Monday, 6 February 2012

Nan and the party dress

Some background. At the time this story took place my outfit of choice consisted of a t-shirt worn under one of my dad's lumberjack-style work shirts (no, he wasn't a lumberjack- he just liked to dress as one).  Said shirts had to be smuggled out of the ironing pile and then smuggled back before he noticed;  he wasn't keen on me borrowing them as his work mates always commented on the great smell of Rive Gauche that seemed to surround him.  I digress.  The above was worn with the tightest jeans I could squeeze into (coat hangers being the tool of choice) and if they weren't tight enough I would take them in.  This was fine when cycling to school as I could free-wheel as it was down hill all the way.  Coming home was a bit of a problem; the bike was impossible and not being able to bend at the knee resulted in a strange stiff legged walk - but who hasn't suffered for art?

Great look (or so I thought), but not the sort of thing to wear to Lucy's party (names changed here to protect the innocent) where most of the other guests were girls from Oxford High and boys from St Edwards - it was like Bridehead Revisted, The Great Gatesby and First Form at Mallory Towers all rolled into one -  heady stuff for a girl from the local comprehensive.  I confided in Nan who said that I was not to worry and that she'd find me something to wear.  When she fell asleep in front of the TV I kept whispering 'Miss Selfridge, Miss Selfridge' into her ear - but Paul McKenna where were you when I needed you (possibly not born?)
The night of the party I get changed at Nan's house; excited to see 'the dress' which I have been assured by Nan would 'knock 'em dead' my mum thought was 'pretty' and 7 year old sister lisped was just what a princess would wear.  I had been warned.

Yes - they were all correct: knock 'em dead with laughter, pretty awful and yes, Diana might have worn it when feeling depressed about Camilla.  It was made of pale blue cheesecloth (younger readers may need to look this up - but if you can't imagine the best sort of thing to clean windows with - floppy and scratchy at the same time).  The skirt had at least 4 flounces; imagine a ra-ra skirt, but not as sophisticated and each flounce was decorated with a band of blue lace and blue ric-rac.  The top was a cross between Jane Russell's dress in 'The Outlaw', minus Howard Hughes' intervention and Sophia Loren's 2009 Oscar dress -without the good taste.  This was the first and last time I wore an off-the-shoulder dress.  We both realised it looked hideous, but Nan being a glass-half full woman suggested we try and make it less noticable; I could wear some bright red lipstick or back comb my hair so it balanced out the fullness of the skirt or as a last resort I could borrow one of Uncle's jumpers (khaki green, khaki brown - lovely with pale blue).

The jumper won and got me on the bus without being laughed at.  Fortunately the top deck was almost empty and I was able to change back into my t-shirt, lumberjack shirt and jeans combo which I made sure I took with me.

The party wasn't so bad after all - Southern Comfort, pogoing and lots of Blue Stratos (these were posh boys).  Although I didn't fit in with the girls - long dresses (Laura Ashley, Miss Selfridge) the boys were a different matter;  they were either wanna-be punks or had never met a girl from a state school before.

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