Yesterday I went out shopping with my mum and bought three dresses. From Topshop. This is unheard of on many levels.
I hardly ever buy clothes; these three new dresses will see me dressed for the next two years, I estimate. However, finding three (THREE!) new dresses that I really liked, that fit me and look nice, brought me a great deal of joy. I am really looking forward to wearing them throughout the winter. One was an ice-skater dress in plain blue, a sort of elongated flippy vest, which is a shape I enjoy; the next a smart sixties-style long-sleeved shift in navy and tan; finally, a very frivolous and slinky long-sleeved mini-dress in zebra print, I assure you a very SUBTLE zebra print, but still pretty daring for me, what with its ruching and exposed zip and general tightness.
This got me thinking, out shopping with my mum, of the first time I bought a dress. I mean, the first time I bought a grown-up dress, from a proper grown-up shop, that I chose myself. Before that, I can think of a couple of dresses that brought me true joy – a red velvet party dress when I was tiny, a navy blue pinafore dress from Tammy Girl when I was about 10, most of all a red and white patterned button-through early-90s hippie number that my mum bought me to wear to a school disco when I was eleven. I believe I accessorised it with a floppy velvet hat and a costume necklace of my nan’s. I may even, inexplicably, have added some white lace gloves.
Anyway, it was this first dress when I was 13 (I think) that was the important one. I remember it so clearly and how adult it made me feel. My mum and I went to Miss Selfridge on a Saturday morning, and I selected it myself – it was beige, in that sort of doily-patterned thermal vest material (know what I mean? Better than it sounds, decorated in lacy snowflake patterns); it has short sleeves, a round neck, and a flippy skirt that came down to my knees. I wish I still had it. I would totally wear it now.
I believe it cost £12, and I felt awesome walking through town carrying my very own Miss Selfridge carrier bag. There were a few such purchases that year that made me feel similarly – mostly music-related, namely In Utero by Nirvana on cassette, and then Experimental Jetset Trash and No Star by Sonic Youth, which I bought because I had read of Kurt’s love for Sonic Youth and I wanted to hear them for myself. I was obsessed with Loser by Beck, which I had on single (backed by B-sides Alcohol and Fume, both of which I got in trouble with my mum for listening to). I read Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis and only half understood it. I bought that copy of Select magazine that had PJ Harvey, Björk and Tori Amos on the cover, and put it on my wall.
All of these things I still have and still love.
That afternoon, I went to Carter’s Steam Fair with my family, wearing my new dress and feeling awesome.
I wish I still had that dress but I still have the spirit of it.
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