No, I wasn't the picture of gamine chic a la Emmanuelle Alt's daughter at age five, but I was shopping with my friend for her niece and thinking about what I really did used to wear, and a memory of a beloved hand-me-down came to mind.
It was the first piece of clothing I remember coveting. I know some children complain about hand-me-downs but I absolutely desired everything my older sister wore before me, because I had to do everything she did. She's five years older and she always played with the kids of my parents' friends who were her age, and I was always a little in awe of them. As soon as I was old enough to "rationalise", I wanted to do the same things so that I wouldn't be "left out".
My parents, too, encouraged this longing; they often said: "You must wait your turn, some day it will be yours." It felt natural that I would have to earn my right to wear her clothes.
So, this dress. It had stiff white layers of tulle-ish stuff for its skirt that I thought fit for a fairy queen. The bodice was midnight-blue velvet, so plush, so precious. The fuchsia ribbon, so pretty, had an air of the beauty queen sash about it (boy, I was frilly). I lived for the day where I would slip it on, and life would be perfect.
The day I finally donned the dress came. It was my birthday (I was 4? 5?). A party was thrown in my honor, and I wore the much longed-for dress, with white patent Mary Janes, and little white socks with a lace edging - just like how I'd always imagined it. I had a ribbon in my hair, songs were sang for me. I didn't feel the need to twirl and invite admiration, I understood that I looked fabulous and that was that.
I wore the dress again several times after that, sometimes just to prance around at home. Before long my baby sister came along, and then it was her turn, and she had her day in the sun, and the dress passed on to some younger cousin of the clan, and was lost to us.
Obviously, the fevered passion for the dress is long gone, but even now I recall quite powerfully the magic it held for me. My style preferences greatly evolved after that, but this dress, in all its gaudy finery, reminds me of the pleasure of anticipation. Clothes should make you dream, even as they are grounded in the practical needs of being clothed and warm, etc. The passion and profound satisfaction I cultivated over this one dress made me think: is there any point in buying things that don't come close in provoking such a depth of feeling in me?
(I know I should post a picture of me in the dress, but couldn't muster the energy to go unearth my mother's photo albums.)
Picture from trendy crew