The Dress

Me, in the dress, and Deborah Marinoff in front of the Intersection Theater San Francisco 1973. Photo copyright Clay Geerdes

Me in the same dress in front of the poster for my book “Anarchy in High Heels” 2021.

Second-hand shops in 1973 were full of treasures from the fifties and sixties. Clothes from those days used well-made, quality materials. As a cash-poor artist I browsed these shops weekly. As a Nickelette, I looked for flashy, unusual items to use as costumes. One day, I found a gorgeous dress. It was a black velveteen fabric cocktail dress adorned with sequins and rhinestones. The amazing feature was the skirt; it depicted gold-painted, elaborate Aztecan Goddesses highlighted with hand-sewn silver sequins. I had to have it. But when I tried it on it was too big. No problem, I’ll just take up the side seams. I wore the dress on many occasions while in Les Nickelettes. The most famous time was captured by photographer Clay Geerdes in front of The Intersection Theater in North Beach with my co-Nickelette Debby Marinoff. In the photo we playfully stuck our thumbs out hitchhike-style. That photo of me was chosen to adorn the cover of my memoir; Anarchy in High Heels. It captures the impish ethos of Les Nickelettes along with the never-ending desire to always show up in the most glamourous outfit.

            Time moved on, costumes came and went. I stashed the Aztecan dress in my basement. This kind of retro outfit fell out of favor. Still, I held on to it, and many other costumes of that era, I just couldn’t let them go.

            Fast forward 48 years, Anarchy in High Heels: A Memoir is scheduled to be published. As I get ready for the book launch, I pulled out the dress, thinking maybe I could put it on display for this special night. Then I decide to try it on, even though I know there’s no chance it will fit. Yep, I can’t zip it up. But then I look closer and see that the side seams of the bodice had been taken in. I had forgotten that detail. I ripped out the seams – 2 inches on both sides – and slipped the dress over my head. The moment of truth: will I be able to zip it up? Holding my breath, and with a little help from a friend, the zipper completed its journey, and I even survived the fastening of the hook and eye on top. Whoa! I can barely breathe, but the dress fits!  As I wear the dress it conforms to my body (no stretch fabric here) and feels more comfortable.

            There’s no doubt that as women’s bodies age, they change. Giving birth, menopause, metabolism changes, altered eating habits, all take their toll. Thickening in the middle is common. I’ve heard that one reason for that thickening is due, in part, to our shrinking skeleton. Whatever the reason, a middle bulge in older adults is inevitable. I feel blessed that the dress I plucked off a thrift store shelf 48 years ago and altered to fit my 26 year-old body fit my 73 year-old body on that special day when I presented Anarchy in High Heels to the world.  

3 thoughts on “The Dress

  1. Ann Rudder August 17, 2021 / 12:45 pm

    OYI GAHUNA, Hi Denise: Gold Sequined Goddesses Riding Phallic Fender Stratocaster Guitars in that Great Void of Conscious Reality. Good thing “ANARCHY in High Heels” Got a LOT of us Gal Pals Out of the slipstream of male un-consciousness. “Cheeze-dun-bred” (as we say over here in Barbados), and I Do KNOW about slimming in and out of those side seams. Crafting some ‘new’ “old’ 18th century ‘Creole’ costumes right now to commemorate George Washington and his brother Lawrences’ 270th anniversary 7 week sojourn here in Barbados. They arrived November 2, 1751. (Sample workroom photos sent). GOOD LUCK on your book Launch, Don’t Break a “Heel” or a Leg! Loads of Love from Ann(ie) Rudder. Hey, Is there some stuff about me in the book? I got fans here in “Beautiful Barbados”…after Corona lock downs (called ‘stan home’ in Bajan parlance), After Volcanic Ash blow backwards from St Vincent (check a map, we are EAST of the island by over 90 miles. And If the ‘trade winds’ blew backwards like THIS volcanic spume, Columbus would never have found de place. AND to top that off, a “June Too Soon” Category 1 Hurricane on June 29th. YEOW what a 2021, here’s hoping we don’t toss this year In the bin with weird “2020 vision” party sunglasses. See Yah Denise, Kisses ! Sent from Mail for Windows

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    • Denise Larson August 19, 2021 / 6:29 pm

      Yes, Ann there is stuff about you in the book. Send me an email address in Facebook PM and I’ll send you a digital copy.

      Like

  2. Ann Rudder August 17, 2021 / 12:51 pm

    Oops The Photos to accompany my Before I Read the Book Review sent 2 minutes ago> Love Ya !

    Sent from Mail for Windows

    Like

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