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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Emotional Ties: The "IT" Girl Dress of 1988!

This is going to be a long post.  Please bear with me!

I normally don't get emotionally attached to items of clothing that I own...I mean, I sell vintage clothing for a (very modest) living, and although most of the things I sell actually fit me and I'm known to wear my faves once in awhile, I'm perfectly capable of "setting them free" and sending them to loving homes!  Sadly, a lot of the stuff I've sold as of late, on my Etsy site, I've never had the chance to wear - I guess that's just how it goes!  That great poly orange trench and that granny-square sweater come to mind, but they were good sales, and it's always gratifying when my customers are thrilled to bits with their purchases.

Anyway, I was surfing eBay a couple of weeks ago, and just for the fun of it, I decided to do a search for some of my favorite 80s brands, including: Dawn Joy, All That Jazz, Jody of California, Rampage, and Nina Piccalino!  For those of you too young to really remember, these brands were sold at department stores like Nordstrom, JC Penney, and the like.  They were mostly secretary-style dresses, done up in rayon, and almost all of them had the big 80s shoulder pads and peplum waists.  So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon THIS:

Nina Piccalino vintage dress!!

Look at the sheen on that fabric, will you?  It's rayon/acetate, but it looks like silk shantung!

I actually got a lump in my throat when I saw this.  Let me explain...

In early 1988, I was a 21-year-old single mom of a four-year-old (yeah I know - do the math!!) and I'd just landed a great job opportunity with a *very* well-known company (which shall remain unnamed) that had a sales office east of Los Angeles - I commuted 1 1/2 hours EACH WAY, every day...I started there as a receptionist, and even though I liked it there and I liked my co-workers, I kind of stood out like a sore thumb - I was very young, very blonde, and at that time, I was a size five with an hourglass figure, and I was practically the *only* single girl in the entire office.  Most of the other women had husbands who had decent jobs, but I was scraping by on my own, with no child support from my ex.  It was very, very difficult.  Half my take-home pay went for rent alone. 

There was sort of a double-standard in this office - the dress code was very strict; these were the days when a woman could get sent home for not wearing pantyhose (I'm not kidding!) or wearing a skirt that hit above the knee (this happened to me one day - it was humiliating - I was sent home to change, and come back the same day!)  I remember one day when I got written up for wearing those black stirrup-pant leggings...I wore them with a big sweater that came down to my knees, so I was completely covered.  The other ladies in the office wore them (sometimes with shorter tops that left their bums exposed) and for some reason, that was fine.  I wish I'd heard of Gloria Allred back then, but I digress...I needed the job, so I remember signing my write-up, and excusing myself to the ladies room, in tears.

One day, while I was out shopping, I happened upon this very dress you see pictured here, but it was in the most *amazing* shade of midnight blue - it set off against my blonde hair perfectly, but the price tag was daunting - this dress was about $80.00, which was an entire day's wages for me at the time.  I put the dress on hold, and hemmed and hawed until I finally bought it.  I felt so.damned.guilty. for spending that kind of money.  On one dress.

The reaction???

Virtually everyone in that office complimented me all day long.  One of the gentlemen I worked for exclaimed, "Wow!  If you dressed like that every day, you'd OWN this place!"  It was sort of a backhanded compliment (the insinuation was that I didn't dress well enough the rest of the time - DUH - I couldn't afford to as a single mom on a receptionist's salary!) but I took his remark gracefully, and all day long, something about that dress gave me confidence - I stood a little straighter; I held my head a little higher; I threw my shoulders back a bit!  I wore that dress until it died.  It made me feel special.

So now, fast-forward 24 years later...I now own this dress again (in a larger size and different color!) but the minute I slipped it over my head, it was like being transported back to 1988 all over again, but with a certain wistful life didn't turn out like I dreamt it would, but it's wonderful.  I'm happy.  I have a 28-year-old now; I have a wonderful spouse, and I realize that it's okay to form emotional ties to some of the things I wear...this dress has become part of my wardrobe that will never be for sale.  It's part of me, because it still makes me feel confident and beautiful, like I longed to feel way back then, when I was young, broke, and terribly insecure.  You can't put a price tag on that.

So I'm not young anymore.  I'm not broke.  And this dress still has the power to make me stand up a little taller, with my shoulders back, my head held high - ready to take on the world!  :) 

When it comes back from the dry cleaners, I will post some pics of me wearing the dress!  So tell me, does anyone else out there have clothes that have emotional ties to your past?

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