean — hanging in a store or a warehouse for years will do that to you, I’ve heard — but an explanation is not an excuse.

So I waited until late that night, and then I nudged Red. Woke her right up. She was mad, but she tried not to let me see.

“You can be mad,” I said. “You’re gonna be madder still when I’ve said what I’m going to say.”

“Oh, and what’s that, grandma?” Red could go from simper to sneer quick as a blink.

“I’ve been watching you. I don’t like what you’re doing. You’re going to stop.”

“And how are you going to make me?” Red fluttered her ruffles.

“Had any luck getting that tag off?”

She jumped a bit then. She knew that I knew, and she didn’t like it.

“What tag?” She was still trying to bluff her way out.

“$79.95. Before markdown. It’s a classy price but you’ve never been a classy dress, or you would have been worn, wouldn’t you?”

She was silent then, and I knew that she wouldn’t be messing about again. As I said, I don’t hold with bullies.

And of course hitting the goal also means drabbles every day from now until Christmas Eve! Thanks again!

0 thoughts on “You Did It!

  1. LOVE it! It’s really amazing to me how you can imbue inanimate objects with so much personality, but I feel like I can see the whole thing. I am really looking forward to the novel.


  2. Very good story!I had no problem finding the perfect “grandma” dress, but I just couldn’t find a dress that looked b**chy enough for Red, but wasn’t wrapped around Scarlett O’Hara. 🙂


  3. NO, you did it! This is the best one yet. I love that this one had a cast of characters and we were also let in on the fact that they can do things besides think. Congrats! Again, still waiting for that book, I will travel for a book signing of this.lisa


  4. Wow, it’s like junior high all over again! You made Red out to be the quintessential girl-bully. Good goin’, Grandma! Thanks for the entertaining tale. It begs for animation.


  5. Of course, now we need a follow up on how red gets out of the closet never to return! And I love the “favourite shoes” past-time. A little vignette of that would be amusing!


  6. Fantastic! Your dressmaking expertise and love of vintage clothes certainly makes these stories even BETTER! You have made my day by posting this story. AWESOME!


  7. One shouldered red party dress with ruffle. I think this one has red’s attitude:ttp://


  8. I like the Vogue 2848 that Lynn linked for Red – while she certainly is a looker, no one in her right mind would actually *wear* that thing. Even with Spanx.And thanks for all the delicious, delicious links. One of the Grandma dresses – Simplicity 3945 – will very soon be mine. My very first vintage pattern! This blog is a good (bad?) influence on me.(Even though it’s a wrap dress that wraps in the BACK, so I won’t be able to wear it until I’m finished nursing the little girl that currently has 4 more months in my womb. But… but… it has POCKETS!)


  9. Oh, but Joni….it’s such a nice dress. And your very own grandma had one just like it, when I was little. The pattern will keep nicely, till you are ready for it. Patterns are nice like that.


  10. That was a wonderful story. Your writing reminds me a little of ‘The Dolls House’ by Rumer Godden – I don’t know if you’ve read it? Congratulations on imbuing these dresses with such convincing personalities :)Andrea


  11. Poor Shirtdress, I felt so sorry for her. That Red was so bitchy. I loved how you brought her down! The narrator dress was just plain gorgeous. Lovely as ever. You really should publish all of these into a book! I would buy it.


  12. oh dear i’m really late, but i LOVE this story! it’s so beautiful and touching (: Thank you and please continue the series!


  13. These dresses make me remember the tv show “Mama’s Family”! To me three of the dresses have examples on that show! Mama wears the main dress, her neighbor and best friend wears the prim and proper, and her daughter-in-law wears one like the red dress.


  14. Oh my goodness. Thats just about the funniest story ever. Too bad no picture of either dress. But how do you find a real dress with that much personality?


  15. I just brought your book and decided to read your blog before starting to book and I excellent work read them all in an hour (not the book only up to chapter 2 and loving it). But I thought I would try to find some candiates for these dresses. I couldn’t find any dress shirt ones that fit the bill. But here are some for Grandma, the foral dress and Red.


    Foral dress:

    and Red:


  16. I see Grandma as blue gingham faded to aqua in places, with a formerly white box-pleated ruffle collar now closer to ecru. Matching cuffs on her short sleeves, and a tie that has long-since detached. I’m not sure if she’s a fuller-skirted shirtdress or an a-line Swirl ™, but I’m quite certain she has pork-chop pockets.


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