That Old Thing
I neatly folded and put away that old thing into a drawer in my closet a long time ago. The old thing I refer to is my favorite red with the white polka dots dress. The white dots give it a character and make it look cheerful. I smile each time I look at them. My dress is still trendy today because of its ageless, classical style despite its vintage.
Ever since I was a child, fashion has consumed me. I stayed on top of the latest trends throughout my life and still follow them today. I used to obsess over the Fashion Police show while Joan Rivers was alive. I've watched Project Runway for years and even met Tim Gunn in person once while visiting my family in New Jersey. I took my oldest granddaughter to attend "One on 1 with Budd Mishkin", an interview with Tim Gunn at Columbia High School in South Orange.
Project Runway tugged at the strings of my heart because of Papa, who was a fashion designer. Tim Gunn spoke about his life in raising funds for a new playground and outdoor learning center at Seth Boyden Demonstration School. My granddaughter and I had fun listening and taking pictures with Mr. Gunn. I was a big fan of his show, and maybe I passed the bug to my granddaughter because right now, she is attending Parson's School of Design to become a fashion designer.
I have a lot of respect for those who choose this field. My appreciation for fine clothes comes from Papa. I learned how much time is involved in creating a custom-made outfit for a client by watching him at work. It is hard labor that requires patience and love.
As a little girl, for hours, I sat on a hard wooden stool and observed Papa's unparalleled ability to turn a piece of ordinary fabric into a work of art. It was not a simple task to endure for an active five-year-old. I wanted to fidget, run, play and laugh with my friends, but quietly I stayed put because I did not want to miss my time alone with Papa. I would not have changed it for anything else in the world anyway. I treasured our rare moments together.
As the windmills of memory bring me back to the years that passed, in my mind, I see a picture of Papa with his back slightly stooped and his intelligent face concentrated on the project at hand. To me, he looks so real that I can almost touch the one unruly curl that almost always escaped from the rest of his hair. To make sure it did not move, Papa occasionally ran his soft hand through his thick wavy black mane, but despite his efforts, the stubborn curl, as if it had a mind of its own, continued to drop.
I enjoyed watching Papa work. He was a magician with cloth and a genius in his baby girl's eyes. He folded the fabric in two by aligning each side with the other ahead of time. He then gently caressed it with both hands to get rid of the trapped inside bubbles and make sure it lay flat against the surface of the worktable. After that, Papa, by hand, drafted the pattern of the potential outfit with a long ruler and white chalk. From time to time, he looked into his notebook, in which he wrote his client's measurements.
In childlike curiosity, I watched him sketch different sizes of circles and semicircles, chart the triangles, and draw lines of various lengths on top of the still fabric.
Papa, a perfectionist, was one of those rare individuals who loved his job passionately and did not mind spending long hours at his craft.
My favorite part of this process came at the very end when Papa began cutting the cloth with a pair of heavy professional scissors. He did it so gently. Every placement of his hand was thoughtful and predetermined. Years later, as I think back, the movements of his hands remind me of the actions of a man who is about to make sensual love to his beloved woman.
Papa's work habits screamed of quality and pride. Because of that, his clientele adored him, appreciated, and valued his talent for creating clothes that fit them perfectly.
I learned everything I needed to know about style and fashion design during my alone time with Papa. Paying attention to detail did not go unnoticed. Being still did not go to waste. At seven, I made my first stitch on a sewing machine, and by the time I became a teenager, I designed my clothes.
I did it for several reasons. I loved new fashion trends and enjoyed wearing well-made pieces. I was not too fond of the department stores' selection in the USSR, a country of not enough. It was awful. Not too many people wanted to dress in the ugly items available for sale unless they did not have another choice. I had a choice, and I made my clothes out of necessity.
Being young had a lot to do with it, as well. I wanted to look stylish and good. I knew what fashion meant. It stood for taste, elegance, and class. I learned about these attributes and everything associated with them by following Papa to work. My interest in fashion did not vain with time. It stayed by my side throughout my life.
When I came to the United States of America, the endless choices of clothes available for purchase overwhelmed me. Even in my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined that. I had fun shopping at department stores and in specialized boutiques. Then I discovered the convenience of mail orders. It appeared to my liking.
I selected my beautiful red with white polka dots dress from the Spiegel catalog. It did not disappoint me when it arrived. The dress fulfilled all of my expectations and looked just like I thought it would. Plus, it fitted like a glove, as if someone had tailored and custom-made it for me.
The brushed cotton sleeveless dress had a full circle skirt, the length of which stopped right above my knees and complimented my long, shapely legs. It came with a tight-fitting bodice and a long red zipper in the back for convenience.
The close fit of the dress perfectly hugged my hourglass-shaped figure, making the already tiny waist even smaller in appearance. Its wide belt had a large round buckle covered in the same material. Closed on the last notch, it showcased my slim body by creating a fairytale illusion. I felt like a princess wearing this dress.
I went for the drama in those days, and the red polka-dotted outfit did just that. The two deep vees cut in the front and back of the dress created the impression of sexiness without revealing too much. It is no wonder I loved it so much.
The fashion style required everything to match during the eighties, including the purse and shoes. Commuting from Brooklyn to Manhattan, I hardly ever saw females living in New York wearing mismatched outfits on my way to work. No one dared, especially the career women. Also, during those days, the feminine side of the population made sacrifices in the name of fashion. Ladies did not come to work wearing sneakers. I was no exception.
To look stylish, I wore a pair of red patent-leather stilettos and a "Marilyn Monroe" bag with a long metal silver chain to match my favorite dress. The heaviness of the strap made the bag stay in place as it sat on my shoulder. To compliment my outfit, I wore two large Mobe pearl earrings. They sat nicely in my earlobes and were of the latest trend. I was well put together, and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I thought I was stunning.
That old thing in my closet does not fit me anymore, but I still take it out of the drawer to look at it occasionally. With one of my hands, I touch the silky pile of high-quality cotton and travel back to the period of my life when I was young and beautiful. I admire how elegant my simple red with white polka-dot dress is. I reflect on its well-made, almost custom-like quality that reminds me of the clothes Papa used to make. I gather the dress with my hands and slowly lift it to touch my cheek. Immediately, the feeling of warmth enters my heart.
Decades ago, I fell in love with the simple red with white polka dots dress because its style complimented my figure and made me feel great to be a woman. I wore this dress with pride, feeling alive and happy every time I put it on.
I loved the overabundance of attention from men who turned their heads to look at me when I passed them on the street. Their reactions reminded me of how attractive I was. Their stares stroked my ego and made me feel wanted.
Years later, I still keep this neatly folded old thing that spends the rest of its remaining days in one drawer of my closet. I cannot bring myself to part with it because each time I hold it in my hands, the dress reminds me that any woman could look beautiful in a well-made, elegantly cut piece of clothing.