the fever

Trendy Crew

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


Joy said…
I had the same story with a dress as a little kid as well. Oh the good ol' days hehe. I think there should be more buying of clothes that do provoke such a strong reaction because then you'll know that's a good buy and that you'll actually wear the clothes. Also you'll end up buying less and not waste any $$$ I suppose! Great thought provoking post here :)
Ammu said…
Beautifully written. And yes, you absolutely must post a picture of yourself in the dress :)
Your posts are becoming more and more beautiful (and they were still beautiful already). I had my "magical" childhood dress. It had a black floral body white white billow satin sleeves. It turns out a cousin all the way in another continent now has that dress. And I want it back! Not that I'm anywhere near finding myself a mini-me. But I don't remember kid's clothes being so chic and stylish in my day. In recent years I've been buying children's clothes for myself!
asha said…
I can't wait to have children, just so I can dress them like that.
Lindsay K said…
Such a beautiful post. I can just imagine you in that dress and the pride you must have felt. You must post a picture of yourself in that dress!

The white patent leather Mary Janes, dresses with sashes and white socks with lace bring back fond memories of my childhood. I use to love getting dressed up.
Anonymous said…
I enjoyed reading this post. The clothes that remain with me through the seasons of life are the ones that I have created memories with.

Every purchase should be a special one.

ps. I'm from MCS:)
Anonymous said…
I like children dressed as kids nor as mini adults. My sister was 7 years older than me but I always had new clothes because she was more kind of a tomboy and I really enjoyed dresses. My mum had the chance with me that didn't have with her so she spoiled my with girly clothes. I think that's the reason I am interested in fashion now, she me made care for what I wore.
lin said…
Joy: Exactly, I wrote about this because I think miss that about clothes; the killer anticipation. Of course, not every piece is going to be a matter of earth-shaking passion, but it should be the case for a substantial portion of my wardrobe.

Ammu: Thanks! I will try, it's all been packed away and I'm not even sure where to begin...

Pret a Porter P: Thanks! I see you started rocking dramatic sleeves early (I'm thinking of that kimono jacket you have) :) I wish I could shop in the kids department sometimes - there's usually great classics to be found in there, unfortunately I'm too big.

When I was a child my mum made a lot of clothes for us, usually short cotton shifts with matching bloomers underneath - she thought it was cute to make us wear dresses but knew we would need shorts beneath to preserve our modesty, because we were quite the tomboys.

asha: I would love to dress my imaginary kid in what I like, but I have a feeling any kid of mine is going to want to rebel. Oh well.

Lindsay K: Thanks! I will try to find a picture, if my mum remembers where she kept that particular album, haha. I didn't love dressing up exactly, I just love very specific things very much. At one point it was a white cotton jacket with a red hood - I have no idea why.

justeileen: Thank you! Do you mean Marymount? My older sis was there for 10 years too! She was the last batch to graduate from the secondary school. Hence my mum sent me to CHIJ because she wanted me to have an affiliated secondary school.

lunaday: I agree with your pt about mini-adults, I would like my kid to share my fetish for navy, but pink glittery leggings it is, if it's what she or he loves.

My mum liked to dress well too - she's very particular about her outfits, and much as I like to dress easy, I'm particular in my own way too. I'm glad I'm not indifferent, thanks to her.
Austere said…
Beautiful story, it was a joy to read how powerful a relationship one can have with an item over so many years.

Also, your relationship with American prep style is the same as mine with the whole Parisian/gamine thing. I didn't know all these pieces I naturally gravitated to were under this label, but now I feel that if I did a head to toe look it would be a bit inauthentic since I really don't know anything about it/have never been to Paris/France.
Anonymous said…
Yes, Marymount! I was there since Now you know how old I am:)

Affliated schools are good. Your mum made the right choice. Less hassel after psle.

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