Serendipity – or, finding the little black dress

I have heard about the “little black dress” for years. I think it’s impossible to live in the culture I do and not hear about it. Fashion magazines regularly run features about finding your little black dress – usually by parading the season’s styles of little black dresses across several pages. I have seen a number of little black dresses at various stores – from KMart to Bloomingdales. Everywhere you look, there are little black dresses, hanging from racks or adorning mannequins. Yet, in the midst of this little black dress overkill, I had never managed to find my little black dress. You know, the perfect one those magazines claim is out there?

I’ve only ever owned one black dress, and it was floor-length. Although I bought it in high school, it made me look older. And not in that cool, “I’m a freshman but I’m so posh I can pass for a senior” way. This was more of a frumpy, matronly sort of way. To be fair, it wasn’t entirely the dress’s fault. Being short, it is very easy for clothes to overwhelm my frame. Hell, I’ve had JACKETS overwhelm me. It’s not that hard for many outfits to make me look like I’m playing dress-up in my mother’s closet.

I’ve tried on my share of little black dresses over the years. It’s supposed to be a classic wardrobe staple – something that can be dressy or casual, depending on the accessories. It’s the perfect myth – a dress that can not only be worn to any event, but that is supposed to downplay all of your “faults” and play up your best features. If your little black dress is doing it’s job, you’re supposed to look fantastic.

This is, I think, where my main problem has been. My little black dress could have been made out of the most expensive silks and pieced together by angelic seamstresses – nothing’s really going to make me look fantastic. The closest I’ve come to the elusive little black dress in all my years of searching is the little blue dress I bought a number of years back, when I graduated with my bachelor’s. I remember trying on a number of dresses that day until I finally tried on the navy blue one. I don’t recall it jumping off the rack screaming “I would look fantastic on!” but it actually did. Look fantastic, that is. It was flattering and I felt pretty for once.

For a long time after that, I didn’t have any similar clothes-shopping experiences. Then fate struck.

I needed to go out to the store to get a slip to wear underneath the dress I was making (the one mentioned in the previous post). The first store I went to turned out to be closed up – an unpleasant surprise for me! The second didn’t even have a section where a slip would be to begin with. The third stop was the TJ Maxx in Fairfax. I hadn’t originally planned to go that far from town. I only had a short time to go out and pick up the slip and I was pushing it with the third stop. It turned out to be a kind of Goldilocks situation, though, with the third stop turning out to be “just right.”

I wandered through the tops section just out of curiosity and ended up picking up a couple to try on. I found the only style of slip stocked in the store, and casually stopped by the dresses section on my way to the dressing rooms. They didn’t have a lot of choices in my size – not an unusual thing. I don’t know what made me sift through the section I did. I certainly didn’t think anything there would fit me. They were all about three sizes down from what I was used to picking up. I honestly don’t know what made me pick up the black dress that I did. I suppose I just wanted to see how much it could stretch.

Imagine my surprise when I slipped the dress on and it fit. Like. A. Glove. It was the perfect length and for once I didn’t look like I was going to a PTA meeting or playing in clothes too “old” for me. I actually giggled, it made me so happy.

I hadn’t intended to get a dress while I was out. All I went in for was the slip. But, having found my little black dress, I couldn’t pass it up. I gathered it and the slip and marched to the check-out and went home with my very first Little Black Dress. I even wore it for the Valentine’s Day festivities we had planned that evening (the afore-mentioned blue dress wasn’t finished in time), and ended up feeling kind of glamorous and put together all evening.

Now that is a great dress.


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