Thursday, June 4, 2015

my childhood in five dresses.

When I was a kid, I loved to wear dresses. I would have worn a dress every single hour of every single day if I could.

(Except in the winter when wearing dresses meant wearing tights. I hated wearing tights then, and I hate wearing tights now.)

I wore dresses constantly until a few months into elementary school when the gym teacher informed my parents that I should not wear dresses on gym days – sit-ups were a part of every gym class, and dresses + sit-ups = visible underwear.

I was mortified, and that effectively put an end to me wearing dresses to school. From that point on, I only wore dresses to school for programs and when I was absolutely positive that I would not be doing any kind of activity that would accidentally show my underwear.

But I still loved to wear dresses.

Then, somewhere around the age of twelve or thirteen, something in my brain snapped. I stopped wearing not just dresses, but also shorts and swimming suits – anything that would show my legs was out of the question. Even when I (grudgingly) went to the lake with my family on hot South Dakota summer days, I wore jeans.

I was an idiot.

It took until well into my senior year of high school to get past that unfortunate phase, but I’ve been wearing skirts, dresses, and shorts ever since. My love of dresses has returned, and while it’s not quite as strong as it was when I was a kid, I have been known to get awfully excited over dresses now and again. (Especially if they have fun patterns, like hot air balloons or bikes.)

But I digress. Let’s rewind to when I was just a young’un and dresses were my thing. My childhood dress experience – approximately ages four to twelve – can be captured in five distinct dresses. Dresses that I couldn’t forget if I tried.

the pink and purple tie-dyed dress.
The Mickey Mouse socks are a nice touch.
Anyone who has kids will talk about that one favorite piece of clothing that their child would wear every day for the rest of their lives if they could. This dress was it for me. I think it originally showed up in a bag of hand-me-downs from one of my mom’s coworkers, and I wore it to death. I wore it exploring in the woods and playing in the dirt – places that dresses aren’t really meant to be. I wore it with jelly shoes for my fifth birthday. By some miracle, just as the first one was falling apart, Mom found a duplicate at a rummage sale. Oh, the good times with that dress.

the crazy black dress.
Note the jelly shoes.
After the second tie-dyed dress finally bit the dust, this dress moved into position as my new favorite. I am fairly certain I wore this dress to kindergarten as often as my mother would let me. (Until tights season, that is. Then it was pants for me.) This was the very dress that got me in trouble in gym. I recall being absolutely devastated when I outgrew the dress: the great injustice of growing up. Incidentally, right when I grew out of this dress was about the time I stopped being cute. It was a rough time for me.

the flowery Easter dress.
Being eight is tough.
Speaking of childhood injustices, everyone has been forced by a parent into wearing something they don’t want to wear. I used to have these brown lace-up boots that Mom would insist I wear to church in the winter. I dreaded wearing them not because they were uncomfortable or ugly, but because they were the kind that you actually had to unlace and relace to get them on. And I’m lazy. Can you blame me? Like the boots, I tended to shove this dress to the back of my closet and hoped that my mom would forget it was there. But moms never forget. I thought the lace yoke and the big purple ribbon made me look like a dork: and with my gigantic glasses and my crazy soon-to-have-braces teeth, I did NOT need any help in that department.

the daisy dress.
This was during my "I have braces and therefore refuse to smile with my teeth" phase.
This dress was the first dress I owned that made me feel – dare I say it – sophisticated. It was either a hand-me-down or a rummage sale find, but it was spot-on perfect for the urbane tastes of a Midwestern eleven-year-old in the late 90s. Wearing this dress made me want to put on platform shoes and tinted lip gloss and go to middle-school dances like they did in the movies. (Not that my school had middle-school dances, but whatever.) I wore it to a great aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary party, and I felt like a million bucks – I even curled my hair and painted my fingernails. For one so impatient as me, that is nothing to sniff at.

the stretchy striped dress.
Why, yes, I AM wearing an ankle bracelet.
The final dress on my list is indeed a milestone dress. This was the first dress that I ever saw in a store and wanted to own. The details are hazy on where the dress came from (Maurices?) and who bought it as a gift (my grandma?), but I wore it for basically the entire summer between fifth and sixth grade – the last summer my legs would see sunlight for some time. I felt SO COOL wearing this dress, although I wasn’t confident enough to wear it without the goofy white t-shirt underneath. I did wear it with a hemp necklace (ridiculous) and a pair of foam platform shoes that I bought myself with my allowance (also ridiculous). I felt like a girl from a Delia’s catalog, and that is saying something.


Many dresses have come and gone, but these five encapsulate my childhood. They have all gone to the big Goodwill in the sky, but I'll never forget them.

We’ll talk about shoes another time.

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