Spivack, who now lives in New York City, assembled an anthology of 67 back stories of well-loved clothing. She gathered entries from celebrities like actor and director Greta Gerwig, fashion designer Cynthia Rowley and Piper Kerman (of “Orange is the New Black” fame).
She also included three Delaware personalities: a Wilmington Holocaust survivor, a University of Delaware women’s studies professor and Spivack’s best friend from Hanby Junior High School in Wilmington.
I don’t know if it’s because Spivack and I are the same age, but her book got me thinking about the few pieces of sentimental apparel I actually own. I tend to overhaul my closet a couple times a year, donating the no-longer-ripe fruits of my shopping labor to Goodwill.
But there is one dress that stands out .
My mother bought it for me a few years back at a Macy’s clearance sale. Usually, I smile at my mother’s offerings (bland Jones New York twin sets that are two sizes too big) before requesting that she return them.
But the floral Ralph Lauren dress was different. First, it was ahead of its time. Cheery in radiant orchid (Pantone’s Color of the Year this year), the slight ruching and spandex hugged my curves in the most flattering way. The V-neck and knee-length served to elongate my petite frame. It worked with any occasion — a picnic, a nice dinner at a restaurant, even work (when I added a safety pin to minimize cleavage).
I traveled with it, because the fabric was washable and never wrinkled. It complemented ballet flats or four-inch pumps. So effortless.
I wore it on a blurry girls’ weekend in Dewey Beach with three of my friends, my sunburn blending into the print.
I wore it on my first date after a bad breakup. I had been corresponding with a guy I had met online for a few weeks while I was vacationing in South Africa. He was insightful, irresistibly charming and spoke fluent French. I was so focused on making a good impression that I hustled a free makeover at a department store cosmetics counter and paid my hairdresser $45 to give me a braided updo.
“He better be worth it,” she said.
Turns out he wasn’t (he was still sleeping with his ex-fiancée). But he did compliment me on the “perfect first date outfit.”
I can thank my dress for making me feel beautiful that night — a fleeting feeling that is often reserved for weddings or the rare election gala I am asked to cover.
These days, it’s pilling a bit at the neckline (too much safety pin action) and the brilliant orchid is more of a dull magenta.
I tried placing it on lighter rotation, ordering a replica in black off eBay. But that one never fit or felt the same.
I regularly write about sartorial elegance with sarcasm. After all, clothes encourage materialism, class markers and work tardiness.
It’d be much less stressful to live in a nudist colony. That is, if I worked out A LOT.
But clothes can also brighten a mood, showcase creativity and cover a nasty rash.
And, sometimes, when you’re feeling particularly vulnerable, one clearance-rack dress can empower you to move on.