Monday, August 05, 2013

Party Dress Pitfall

One-a-Day Redux
Day Five:  Something You Wore

I remember the party but not who threw it. I know I was in high school, it was the Christmas holiday season, and it was unseasonably warm, even by Southeast Texas standards. Most of all, I remember the dress, though I don't recall where it came from.

It was too "little-girly" to suit me. I was somewhere between 15 and 17 that late-1950s winter, tall, lanky, and not about to go to a party in a dress that had a demure little collar and short, puffed sleeves. A dress-up party, even in someone's home, was a special occasion. I wanted to look good.

Mother altered the dress for me. She took off the collar and took out the sleeves, leaving a sleeveless bodice with a modestly scooped neckline. The bodice was made of black velvet--not velveteen, but soft, smooth, squishy velvet. Mother used the sleeves she'd removed to make facings for the neckline and the new armholes, which made them thicker than usual, but the extra padding didn't show.

The skirt was, um ... unusual. I used to think it was made of some kind of heavy-duty taffeta, but in hindsight the kind of nylon we see in windbreakers and backpacks nowadays seems closer. Whatever the fabric was, it was shiny, ivory-colored, shot through at random with gold metallic streaks and overlaid in a hexagonal pattern of black flocking that looked like nothing so much as chicken wire. It was a circle skirt, which meant the hem tended to sag ever so slightly in the bias-cut areas, but at least there were no gathers to bunch up under the wide, velvet-encased belt.

(With the help of a chicken-wire image I found on Google, I've tried to draw you a picture of the finished dress. You can enlarge it by clicking on it.)

The dress might not have been one I'd have chosen off the rack, but after Mother finished reworking it, it wasn't bad. It was appropriate to wear to the party, and I felt like I looked nice in it. I thought the velvet would be pleasing to the touch of a dance partner.

Depending on what year it was, I might or might not have had a date to that party; frankly, I don't remember. All I know is that I danced enough to perspire more than my heavily applied roll-on deodorant for ladies could handle. It was warm in that dimly lit den, and I was grateful that the bodice of my dress, being thick and black and all, wouldn't show how much I was sweating.

I danced awhile longer, then picked up the little party purse I'd borrowed from Mother and headed to the restroom. Comb in hand, I raised my arms to touch up my damp, stringy hair. What I saw in the mirror looked pretty much like this:

Much of the nap from the velvet had transferred itself to my moist armpits. I could wash it off, but I couldn't keep it off without holding my arms in the air for the rest of the night.

I don't recall a thing that happened after that embarrassing discovery. The fact that I remember the fuzzy armpits so clearly after all these years makes me pretty sure I didn't dance anymore and equally sure I couldn't wait to get out of there and go home. I cared a whole lot about what people thought of me when I was in my teens.

These days, at least if I were among friends, I might get a kick out of flashing those furry armpits.


  1. Great story! I'm glad you can laugh about it now!

    1. Holly, it's easy to laugh now that it's become just one in a continuing series of fashion misadventures.

  2. Oh the trauma of adolescence!! It is surely funny now but major trauma at the time.

    I too was blessed with a mama who could sew. I am still using her old 1960s Singer Sewing machine.

    1. Florence, I still have MY old 1960s Singer Sewing machine--the kind that used plastic discs to make different stitches--but these days I only use it (in its cabinet) as a lamp table.

  3. Haven't checked in for a while and was pleasantly surprised by a laugh out loud. Thanks for a cheery break in my busy morning.

    Love this story!

    from your old writing class buddy ....

    1. Hi, Nancy, so glad to hear from you! I hope we'll have another opportunity to write together before too long.


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