Last week I bought a new dress. A simple enough transaction you’d think, but my feelings are so conflicted towards this garment.
I had admired another dress on a lovely friend of mine who possesses a certain style and grace. I was in luck. She’d got it in a mega bargain sale and would take me straight there without delay. I was excited to say the least.
The shop was one I had walked straight past a million times. There had never been anything in the window that caught my eye. It was a nondescript boutique, and I imagined, frequented by ladies of a certain age, from a certain middle-class family suburb. However, it turned out that the racks were packed with garments I would definitely wear every day, and I happily exited the change room with an armful of bargain goodies.
I spotted this dress in the far corner. I loved it from the get go and as soon as I popped it on I could imagine every daily situation. It’s a useful dress, to be worn in hot weather to the dog park, the garden, the chicken coop, school pick-up, even to lunch if I was one of those ladies who lunch. It looks great layered over jeans and came in loads of colours, but the yellow was so cheery. It was 75% off – a grand total of $26. A no-brainer.
I started to have misgivings as soon as I’d made the purchase. I had just bought a dress from a middle-aged, middle-class, lady-of-a-certain age, family-suburb type boutique. My ego silently screamed “No! You are a fashion designer from the fashion world. You wear designer dresses from upmarket boutiques that cost a lot of money.” On the way home I spotted a lady wearing exactly the same dress in a different colour. She was ‘of-a-certain-age’ and not very fashionable. I was horrified, and I felt like such a cow because I was horrified. Conflicted most definitely.
I wore the cheerful dress to the dog park the very next day. Cute and comfy. The sunshiny yellow attracted a lot of compliments. I felt a bit better. Then one of my dog park pals, Georgie, admitted to having the same dress, and she’s at least a decade younger than me. I spilled out my story, hoping for redemption. At the part where I mentioned middle-aged women from Malvern, I was suddenly struck by a thunderbolt. That is exactly who I am. She was amused at my discomfort. We were joined by another doggy pal, a lovely, friendly lady also of-a-certain-age. “That’s a lovely dress!” she exclaimed. Georgie burst out laughing. It was too much for me. I haven’t worn the dress since.
My excuse is that it’s in the laundry, but deep down I know why it’s really there. So after a bit of internal turmoil I have pulled my elitist, snobby, uppity self together and resolved to customise the offending garment.
Today I decided to dip-dye the hem and make it my own. I used a Dylon dye suitable for cotton, and dampened the bottom half of the dress and gave it a bit of a wring to crease it a bit so the dye runs up. I mixed the dye up according to the packet instructions, but halved all the quantities and made only half the amount as I didn’t want too much liquid. I used a large stainless steel salad bowl for the actual dyeing. I rigged up the laundry rack in the backyard and used a plastic drop sheet under the bowl. I hung the dress on a plastic hanger on the rack over the bowl with the hem dipped in, and waited the 1 hour specified. I didn’t do all the stirring instructed on the pack as I don’t mind an uneven effect and I didn’t want the dye to splash up onto the rest of the dress.
When the dyeing time was up I followed the rinsing / washing instructions carefully, but only for the hem part of the dress trying not to get any surplus dye on the un-dyed part. Then I wrung out the wet part really well so that it didn’t stick back on itself whilst hanging and transfer unwanted dye. Whilst it was hanging on the line drying I decided to do a bit of hand stitching at the neck area. I was aiming for a Boho chic / Isabel Marant type look. Head in the designery type clouds, I know, but there’s no stopping me now. I looked on the internet and found a tutorial for feather stitch. Just the look I was after.
Once the paper was torn away, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I absolutely LOVE my new dress now!
Originally published 13/03/2014.