Finally my novel THE PERFECT DRESS is on Amazon (available for pre-order – just click on the pink link), so it seems fitting that I celebrate this milestone with a perfect dress of my own, and what better excuse than a good friend’s birthday party. Last week I returned to the ‘Wardrobe of My Mum’ and retrieved another of her fabulous BIBA beauties. This one, in near perfect condition, is a striking column of black crepe from the late 60s. My mum informs she wore it barefoot, flowers in her hair, in Hyde Park – a last blast of hippiedom before starting teaching college.
When I was younger I called it the Elvira Dress. It has an undeniably gothic quality. As a teenager I loved trying it on in front of the bedroom mirror. So different from my day-to-day wear (early 90s, lots of stonewash jeans and plaid flannel shirts), it made me feel like a different person, from another era, another domain. The femininity of its plunging neck and draped sleeves, combined with such foreboding blackness, was pure power. In it, I became both fearsome and elfin: a dark fairy queen.
Eventually I found the courage to wear it to a Halloween party, but that was mere costume fun; all its magnificence lost to face paint, plastic Dracula teeth and nasty punch served in plastic cups. I think it’s testament to my 40s and the ‘who cares’ confidence of age, that I’m now able to wear and celebrate such a theatrical dress just ‘because’. No need to disguise my choice with tacky fancy dress reference points. The dress is the dress: uncompromising and fierce.
The shape doesn’t do a lot for my figure, although the fabric shifts nicely and has a weightiness that feels lush. The magic is in the sleeves: fitted around my shoulders, snug down the biceps, forming billowing bells at the wrists. They’re the kind of sleeves that make you want to hold a white dove to your breast and look wistful as you pace your castle at sunset, hoping your knights will return . . .
Of course, in reality, I sat drinking Prosecco in a suburban back garden, but somewhere inside, deep down, I promise you, I was ruling a mystical realm. All hail the escapist power of a perfect dress!