The White Dress, by Deb Emily

I tried it on just for fun. I was fifteen years old, from New Jersey, in a London department store with my parents. We weren’t really shopping; we were having a “cultural experience” and just looking around.  Mom checked out raincoats. I wandered into formalwear.

One dress called to me, so I took it into a fitting room. I tried it on, admired myself, and took it off again. I wanted to show it to my mom, just hold it up in front of me and say “Isn’t it pretty???” So when the lady managing the fitting rooms asked me if I wanted it, I said “yes.”

I’m used to that “yes” meaning “don’t take it away from me and hang it back on the rack, at least not yet.” But, in this more-upscale-than-I-was-used-to store, that was her cue to scoop the dress out from my arms and wrap it in tissue paper. As she prepped it for purchase, I saw my mom heading for me. I panicked! We were in a foreign country and an officious adult was expecting me to buy a formal gown! I didn’t have any money. What would my mom say??

What she said was that it wasn’t too expensive and I needed a dress for high school choir. Relief came first, that I wasn’t going to get into trouble for misleading the fitting room matron, and then thrill–my first formal dress! Just like the ads in the prom issue of Seventeen!

Besides choir, I was mostly into drama in high school. That beautiful white dress was my costume in a lot of plays. It was the wedding dress when I played Olivia in Twelfth Night. It was my party dress as Isabelle in Ring Round the Moon. It was my ballgown when I played Cinderella. I sang choir solos in it, and wore it to a Regency dance at a Science Fiction convention.

Ring Round the Moon was my favorite. Here’s a pic of me and classmate Randi Driscoll just before our cat fight:

Ring Round the Moon, Emily Winslow and Randi Driscoll

And this is another, in an Irving Berlin music revue. A gym-class jump-roping accident (seriously) just days before fractured one ankle and sprained the other, so I sang “Let’s Take an Old Fashioned Walk” from a wheelchair:

Emily Winslow sings Irving Berlin

Dressing up can be the most fun in the world! What’s your favorite costume memory? (And, anyone else ever been put in a wheelchair by a jumprope??)

7 Replies to “The White Dress, by Deb Emily”

  1. I love that story! And that is a beautiful dress. Do you still have it?

    My favorite dressing up memory (and I LOVE dressing up, which is probably why I’m also fascinated by theater).

    In middle school, I dressed up for Halloween as a tap dancer. In hindsight I can’t believe I did this, but I borrowed my dancer friend’s costume. It was a hot pink unitard thing, almost like a one-piece bathing suit which I wore with tights, which, as I recall, were covered with small pink hearts. The outfit was covered with silver sequins, and had (I swear I’m not kidding) black swishy fringe over the butt. It came with a bowler-type hat which was also decorated with sequins. And, I also wore the tap shoes, so I tap-tap-tapped around all day. At school. In basically a bathing suit and tights.

    People kept asking me to do a tap dance, and I told them, honestly, “I can’t dance. If I could dance, this wouldn’t be a costume.”

    I was not a popular kid and was probably the laughingstock of the school, but I enjoyed myself too much to notice.

    (A jump rope! Nope, can’t top that…)

  2. My best Halloween costume was Smurfette. My mom made the L-shaped white hat, and I wore blue face paint and a yarny yellow wig. Another good one was a salad (I stapled lettuce leaves all over my clothes). But I didn’t need Halloween as an excuse to dress up. I remember many ordinary Saturday mornings, post-cartoons, when I dressed as an orphan and belted “It’s A Hard-Knock Life” at the top of my lungs, pretending to mop the floor of the living room.

  3. Both ankles? Ouch! Gorgeous dress, though, and it sounds like you got more than your money’s worth.
    My favorite costume was being a game board die. I wore a giant box I painted white, with one to six black circles on each side.

  4. My mum WISHES I had only dressed up for Halloween. I was an eighties “waver” in a conservative high school. Short hair on one side, long on the other, big skirts, grandpa sweaters, fishnets, boots, purple lipstick. Luckily, I was a drama kid, so it worked out okay for me. The other eight wavers in our school of twelve hundred were shunned. I had a pretty great Boy George costume, but I’m not sure that was for Halloween. I might’ve just made it for fun.

  5. That white dress served you well, Emily, and it was obviously meant for you…the English saleslady must have known!

    Dressing up in costume has never been one of my favorite things. Who knows, perhaps as a young child i was traumatized by a Halloween ghoul?!

  6. These pictures brought back memories! Enjoying your blog posts, and may I say congratulations on the two-book deal, I can’t even imagine how exciting that was to finalize.

    I’m answering a previous posts’ question here–right now, I am so obsessed with reading good historical fiction that I can’t even remember what I do not read. =) Everything else, basically. But this too shall pass.

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