A Dress With a History


My Wedding Dress


I am moving house. In the fit of packing, sorting and the general cleansing that inevitably goes along with a move, I find myself standing in a pair of boyfriend jeans and a tank top with the eye of a slightly crazed woman on a mission... and then I come across my beloved wedding dress.


It is a beautiful, cream Giambattista Valli looking at me from inside the spare room closet and it seems to be saying -- "Oh, so now you are finally paying attention to me!"


What does one do with something like that during a giant spring clean, which comes hand in hand with a move and a new life, which collides head on with your old life. As much as I loved this dress I actually was not sentimentally attached, maybe for obvious reasons.


But then there was the nagging question... "What about my daughter, should I save it for her?" Reality kicked in. Surely no self-respecting daughter wears her mother's wedding dress 20-30 years after the thing has been hanging around in a preservation box. The idea is nice, but not terribly realistic.


So off to Decades Two I go -- I am met by the lovely, smiling Christos, and, as he takes my dress in hand, it slowly comes back to him. He tells me he remembers me now: "Ahh, that's right, this dress was for your wedding... so how is everything?" I smile and mouth to him silently the word divorce.


He replies, "Oh, honey, don't worry about it, I will take care of everything," in such a reassuring way. Along with clothes comes life, and I suspect that this man is quite an expert on both. He takes the dress, I sign some paper work and it's on consignment -- I feel liberated, sensible and a little melancholy all at once.


I found out a few days later that the dress was flown straight to NYC. In my imagination she was flown first class, with cocktails, Christos holding her hand all the way. Straight into the arms of the shop window display, where she is the star of the show. Standing in full glory at the Decades Two pop-up shop in NYC in the Kiki de Montparnasse store. The crazy thing is that the opening for this event is actually on the very day that my divorce is legal! I realize that my dress is not finished yet, and has a long, glamorous life ahead of her.


My Irish friend Marina Guinness told me once that her mother kept little cards pinned to each dress. On each of the cards were detailed accounts of the event and the night's activities, who she saw, who she danced with and so on -- like real, live, walking story books. I love this idea; it breaths such life into each piece. I think in a way it's part of the reason so many of us are drawn to vintage attire -- it is the history that is so fascinating, the story that each loved item carries in its seams. So with this dress I send the note, that I myself, had a wonderful, beautiful, spring wedding in this dress -- and I cant wait to read the next installment of her adventures!



Tata Harper's More Than Skin Deep


I hate Prius cars and vegans, and sometimes I don't recycle on purpose. I definitely don't check out what chemicals are in my facial creams! I wear fur occasionally, and eat steaks, love trucks and ride horses. Don't get me wrong... I am not totally evil, I just enjoy not being completely pious and PC -- because, let's face it, sometimes it just feels like overkill, and slightly like, "what's the point."


Just as Woody Allen so brilliantly illustrated in a scene in Annie Hall, where the small boy is in the shrink's office and his mother is screaming "he wont do his homework..." and the boy's brilliant response... "What's the point?... the world's expanding."


I sort of feel like this. Nevertheless, I still dutifully use cloth shopping bags and fill my canister of water, instead of using plastic bottles and read the ingredients of my food before I buy it... most of the time... But really, "what's the point?" We are all going to die of something horrid at the end of the day. So here I am, happily getting my nails painted, dyeing my hair, probably using the wrong laundry detergent, and yes, plying whatever expensive face creams I can get my hands on.


Tata Harper


Then I met Tata Harper, who basically ruined all this for me! She is an extremely healthy-looking beauty from Colombia who makes super-pure facial products, and has spent the last 5 years engineering nature in its purest form into bottles for the likes of me!


All her products are totally natural, and ingredients mostly come from her organic farm in Vermont. Tata is wonderful and interesting; other than actually succeeding in her quest to making a good line of all natural products, her passion for pureness has led her in the direction of actually making a difference. She proudly tells me to check out Skin Deep, a cosmetic safety database. Type any product in your bathroom cabinet and check out the level of toxicity, if you dare! She scores almost all zeros, which means there is nothing but goodness in her stuff. She is very involved in campaigning for safe cosmetics and banning the use of known toxic materials found in many skin care lines, just as they have done already in Europe. So here is one more thing to make you crazy! Not only do we have to read all the labels in the grocery store, now you will have the overwhelming urge, as I did, to test every skin care and hair product in your bathroom on this web site. Or you can skip the torture and just buy some stuff from Tata.


And when you just plain old feel that rebellious streak coming on, you can always pile on the Nivia, chuck a tin can in the trash, leave the bath water running, get toxic manicures, grow a lawn, play golf and smoke a cigarette.



Driving With Beyonce



"Again!" a stern despotic voice from the back of the car dictates. "Louder!... ...Again!" I reset the iPod to the offending song. "All the Single Ladies" blasts us down the freeway on the way to school. For the first three times I can muster up some bad in-seat-car-dancing to the horror of my stoic four-year-old sitting in the back. She does not dance -- totally unmoved, signing along,

"All the Single Ladies all the Single Ladies, wa a aaa Wa a aaa" with her new favorite princess, Beyonce. Then after the fourth round, the words start to prick me: "All the Single Ladies...." Oh god! That's me. Pounding reminders hit me with each "Again!" Why does she love this song so much? Small kids love repetition, I know, but now it's getting ridiculous. 


When we pull the car up at school she says, "Mama you must like it, you must really really like it cause you have three rings on it, look!" I look down to my hands - yes, I wear three rings. The penny drops. "If you like then you betta put a ring on it." I like it alright, or I used to, until I heard the song 350 times in one week. 


The Woman Power theme with the bumping, "I take care of myself and expect the most from any man who may enter my world", "don't sell yourself short," "make those fuckers beg for it" kind of message.


The thought crosses my mind that I should be more like that. With the divorce coming through, that makes me, yes, single. And now the foray into sex after marriage, with new men. It is as awkward as being a teen with acne, the shakes, two left feet and a speech impediment.


Dutch courage. I must get through this teenage angst crisis or I may never do it again! It will be good for me, it's a sign of moving on and starting a new life. The new Independent Woman; cool and collected and can handle anything.


Then: "Oh, you see other women? " This phrase rolls off my tongue like water off a duck's back. "That's OK, I can only handle casual right now anyways. Do what you like, it doesn't bother me...". Then I puke slightly in my mouth and feel sick to my stomach. Not exactly following the Beyonce-style doctrine -- it's harder than you think -- but now you see why I sort of hate her.


We live in LA. We spend copious amounts of time in the car -- we have to because it's LA. A lot of things can happen in a car; its small, it's familiar and gives the illusion of privacy. People demonstrate this by way of general facial orifice picking with vigor on the freeway. Digging for gold in the privacy of your own car. Put your makeup on at red lights on the way to work. Chat with your friends on forbidden cell phones. Dare I say it, text. Read e-mails. In particularly heavy traffic I have even seen newspaper gazing. Teenage make-outs in an old car, there you go with the imaginary privacy shield thing again. Anyway, we feel cozy. We love our cars.


My mother started the tradition of telling us "important things" while in the car. Captive audience type of move. She had a boyfriend long ago whose name proved as ludicrous as he was. Dougal. Dougal had been the young whippersnapper go-getter who has sold Mum the house, the divorce house. Dougal was, in a sense, good looking enough, but on closer inspection seemed to have left some pizza topping on his face -- acne -- to prove how old he was. (Maybe mother really was the original cougar?)


Conversations would commence in the seat-squirming pull-in to the garage, "Darlings" she would turn around to stare lovingly at her brood and the dog in the back seat, "Darlings, do you think mummy should still be friends with Dougal? Or shall we get rid off him?" We would make a monosyllabic, "yeah" just to get out of the car in time to watch our favorite program on television and to torment the cats. "I like Dougal," I said once when really plied for more feedback from my mother, "I like him, let's keep him..."


Decisions were made from the car. 


Side note is that not too surprisingly, he was discarded after someone found him passed out drunk at my aunt's house in the garden under a bush. Dougal had to go, pizza and all.

While driving Mulholland, I found the car a wonderful place to tell my 10-year-old son that I was pregnant with my second child. It went something sort of like this:


Me: Darling would you ever like a sister or brother?
Son: No.
Me: Oh darling, it could be so fun, you might love it?
Son: No, I hate babies.
Me: Really, why?
Son: They ruin people's lives.
Me: What?
Son: At least what I have seen is total life ruination. Look at my best friend Lucile, her life is total crap now that Levi has been born.
Me: I see.
Son: No one sleeps anymore and she has to share with him, because he has tantrums if she doesn't.
Me: Well... it's all fun really.
Son: No, the answer is no.
Me: I am pregnant.
Son: What! How do you know?
Me : I went to the doctor.
Son: You should go again. Sometimes professionals make mistakes.
Me: No, it's for sure.
Son: What! What! I can't believe this! This is the worst day of my life! Are you kidding me? Are you serious, Mum? Is this some sort of cruel joke? You are ruining my life! You are . . . Ahhh! This is the worst, the worst day! My life is ruined!

Still driving Mulholland, he is crying; no, he is wailing. While I drive, I punctuate the wails with positive possibilities like:


Me: You might like her or him. Or they might be really cute? Babies grow up to be your friends.
All met with a resounding, "Nooo, babies are evil!"


I must admit I was not expecting this sort of reaction in the car. It had always worked so well when Mother was filling us in on her love life. Maybe it was the garage that we pulled into that settled us? Maybe driving Mulholland was too wild a card, with all those twists and turns.

Maybe Mulholland should be reserved for people making babies on those lookouts points?


Our cars are our mini-houses, like a tortoise's shell. A home to our spare boots and umbrellas, and if you are that sort of doomsayer -- the type of person who actually follows through with thought patterns -- then it should have an emergency blanket, bottles of water, and nonperishable snacks. 


For me, I fantasize about being stuck in my car after The Earthquake. But since I am not the type to follow through completely with the doomsday fantasy, the only food I would have at this point is the left over crusties that litter the baby's car seat. And as for water, forget it. Maybe some kid's drawings could suffice as blankets? But it's LA, you could always just get out of the car and loot some necessities if it came down to it. Really depends how bad Armageddon is.

Now I am teaching my son to drive on the streets of Sunland. We encounter amazing drunk Mexican cowboys on horseback, coyotes, and sketchy skater kids. I muse to myself, "Wow, if he can avoid hitting all these things, he might very well make a great driver one day." 


Then it's his turn to tell me things delicately in the car, as I sit in the passenger seat. For example, the age of the hot Asian woman who kissed him on New Years Eve: 28! Thank God I wasn't driving. I think I may have crashed.


Meanwhile I have banned Beyonce and we have moved on to others. Elton John became a favorite for a while and now funnily enough its Merle Haggard's "Old Man From the Mountain."


This I like, and the small autocrat in the back loves to sing her little heart out, "The old man from the mountain is coming home home home." She chirps all the way in the car through the streets of LA.



© 2017 Amelia Fleetwood.  Ojai, California 

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