The Beautiful, Yet Horrible Blue Flowered Dress

1 Jun

I close my eyes and I can still see the four dresses next to each other on the bed in my Grandma Esther’s spare bedroom at the apartment in the Bronx. Four identical blue dresses, with Peter Pan collars, bright yellow and red rickrack and springs of tiny flowers printed all over the gingham dress. The dress had a built-in sash and dirndl skirt. Each dress was a slightly different size: one each for my two first cousins, also sisters, as well as one each for my sister and I. I must have been about seven, my sister three, my cousins were about eight and ten.

My grandmother had an urge to buy us matching dresses. I don’t know if it was a special occasion, or she just saw them while coming home from working and decided to get them. I think there is a photograph somewhere of us all wearing the dress at the same time. But I do not know where it is, or if it was really taken. I have searched in my albums looking for some photo of these dresses. But they do not exist. (If a photo did exist, my sister probably destroyed it.)

All I know is that this was a wonderful gift. And we all said, “Thank you!” to Grandma Esther, who was very excited about getting these dresses for us.

The dresses came home.   I wore mine for school, occasionally, after the initial ‘for special occasion only’ wearing. In the early 1960s, girls always wore dresses to school. I had both school clothes and play clothes that I changed into as soon as I got home. So it was fine to have another dress to wear. But really this was to be my dressy dress, for special occasions.

I loved the dress. Blue is my favorite color, and my Mom often dressed me in red or pink because of my black hair. I do not like those colors. So I was happy to finally have a blue dress. I liked the rows of rickrack running along the bottom and bodice. I liked that it had some three-dimensional treatments. I loved the pretty flowers.   I wore it happily. And when I was handed down my oldest cousin’s dress, I was happy to wear that one as well. To me it was just the best blue dress ever!

Notice the generous amounts of rickrack not only on her costume, but also braided to make the headpiece.

Notice the generous amounts of rickrack not only on her costume, but also braided to make the headpiece.

Because of this dress I developed a love of rickrack. I do not remember having it on a dress before this special dress. I fell in love with the feel and texture of rickrack. I also loved to say the word! When I had a daughter, I often made her dresses and costumes with rickrack on them, using all different colors.

As for my cousins, they do not have the same memories of this dress. In fact, they do not remember this dress at all. My sister and I were telling one of our cousins about the dress once, and there was a blank look in her eye.   I think because they only wore the dresses for a short time, and did not have the extra dresses to wear, they did not have as strong an impression.

However, my sister will tell you a different story about the dress. She learned to hate it, even though I think was a pretty dress. But she does have a relatively good reason.

You see, as stated earlier, there were four dresses. She was the youngest. My cousins only wore the dress one year or two. But as each cousin outgrew the dress, it was passed down to the next child. Because one cousin was only nine months older than I was, I did not really get that dress to wear. But my sister did. She wore the same dress for years, as each one was passed down to her.

I should add, that my sister wore the last of the same dress for an extra long time. My Mom saved that dress. She even said to my sister, “That dress still fits you. It has a nice big hem.”

My Mom realized she could buy matching rickrack and lower the hem, then sew the rickrack along the crease where the hem had been.

Because they were dresses for a special occasion, they were not worn out. I think my sister wore some version of that blue dress till she was about 11 or 12…so at least eight long years.

When we talk about the blue dress, my sister gets a sort of pained look on her face and tightens up her body.   It is almost as if she is trying to get the memory of even wearing it out of her mind.

Her daughter did have a similar navy blue dress made by her paternal grandmother. But instead of flowers, it had the alphabet printed on it and apple appliqués. My sister had a difficult time even putting the dress on her daughter. She had a visual and visceral pain seeing her daughter in the dress. After that, her mother-in-law always let my sister help pick the fabric for dresses.

Because of the blue dress, my sister was against matching clothes for our daughters. Whereas some families get matching clothes for family photos, we never did this. We might mention a color theme, but NO matching clothes.

And when I think about it, I cannot remember seeing my sister wear navy blue dresses even today. The impact and memory of the beautiful, yet horrible blue dress lives with her forever.

2 Responses to “The Beautiful, Yet Horrible Blue Flowered Dress”

  1. Sherry September 10, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    Hi. “Matching dresses” –Ellen, sister, Linda, cousin and me. 1960? Pretty and lovely.

    • zicharon September 10, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

      Yes. You probably did the same. Didn’t you live next door to each other as well? I still can see your mom when I close my eyes. 💖

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