A dress that crosses generations

Jessie Flores

I rummage through my going out dress options, which have turned into an amorphous pile of sequins and spaghetti straps. My phone explodes with messages like “Come upstairs let’s do some makeup together!” and “send me a picture of the fit IMMEDIATELY.” I absently tug on a piece of green tape that looks like a four-leaf clover. I smile to myself, imagining what I wish I could wear – the girl I want to be.

A pleated green dress hangs neatly in a closet. A sash of ribbon crowns runs along the waist and a full skirt tapers delicately above the knee. It was gorgeous: flattering in the right places, shimmering when brushed by the light, and catching the attention of all onlookers.

This is the story of this dress.

A discouraged Jane had just broken up with Billy Angle, the guy she’d been stable with for years. His roommates insisted that this crisis should not drag him down. This is downtown New York in the sixties, when comedy, art, music, poetry and culture flourished. If Jane wasn’t going to knock back her frown, then by God, her friends should do it for her.

Despite her protests, Jane went to a party her roommate’s friend was throwing. But if she was forced to socialize, then she might as well look good doing it. The party was a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Fortunately, Jane’s good friend Wes had just convinced her to buy the perfect dress for the occasion during their last shopping spree on 5th Avenue.

All dolled up and resplendent in clover green, Jane entered the party feeling better. It didn’t take long for her to notice a handsome guy across the room and approach her. They spent the whole party obsessing over each other. With the woes of her heartbreak completely forgotten, Jane let Jack take her for a romantic walk along the river, and eventually, home.

And that was it. In what Jane calls a “typical New York story,” my grandparents fell in love. Throughout my childhood, I asked him to tell the story over and over again. In my mind, I imagined myself putting on the dress instead, pretending that I had some kind of exceptional opportunity to wear such an extravagant outfit. The dress symbolizes a romanticized love fantasy I longed for as a girl – I hoped to grow old and fall head over heels like Grandma Jane.

Now I am the young woman who lives away from home. My roommates and friends kindly offer plumping holographic lip gloss and unlimited access to their much better organized closets. I laugh with them when they share burning truth opinions about my type of man. And when the going gets tough, they deliver the warmest hugs, the most cry-worthy sad playlists, and a myriad of other comforts that I’m so lucky to have.

I’m getting closer and closer to having a version of my own fairy tale kismet green dress moment. But I realized that I focused on the wrong part of the story. My grandmother’s friends bullied her because they liked her.

Jane’s friend Wes convinced her to buy a show-stopping dress, even though she was outside of her comfort zone. Wes wanted Jane to be sure of her beauty. Jane’s roommates dragged her to St. Patty’s party because they knew she deserved better than wallowing in the sadness of her breakup.

Without them, she would never have met her future husband. And more importantly, thanks to the support of her friends, Jane gained confidence and began to travel the world more daringly.

I don’t have the perspective on my young adult life that my grandmother has now. I don’t have a magic green dress in my closet either. But I have significant people in my life who encourage me to make my own luck. Whether it’s attending murder mystery parties, live jazz performances, or even casual parties, my friends and I dress up and go out because we know that if we’re together it’s going to be a good time.

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