It’s that time of year again: when normally sensible, well dressed women throw all they know about fashion out the window and put on princess costumes to go out in public.
It’s floor-length gown season, bitches.
Which means it’s the twelfth time I’ll go against my own better judgement and half-heartedly walk out my front door looking like an evil stepsister.
I knew this was coming but I was still not prepared.
“I was not prepared for this,” I told a salesperson at Bloomingdale’s, who helpfully suggested a gown with a full-skirt that seemed to have been built around a dog crate. I could have smuggled in a troop of dancing Nutcracker toddlers under it.
I put it on and she — chronically helpful now — came in to check on me and laughed nervously. “You could have it altered,” she said. “You know, have the hem taken up.”
Oh yes, let’s do talk about short girls and gowns. When covered in a gown, my legs appear to be 8 inches shorter than they are. I once tried on a shimmery pink gown, thinking I’d feel like Glenda the Good Witch and instead I felt like the lead female Munchkin. You know, the one with the hoop skirt and puffy sleeves.
It’s like the gown designers all got together with a list of my shortcomings and decided all the gowns that were going to be in for this century would accentuate all the wrong things in just me.
“I guess you won’t be wanting to try on this one” Bloomie’s Salesperson said, holding up a fire engine red number with peek-a-boo cutouts that I instinctively knew would line up with my under-boobs.
“Good guess,” I said. “Nor the one where my backfat pops out of the giant holes in the lace.”
It’s a shame, really, that gown season starts in September, when some of us have worked hard all summer to get enough sun on our thighs to take away the blinding blue cast. And because we’re told summer is bathing suit season, we’ve been toiling at the treadmill for months to get a faint outline of tone on the backs of our knees. We finally have whipped our lower body into shape with skin the color and consistency of overcooked oatmeal and it’s time to cover all that up and bare our upper bodies, which are completely caught off guard.
“If I have to wear a dress that covers up the one calf muscle you can now see with the naked eye, then I should be able to wear a long-sleeved turtleneck on top, to hide all the muscles I’ve let atrophy all year.”
I had vowed to not buy another gown. I had a plan. I was going to buy one black gown with medium sleeves in a medium fabric for all seasons, and just accessorize the bejewels out of it so no one would know it was the same dress.
“You can’t do that,” a friend told me. “You can’t repeat a dress.”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can,” I said.
“No, you really can’t. Everyone looks to see what everyone’s wearing. They’ll remember,” she said ominously. “And what if you end up in Drew Altizer?”
Ending up in Drew Altizer is the least of my worries. Drew Altizer is the photographer who sends his crew to 99 percent of all social events in San Francisco. His photographers swarm around all parties big and small, snapping away, and in a very gracious way, take pictures of the nobodies like me in between glamor shots of the local big wigs.
The next morning, all the party-goers run to his website to see if their pictures made the site.
If you’re the upper crust or if your dress has a name, its own wing of the house and a perfume named after it, you get on the featured photos batch, and your photo has you identified by name. The rest of us are among the two- to- three thousand photos of also attendeds, the people who buy their dresses off the rack and who get to keep their jewelry after the party because you got it at Charming Charlie’s. We are identified not by name but by a public query not unlike a milk carton kid or those unidentified corpse photos at the police station. In Drew Altizer, when we finally do show up, my husband and I are WHO AM I and WHO AM I.
And it’s not like I haven’t answered the question. I send Drew a friendly answer. A lot. But I still don’t stand out enough to get my name remembered. I would have to compete with the women who dress for it. I’ve decided that in order to make a name for myself, I’m going to have to lose 120 pounds and wear a dress made of a semi-precious metal or Froot Loops.
So re-wearing a gown I’ve worn before is not going to push me any further down on the society rankings. For that to happen, I’d have to go for the shock value.
I’d have to show my legs.
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Diane writes about using humor to cope with things in life that suck. Read more of her Just Humor Me columns here. Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter to get new blog post notifications. And if you like her blog, you’ll love her books, Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves and Great-Grandma Is on Twitter and Other Signs the Rapture Is Near.