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Does the dress a woman make?

Posted in fashion, and Style & Travel

Dior Fall '14
Dior Fall ’14

“What are you doing?” my mother hisses under her breath, huffing and puffing, trying to keep up with my confident stride as I step inside the Dior flagship store on Rodeo Drive. She is probably thinking I can’t even afford a pair of knickers in there.
“There is something I would like to try on.”

Two adorable and immaculately behaved Chinese children are sitting around a gorgeous composition of hydrangea, while their parents, the lone customers, are evaluating and comparing purses. The store is hushed and filled with oversized bunches of hydrangea that give it a dreamy Alice in Wonderland appearance.

Every single store on Rodeo Drive does not live on the expectation of selling clothes to actual customers. They are more like showrooms, occasionally closed to the public for the odd celebrity, and fashion stylists’ paradise when choosing outfits for photo shoots. It used to be hijab covered Arab women who would drop their cash on the occasional handbag – now it’s the Chinese. I walk around checking out Raf Simons’ wondrous collection: the photos on-line do not do justice to the wool and the cashmere nor to the sinuous way the clothes move even on the hangers.

It’s not long before the manager approaches me, asking whether she can help, trying to decide if I am a potential customer, and she is probably mildly surprised when I describe in detail the dress I am looking for. She sizes me up and down professionally: “Let me look for it in the back. You are a 38.” I would like to reply that no, I am actually a 40 but it’s a good thing I shut up – she means a French 38.

The store
The store

Abbey, that’s her name, comes back with the dress and a suitable pair of high heel pumps – discreetly letting me know my orange flats will not do – and ushers me in a changing room the size of my kitchen. I am left alone with THE dress – and my mother, now speechless in front of my gumption. As if reading her mind, I volunteer: “It’s not as if they have anything to do. They might as well help me.”

I slide the dress on: a soft dark gray wool lined with silk, the stitching – in front and back – a bold periwinkle. I wobbly climb on the heels (Abbey got the shoe size a touch wrong, too big) and I look at the woman staring back at me. The dress hugs me but not so tight to make me look tarty. My shoulders, one of my best features, are front and center. The softness of the fabric on my chest, once I hide a push up bra in there, would even make me look busty.

I look sophisticated, poised, daring and utterly myself all rolled into one. I look exactly how I feel, which, these days, happens rarely. In one word, one that I use very sparingly, amazing. What THE dress has done, it has changed my perception of me. And I think of Raf Simons who imagines a woman and is able to visualize what I see in the mirror and turn it into reality.

Abbey lifts the curtain, trailed by the rest of the sales staff: either no one ever tries clothes on in here (likely) or they have even less to do than I thought.
“It looks made for you.” I am aware she is trying to close the sale but she is actually correct.

Belgian designer Raf Simons
Belgian designer Raf Simons

“How much will this thing set me back?” I ask. One of the sales assistant giggles. Is it because it’s bad manners to ask for a price? Nobody seems to know how much things cost in this slice of the unreal world. I am the one who finds the dangling label, tucked somewhere in the folds of the silk. $5,000. Inwardly, I laugh much harder than the sales assistant. If I win the lottery, I think. Funny thing is, even if I had the money, I would probably put it to a different use, one that would appease my conscience more than a couture dress could. Or, who knows, once in a while, I would spend it on a dress I am in love with. After all, I have argued for the existence of couture time and again.

“Is it for a special occasion?” Abbey asks.
I have the satisfaction of offering: “No, I just love it.” And I regain a modicum of respect, even if she knows now I won’t buy it.

The dress I love, for which I had hoped to see a Zara knock-off I would now never buy, makes me ponder on how to hold on to that feeling of realization that $5,000 could (apparently) buy. Even if only temporarily. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone? Pretending to be how I want to feel regardless of any bad day that comes my way? Finally accepting that I am all of that even without Raf Simons’ aid? I will try to implement the latter.

On the other side of the street, my other favorite fall dress beckons from the window of Valentino. But I decide not to mess with the staff.

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17 Comments

  1. Wow! I admire you for your courage! I don’t think I would dare to do that in a thousand years… (and I am not young)

    October 7, 2014
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I have learnt not to care and not to let other people’s opinions or criticisms faze me, at least people I don’t know. But it has taken a lot or practice!

      October 7, 2014
      |Reply
  2. Hahaha! Thank you for your sweet and beautiful story!

    What came to my mind is that the True beauty of course is the fact that you questioned the element of clothing… Nothing is more beautiful than a shining heart, as you provided that wonderful example.

    It pervades and encompasses all the outer layers.

    October 3, 2014
    |Reply
    • WordPress.com Support
      WordPress.com Support

      Thank you. Living in the Western world, and in a city like Los Angeles in particular, sometimes one needs reminders of what really counts.

      October 3, 2014
      |Reply
  3. hmm, interesting post. Clearly clothes can make us feel diiferent, can portray an image, can make us feel like a million dollars or totally out of place. I really admire you for going in there just to try on that dress to see how it looked on you. Bravo. The one thing that did spring to mind however was how any dress can be worth 5000 dollars. I am sure it was not hand tailored by someone earning a decent wage. Some of the best names are still made in sweat shops. So it just seems immoral to charge 5000 for a dress, even if that does keep it special and elitist. Should clothing be elitist? It is a whole area of discussion waiting to be entered into.

    October 2, 2014
    |Reply
    • WordPress.com Support
      WordPress.com Support

      As I age, I really care a lot less about what people might think of my actions! Wish I had developed this attitude 20 years ago….I am not sure if any dress is worth $5,000 or $20,000. Personally, no matter what kind of wealth you have, I might find it immoral to shell out all that money on a piece of clothing. But, in defense of haute couture in particular, the people who do make those clothes are very skilled and very well paid seamstresses who have been doing it forever. Still, a good chunk of that money goes to the fact you are paying for a name. Will have to think about this and the morality of fashion.

      October 3, 2014
      |Reply
  4. silvia
    silvia

    I’d give anything to have the whole story told with your mom’s words.
    See I was right, it was made for your body.
    And even though a few days ago I declared myself a feminist, and obviously still am, I think I’d make an exception if Richard had any interest in me.

    October 2, 2014
    |Reply
    • WordPress.com Support
      WordPress.com Support

      Ok, after I typed that whole self-righteous comment I did pause to think that if Richard Gere ever showed an interesting in making me his kept woman (husband side) I would be very hard pressed not to explore the offer….

      October 3, 2014
      |Reply
  5. Yes, I, too, was hoping to see you in it! Fun post, made me relax for a moment–was there with you having this adventure.

    October 2, 2014
    |Reply
    • WordPress.com Support
      WordPress.com Support

      Rodeo Drive is not going anywhere. Valentino is next and you are welcome to tag along..

      October 3, 2014
      |Reply
  6. Is it just me or do you find it fascinating at the elitist attitude of the sales staff? Would they be able to afford a dress like that? That whole Pretty Woman scene comes to mind and while it makes me smile since I loved that film, it makes me sad there is still that mentality. Sigh. And like everyone else, I too would have loved a selfie. 🙂

    October 2, 2014
    |Reply
    • WordPress.com Support
      WordPress.com Support

      Well, they were polite to a fault but one can’t help wonder what they gossip about amongst themselves. For the record, their uniform was really boring and definitely designed not to stand out. I am old enough not to care about what the staff thinks anywhere – I am always pleasant and polite – but I am sure way too many people feel intimidated. It was definitely a Pretty Woman moment – although I went home empty handed (but if you think about it, as much as I loved the movie – who would want to be a fully kept woman? even if the “master” is Richard Gere??)

      October 2, 2014
      |Reply
    • WordPress.com Support
      WordPress.com Support

      Don’t think I didn’t think of it….but I ended up not wanting to draw even more attention to myself, surrounded as I was….

      October 2, 2014
      |Reply
    • WordPress.com Support
      WordPress.com Support

      I know…so bloody dark in that dressing room, maybe that’s why I looked so good!

      October 2, 2014
      |Reply

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