Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Good Little Black Dress. And The Bad One.

I bought a little black dress for my 40th birthday. My daughter was 10, my son, 7. When you have children that age, especially if you have been home full-time for a while, and gotten involved in your kids' school, you will probably find yourself in a large community. Who may want to have a party. Small children will do that to you.

We held mine in the backyard. My family paid to have it catered, and for a new lawn. As a present, not random extravagance. I bought pink lawn flamingos as decor. We set up a full bar in the French doors that led from bedroom to patio. All us parents had a wild time. 70 people's worth of a what counts as a wild time in the suburban world in which I live.

The dress, Blumarine. I bought it in the Stanford Shopping Center. Accompanied by Jennifer Montana. Wife of Joe Montana, fabled quarterback of the 49'ers. I am not kidding.

I didn't know Mrs. Montana. I still don't. But on the day I bought this dress, she and Joe had been shopping. She stood in the store as I modeled my potential purchase. She was remarkably beautiful, and completely unassuming. Amused. I worried the dress was too short. ""Oh," she said, "No. Shorter." "But it's my 40th birthday, " I said. "Then even shorter," said Jennifer. By this point Joe had joined her. He stood, tall, quiet, and shy, by the rack of dresses. I don't remember whether he agreed on the hemline. But the party was wild fun. And I loved this dress and its little pearl "B" until threads began to pop out of the little black boucle.

8 years later, my daughter was in the senior fashion show at her high school. This is the same high school where I did battle with trophy wives over my son's graduation. A secret battle that I am sure no one but me noticed. The fashion show was a similar situation. I had nothing to wear. Nothing appropriate.

The morning of the event I went shopping in a rush. That was the year I traveled to China 7 or 8 times and I had no time for shopping. Mistake #1. I went to Wilkes Bashford, a bastion of too-cool-for-school. Mistake #2. I listened to the fabulous salesman tell me I looked fabulous in a fabulous Monique Lhullier when I knew I didn't. Mistake #3. The most pernicious. Never let anyone convince you of something you know to be untrue.

Oh, I dressed up and wore a pair of excruciatingly painful, beautifully beaded, Rene Caovilla pumps, along with some inherited diamonds, but I had wasted my not-inconsequential amount of money. I was too uncomfortable to win that particular private battle. Battles, even when fought on foreign soil, have to be won on one's own terms.

I do better in structured clothing. I like darts. I'm sturdy that way. The dress didn't suit me. What a crime. To buy an expensive little black dress I rarely wear. And shoes that hurt so much I have given them to my 22-year old daughter.
If only Jennifer had been there. I'm sure she would have told me the truth. All I know now is that I do, in fact, need a new little black dress. Need being, of course, broadly defined. After all, navy blue has its appeal.

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Blogger Maureen@IslandRoar said...

I do like the first one better, but I bet you rocked them both.
Promise to show us the new one?

October 21, 2009 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Susan B said...

"My" LBD has continued to elude me. If it has sleeves, the neckline is wrong. If the styling is perfect, it doesn't come in my size. I've pretty much given up.

Joe Montana will always hold a special place in my heart for pulling the 49er's out of the trash heap of football history, at least for a bright, short, shining while.

October 21, 2009 at 4:04 PM  
Anonymous julia::ordinarysaturdays said...

I like them both, but yes, they do seem to be for two different people. You will have to show us the new one, when you find it. Even if it's navy.

October 21, 2009 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

I love the stories that go with your clothes. I don't think I really have memorable outfits like this, but reading makes me want to develop some.

October 21, 2009 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger QueenBeeSwain said...

okay- I am loving this story- how much fun and please confirm that you still have the Joe Montana Blumarine! You just always have the best clothing-related stories, keep 'em coming :)


October 21, 2009 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger SLynnRo said...

That second dress needs to be seen on. Not a hanger dress!

October 21, 2009 at 8:03 PM  
Anonymous Twenty Four At Heart said...

I have a great Montana story, but I don't want to share it publicly. We will need to go out for a drink someday! : )

October 21, 2009 at 8:33 PM  
Anonymous Queen of Cashmere said...

I can't get past the seams and finishing on the Monique Lhuillier dress. My big garment fixation is that the inside must be as nice as the outside.
I do love your stories though. They have lovely seams.

October 22, 2009 at 12:14 AM  
Blogger f8hasit said...

Little Black Dresses...
I can't get enough of them! But I agree with the Queen of Cashmere, the inside has to be finished as well.

You should check out the plum number they have at Brooks Brothers. It's gorgeous. AND a little switch from black.

(and it'll go nicely with that bag of yours...)

October 22, 2009 at 1:13 AM  
Blogger Sahildeki Ev said...

They all say that all you need is a LBD, sounds so easy. I always find it very hard to find a special LBD. There is an irony there..

October 22, 2009 at 5:26 AM  
Blogger Joyce Lau said...

It's a mystery to me. I have two almost identical LBDs. Both are plain sleeveless sheaths and end right above the knee.
The expensive Agnes B one makes me look fat. (Is it the thicker cotton fabric? Turtleneck collar? Why? Why?) A cheap one from a local brand called Giordano always looks great. (Polyester. Boat-neck collar).
I had a Diane von Furstenberg black wrap dress that I wore until it was visibly stained and I threw it away. (How does black manage to stain?)
I also have a BCBG LBD that has all sorts of floaty bits, folds and ruffles. Disaster. The ruffles once got caught in my control-top boy-short underwear!
I'm like you, LPC, I need structure in my life. My body needs darts and waists that go in.
I couldn't live without LBDs. It's like I'm constantly dressing for a funeral.

October 22, 2009 at 5:36 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

Here's the perfect dress and it will hold you in in all the right places!


October 22, 2009 at 5:47 AM  
Anonymous Jan said...

What Maureen said!

Because I'm all original like that, and have yet to find the LBD that I really, truly like.

October 22, 2009 at 5:57 AM  
Blogger Sevenbeads said...

It's been too long since I've worn a dress at all. I'm inspired to venture into the dress department.

October 22, 2009 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Years ago, a friend made me swear that I would tell her when she stopped looking good in a bikini. It's important to have friends (or strangers in the dressing room) who will be honest with you.

WV= Pologyni, "Many women."

October 22, 2009 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Duchesse said...

Jill: yes, L'Wren is sublime. For smaller budgets I loved this J Crew wool ribbon ravine LBD:

L, delightful story. And time for a new dress!

October 22, 2009 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Duchesse said...

PS: re navy, no. Navy is too sober, too businesslike to be an LBD candidate. No one would caress the inside of a knee of a woman wearing a navy dress after 5. I can see plum, some of the luminous grays, but not navy. Navy at night has to be a long dress, in something flou- like chiffon- or you will just look sad.

I've had a handful of navy dresses, one couture. Each made me feel businesslike, smart, efficient, and in control. That's not the way I want to feel in a cocktail dres.

October 22, 2009 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

WV= Pologyni, "Many women."

Correction. Many women (or gynecologists) who play polo or wear Ralph Lauren.

October 22, 2009 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger Joyce Lau said...

Oh my word, the L'Wren is pricey. 1,500 pounds. (For some reason, if you access Net-a-Porter from Hong Kong, it gives you British currency).

But that lace thing is very clever. It's sexy without making you have to actually reveal anything.

October 22, 2009 at 5:49 PM  
Blogger Miss Cavendish said...

Those are two lovely dresses. I got married in my LBD, some eighteen years ago now. (And I was excited to note that I've been to the Stanford shopping center of which you write.) Love, love, love Palo Alto.

October 22, 2009 at 6:20 PM  
Blogger The Mrs. said...

You are too much. I am planning my 40th for next year. Can mrs. Montana fly in to be y fashion consultant?

October 22, 2009 at 7:24 PM  

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