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The dresses of a woman’s life

My daughter picked up her prom dress this week. We have been waiting five months for its delivery like expectant parents. Getting the right dress was like finding the Holy Grail. She looked at hundreds, of dresses in every colour and style. Each time she went into the dressing room to try one on I would wait outside with my fingers crossed praying “Please God let this be the one.” I walked thousands of miles through shopping malls and bridal stores getting carpal tunnel syndrome from my arms being in the air searching through racks of formal dresses saying, “What about this one?”

The day she bounced out of the dressing room in a beautifully simple black dress smiling ear to ear and said, “This is the one” was the happiest day of my life. Getting the right prom dress is extremely important to a girl. That dress tells the world that she is transitioning from a high school girl to a young woman. The pictures of her wearing it will be something she treasures forever.

It made me think of all the other dresses that are so important in a woman’s life. When my daughter was born I wanted her to have the most beautiful christening dress. I can’t remember what it cost but I’m sure spent a small fortune on it. The sweater, bonnet and bootees were hand knit by a friend of our families. Now the whole lot of it is wrapped in blue paper and sealed in a plastic container. Someday I’ll take it out and give it to her when her baby is Christened.

The next dress I bought her was her school uniform. It was a standard, navy blue tunic like the one that I wore when I started kindergarten. She wore a crisp white blouse, navy blue socks, black patent leather shoes and I put her hair up in pigtails, which was the cause of a huge fight that morning. But when she came down over the stairs with her pigtails bouncing and her smart school uniform she looked like a little doll. I couldn’t wait to take her to my mother’s house and show her off. Her school tunic told the world that she was now ready to be educated. A privilege that so many girls in this world don’t get to experience.

She starts university in September and I guess the next dress will be the university graduation dress followed by the wedding dress.

Thinking about it made me go through my own closet of memories.

I still have my prom dress. It’s in a plastic bag tucking into the back of my closet. My mother and I designed it ourselves by going through stacks of Simplicity dress patterns we found in the upstairs of the Arcade on Water Street. We mixed and matched dresses until we had the perfect skirt and top. Then we found a seamstress who put it together. It was gray taffeta with a princess skirt. It was the first real dress I’ve ever owned. When I put it on day of my prom, along with make up and my hair locked tight with Final Net, I looked in the mirror and realized that that this dress would show the world that I had left my tomboy phase behind and really was a girl.

Next came the dress I bought to snag the man I knew was going to be my husband. I banked on that little black dress making him fall in love with me. I spent half my pay cheque on that dress. I bought it at Le Château and I knew when I looked in the dressing room mirror that an engagement ring wouldn’t be far behind. It was worth every cent because I knew from the look on his face when he saw me that it was mine, hook, line and little black dress!

Then came the wedding dress. I design it myself and worked with a seamstress to create it. I read thousands of bridal magazines and tore out stacks of pages of dresses that I liked. I knew I wanted something off the shoulder and a skirt that was straight. I did not want anything puffy. I went back-and-forth with the seamstress for months. Finally, she delivered the dress of my dreams. I will never forget the look my husbands face when I walk down the aisle. My dress was beautiful with a train that followed behind me and a veil of white lace framed my face. My future husband was smiling from ear to ear and wiped away a tear. This dress told the world that I was now a wife.

That dress was followed by a power suit. A new addition to my life. It had a navy-blue skirt and blazer and I matched it with a white blouse and matching navy-blue stilettos. It was meant to impress those on the hiring board and tell them I was a professional lady who would be a great addition to their organization. The power suit was a new kind of dress for me but one that became my own uniform for years and served me well. It told the world that I was ready to take it on and win.

The day finally came for a different kind of dress. My first maternity dress which I bought a Zellers. It was a replica of one Princess Diana worn. It was red with a princess collar and a little black velvet ribbon tied around the collar. It made me look as big as a house and I cried when I put it on. But I was incredibly proud to wear it. I knew wearing this dress was an honour that so many of my friends would never have due to infertility and other medical issues. I put my big red flowing tent of a dress with pride. It told the world that I would soon be the best mother in the world.

Then there was that after the baby was born dress. It took a few months before I wore that one. It was two sizes bigger than the dress I wore before pregnancy. I hated that dress it told the world that I didn’t lose the baby weight and that my body was now going to be a new size. A motherly size.

Then there’s the yo-yo dress. That’s the dress I bought after I lost the baby weight which told the world I was back on track.

Then there was the dress that was three sizes bigger than my wedding dress that which told the world it was unrealistic for me to expect stay the same size I was when I got married.

Then there was the dress that was bigger than that one. It told the world I loved potato chips more than I love my figure.

The dress after that that one was two sizes smaller. It told the world I had found weight watchers.

The dress after that one told the world I was now going to have a yo-yo weight that went up and down for the rest of my life.

I was incredibly proud of the dress I wore to my son’s high school graduation. I didn’t care what size it was. It was a big day to watch my firstborn graduate from high school and I cried the day I put that dress on. It told the world how incredibly proud I was of him.

Then there’s the dress I wore at my 20th wedding anniversary. That night we went to the Keg for supper and reminisced about everything we had achieved over the years. We raised our children to be good people, kept a marriage together, build a wonderful home that we both loved and reminiscing about the beautiful journey we had taken together. That dress told world I was now comfortable and confident with who I was.

This month I shop for two dresses. One I wear to my daughter’s graduation from high school, and one I we are to my son‘s convocation from University. I am really looking forward to wearing those dresses. They tell the world that my children are successful and moving forward in life. They also tell the world that my husband and I have done our jobs as parents and helped our children achieve their goals.

In between all these dresses there have been so many others; Christmas party dresses, New Year’s Eve gowns, summer dresses, winter dresses, spring dresses. So many dresses that define the life of a woman. What I have learned from all these dresses is, even though a good dress can make you feel beautiful, powerful, successful, proud and even magical, a dress can not define who you are. It’ your hard work, values, beliefs and actions that tells the world who you really are. The dress is just the frame for that picture.

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