Walk Tall and Carry a Silver Shawl
When Jenny first informed me she was marrying in Spain, I thought, Wow, I have no castanets! But the real problem became what on earth would I wear? Traditional mother of the bride dresses tend to be pretty square – you know, boxy, ugly, making women look heavy and old. With my new weight loss, I wanted to find a dress to surprise – a dress with Latin flair, something to dance the night away in - maybe with a silver-templed Flamenco dancer.
Kathy heard of my reverie, and said, “Cut the fantasies, girl, and start looking for shape wear. You may need to cinch in that last ten pounds.”
“A girl can dream, can’t she? You’re just jealous because I might meet Jose Greco’s son on the dance floor.”
“Yes, I am, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, good luck on your shopping trip tomorrow.”
The next day, I tried on a shimmery blue sheath in Nordstrom’s Wedding Shop. When I turned several times in front of the tri-fold dressing room mirror - you know, the kind that shows every ounce of flab - I found the room lighting turned everything green, including my tongue, which I stuck out at the mirror. I looked like a baby pachyderm. I came out into the lighted hallway to see if I looked better in that mirror. The saleswoman looked me over with a semi polite sneer. "Perhaps a foundation garment would help." I looked up and down her bony frame, returned to the dressing room, and snapped the door shut.
The next day, I took Kathy along to help.
“Try this one on,” she said. She handed me a long Flamenco like gown, electric yellow, with a flare at the bottom. I put it on and twirled around in the hallway of mirrors. “No, she said, “you look like a short, fat neon light bulb in that one.”
“Thanks a lot,” I said, giving her a death stare. But I had to agree. “What can I do? It’s not my fault I’m only five feet tall,” I’ve lost thirty-five pounds and that was torture.”
“Here’s a basic A-line dress with jacket. This might be more your style,” she said, handing me a garment in a scary shade of mustard. I tried it on and stood before her. “Well, that’s better than the neon number,” she said. “But not great. Kinda like your grandma’s burial frock. I think it’s the color.”
“Shoot me,” I said, “if that’s my color.”
In three hours, I had tried on nearly every dress in the mega mall. The flippy skirt. The twirly short dress. The swirly long dress. Slim long skirt with frilly separate top. Slinky one piece jumpsuit. (Ok, I admit, at that point, we had lost it.)
“You’ll find the right dress,” Kathy said, as we headed for the parking lot. “There’s a dress for you out there -- somewhere.”
Thankfully, she was right. The next week, I found it – in -- do not gasp -- Target. The Spanish proletariat would surely appreciate my economy. It was a simple black "stretchable" sheath, low v-neckline, sleeveless with a slight cap. What appeared to be on the hanger a dress I should never wear was, in fact, form-fitting perfection. I didn’t want to take it off.
On the way to checkout, I spied an open weave, sparkling shawl with varied pinks and reds, silver threads and a slim thread of black -- a shimmering delight - to casually throw over my shoulders in the soft summer breeze. I was so thrilled, I hugged the lady next to me in the checkout line.
When I got home, I called Kathy. “Guess what? My flamenco dancer is drawing near and breathing on my neck. And Jenny will not have to pretend I am her distant aunt. You won’t believe the price!”
The shoes were next. I knew I couldn’t dance all night without the right shoes. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to find wide shoes in a skinny shoe universe. What is labeled wide is not wide -- medium is the best there is.
A red strappy pair, I thought, that’s what I want, to go with the red threads in my shiny shawl.
I went to all the shoe shops in the area and tried dozens of pumps and sling backs and slides. Not one fit. I threatened to write the “shoe gods” responsible for not seeing my need.
Finally, and not a day too soon, a pair of shoes caught my eye in Macy's. They stopped me in my tracks. Red, strappy, sexy! A strap around the ankle. I always wanted a strap around my ankle. A young male store clerk watched me try them on and said, “Honey, you don’t want your pinky toe sticking out of those shoes.” I looked down and indeed, my pinky toe was hanging out. I wanted to put my pinky toe in his eye because, at that point, I was desperate, and even though the shoes fit snug, I bought them.
The next week I visited my trusty shoe repair man.
“Joe, find a way to make these shoes fit,” I said.
He said he would subject them to his super stretch machine.
“Don’t come back for five days though,” he told me. “That’s how long it’ll take for these babies to fit.”
Oh, God, I thought. How long before they land in the corner of the wedding dance floor?
Finally, the shapewear. Kathy was right. I needed shapewear - another potential for torture. I have found that retail stores shun the rounder body and sell foundation garments for the teeny tiny. I know some are marked XXL, but they are still teeny tiny. Who wears those things, anyway? I finally found a supposedly light-weight garment called a “total body wrap” that sucked in the hips, the rear, the thighs, and the stomach. The trick was to tuck it all in at once. Getting it on was akin to wrestling a bear. Getting it off was even tougher, but a wonderful relief. I wanted the silhouette it provided, so I paid for it, stuffed it in a bag, and took it home.
To top off the ensemble, I purchased a lovely red organza rose to pin on the overexposed cleavage of the dress.
Then I sent Kathy an email. “The wedding attire is complete!”
She wrote back, “I knew you could do it!”
Now, I thought, if I can walk, talk, breathe, and pee through the long hours from the ceremony to the farewells, I will be a success.
I could now concentrate on the ensembles for sightseeing, lunches and dinners with Jenny’s new family, evening entertainment and a rehearsal dinner. I wished this shopping would be a piece of cake compared to the acquisition of that wedding ensemble. But fitting me for clothing had always been a challenge.
In spite of the clothing industry’s neglect of stylish clothing for the shorter, larger woman, I headed out on a sunny Tuesday only two weeks before my departure to see what I could find for a gala week in Spain.
Be hopeful,” I kept saying to myself.
As it turned out, unknown to me, New York and Co. had that year come out with a line of summer fashions that just happened to be shorter and a little wider than their usual collections. After visiting a number of shops that day with no luck for summer travel clothes, I stopped in at our local New York and Co. and was greeted by a fiery little blond looking about 22 years old. Her name was Felicity. I at first tried to go it alone around the store to save myself embarrassment when nothing fit. I may have lost thirty-five lbs. but my mind still saw me as a fat girl.
Felicity was having none of it. “All right, now, Sweetie,” she said. “What are we looking for today?”
Go ahead, I thought, blast forward.
“Felicity, I am looking for a casual evening dinner skirt and top or dress, a couple of pants and top outfits for sightseeing, a beach cover up to take to my daughter’s wedding in Spain.”
Felicity gasped. “How wonderful!” she said. “We must find you everything you need!” She unlocked a dressing room for me and shoved me into it.
“Wait here,” she said. “I will be right back.”
I took a moment to look myself over in the mirror, trying to let hope enfold me. Felicity was back within five minutes with her arms laden with clothes.
“Now, just give a shout and I will return what isn’t right and get you what is. Ready, set, go!” She clicked the dressing room door shut and left.
OK, I thought. Let us begin. Felicity had brought me a wonderful array of print skirts with flowy solid pastel wraparound tops. There were crop pants in beige and white with colorful coordinated T-shirts. And several beach cover-ups. I held my breath.
Felicity showed up at the door and knocked. “How are we doing?”
NY and Co. had outdone themselves in color, style and size.
“Quite well,” I told her. “What do you think of this?” I asked her.
“Come out here where I can see you,” she said.
I was wearing a print skirt and wraparound top in pale turquoise.
“Wow, now that works,” she said. I agreed. The skirt was slimming and the wraparound camouflaged my extra tummy. I was feeling rather good looking.
“Back soon,” I told her and disappeared into the dressing room again.
The other skirt and top outfit fit also. Then two pairs of pants, two T-shirts and a cover up were just right. I stood in the dressing room and cried. It was as if someone was saying, your rough time is over, time to emerge from your cocoon.
Felicity rang up all my treasures, looking so happy for her sales prowess and for my success. I hugged her when I left.
“Have a grand time in Spain,” she shouted as I exited the store.
Customers turned to stare, and I felt like the grand dame of something or other.