Last week I bought a new dress. A simple enough transaction you’d think, but my feelings are so conflicted towards this garment.
I had admired another dress on a lovely friend of mine who possesses a certain style and grace. I was in luck. She’d got it in a mega bargain sale and would take me straight there without delay. I was excited to say the least.
The shop was one I had walked straight past a million times. There had never been anything in the window that caught my eye. It was a nondescript boutique, and I imagined, frequented by ladies of a certain age, from a certain middle-class family suburb. However, it turned out that the racks were packed with garments I would definitely wear every day, and I happily exited the change room with an armful of bargain goodies.
I spotted this dress in the far corner. I loved it from the get go and as soon as I popped it on I could imagine every daily situation. It’s a useful dress, to be worn in hot weather to the dog park, the garden, the chicken coop, school pick-up, even to lunch if I was one of those ladies who lunch. It looks great layered over jeans and came in loads of colours, but the yellow was so cheery. It was 75% off – a grand total of $26. A no-brainer.
I started to have misgivings as soon as I’d made the purchase. I had just bought a dress from a middle-aged, middle-class, lady-of-a-certain age, family-suburb type boutique. My ego silently screamed “No! You are a fashion designer from the fashion world. You wear designer dresses from upmarket boutiques that cost a lot of money.” On the way home I spotted a lady wearing exactly the same dress in a different colour. She was ‘of-a-certain-age’ and not very fashionable. I was horrified, and I felt like such a cow because I was horrified. Conflicted most definitely.
I wore the cheerful dress to the dog park the very next day. Cute and comfy. The sunshiny yellow attracted a lot of compliments. I felt a bit better. Then one of my dog park pals, Georgie, admitted to having the same dress, and she’s at least a decade younger than me. I spilled out my story, hoping for redemption. At the part where I mentioned middle-aged women from Malvern, I was suddenly struck by a thunderbolt. That is exactly who I am. She was amused at my discomfort. We were joined by another doggy pal, a lovely, friendly lady also of-a-certain-age. “That’s a lovely dress!” she exclaimed. Georgie burst out laughing. It was too much for me. I haven’t worn the dress since.
My excuse is that it’s in the laundry, but deep down I know why it’s really there. So after a bit of internal turmoil I have pulled my elitist, snobby, uppity self together and resolved to customise the offending garment.
Today I decided to dip-dye the hem and make it my own. I used a Dylon dye suitable for cotton, and dampened the bottom half of the dress and gave it a bit of a wring to crease it a bit so the dye runs up. I mixed the dye up according to the packet instructions, but halved all the quantities and made only half the amount as I didn’t want too much liquid. I used a large stainless steel salad bowl for the actual dyeing. I rigged up the laundry rack in the backyard and used a plastic drop sheet under the bowl. I hung the dress on a plastic hanger on the rack over the bowl with the hem dipped in, and waited the 1 hour specified. I didn’t do all the stirring instructed on the pack as I don’t mind an uneven effect and I didn’t want the dye to splash up onto the rest of the dress.
When the dyeing time was up I followed the rinsing / washing instructions carefully, but only for the hem part of the dress trying not to get any surplus dye on the un-dyed part. Then I wrung out the wet part really well so that it didn’t stick back on itself whilst hanging and transfer unwanted dye. Whilst it was hanging on the line drying I decided to do a bit of hand stitching at the neck area. I was aiming for a Boho chic / Isabel Marant type look. Head in the designery type clouds, I know, but there’s no stopping me now. I looked on the internet and found a tutorial for feather stitch. Just the look I was after.
Once the paper was torn away, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I absolutely LOVE my new dress now!
Originally published 13/03/2014.
2 thoughts on “A Certain Age – How I Customized my New Dress and Why.”
Great story Therese. I just found you via the Blog With Pip course. Your blog is beautiful and your images are really good! Love it.
Thanks Andrea! It’s great to get nice comments from other bloggers :)