Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Coal Miner's Prom Date

Nothing says "A Wedding on Walton's Mountain" like the dress I wore to someone else's prom. It was a long time ago and I probably should have apologized to my date for looking like an escapee from Warren Jeffs' Yearning For Zion Family Incarceration Facility and General Store, but shopping with my mother always did tend to urge me into regrettable impulse purchases. My dress was a prime example.

Somewhere deep in the many reorganized photo albums my mother has squirreled away in my childhood bedroom closet is a picture of my washed out self posed with my date who was really a nice guy and didn't deserve to have his senior prom immortalized with a girl who had all the pallor of someone who had recently donated blood. Add to the horror the fact that I had no one to counsel me about what a bad idea it was to choose a dress inspired by my lengthy and ill-advised "beige period" when my naturally pale skin had not yet accumulated enough pigment to distinguish me from a tall glass of Cream of Wheat. The dress was long and it covered up all my lady parts and that was good enough for my mom. I'm just fortunate that it didn't come with a matching bonnet.  Because my Southern Baptist mother might have insisted on it. Bless her heart.

This is not my dress, but it is made by the same virginity preserving label and it has many of the same features.

I can't unsee this! Ever!! Damn you, Gunnesax!!

You know how you can get all nostalgic about the past and start daydreaming about certain articles of clothing that you wish you could still wear although they are no longer something you could shoehorn your ass into fashionable? Me too. There's the silvery gray corduroy jumper that I wore in middle school. The mulberry colored jersey top I wore with the matching hip huggers from the 5-7-9 Shop. The oatmeal sweater with the roomy pockets and the black and putty ESPRIT blouse that I wore when I first started teaching. I'm sorry I threw that last item. I could probably still make it work.

It goes without saying that I do not miss that prom dress. At all. Not the way it looked all limp and uninteresting on the hanger or how ghastly and I looked when I was wearing it. Oh sure, it might come in handy if I moved in next door to Loretta Lynn and she needed something to see her through until laundry day. Maybe if I decided to audition for the Grand Old Opry or a starring role in the broadway production of Willa Cather's "O Pioneers!" But not until then.

I really thought that my own prom the following year would have provided the chance to make fashion restitution, but it didn't. I had a new boyfriend by then who was away at college and could not make it back for my big event. He helpfully granted permission for me to ask his friend, Alan to escort me. Alan was a short, gopher-toothed young man of good intentions who wore his bell bottomed jeans "flood style" with hideous man-sandals and wool-ish tunics and who sprinkled his conversation with cringeworthy terms like supposably and pacifically (As in: I never got to wear a decent prom dress that looked as though it was made for me, pacifically).

The lady or the tiger? The memories of my first prom marred by a terrible dress OR my own special night made worse by a date with Samwise Gamgee?? I chose the former. And that, as Robert Frost so wisely said, has made all the difference.

What article of old clothing do you miss??


  1. My pale blue Ditto jeans, which I wore with a dark blue snap-crotch body suit that featured pale blue Peter Max-esque rabbits.

    I. Looked. Fabulous.

    Thanks for that memory jog! By the way, I too wore a pale ivory Gunnesax dress to my senior prom, but it was oddly provocative. Plunging, lace-up bodice neckline, and sleeveless. I looked like Laura Ingalls gone bad.

  2. Since we had five kids in our family and took care of my grandparents, my mom made many of our clothes, which I did not fully appreciate at the time. But for my birthday one year (maybe 7th grade?) I got a lavender and green plaid skirt with pleats in the front and a lavender turtleneck sweater that I absolutely loved. It was from the most popular teen shop in town and I have no idea how my mom got the money to pay for it, but I would have worn that outfit every day if I could have.

  3. Ohhh, I had a Jessica McClintock Gunne Sax prom dress, too! It was that unbleached muslin-looking stuff, teensy pleats, tiered, and the neckline was just a six-inch wide piece of lace that could be worn on or off the shoulder. Naturally, I wore it OFF. If I had hoops, I would have looked like Scarlett O'Hara.

    Right now, since I've retired, I miss ALL of my heels. I especially miss wearing my tartan plaid ones and my black with white Swiss dots ones. I had a great professional wardrobe that made me love getting ready for school.

  4. Oooh. That is one HIDEOUS dress. Of course, I'm reading The 19th Wife right now, so my opinion is very tainted.
    What do I miss? NOt a single stitch.

  5. This made me laugh out loud! I coveted those Gunne Sax dresses ... probably because they looked a lot like Holly Hobby.

    I still have a fantastic cream knit dress I wore to an eighth grade dance. It was Outback Jack and I got it at The Limited. At the time, I figured I'd also wear it to get married in ... because, of course, I would always wear a 2, and said dress would always be at the height of fashion. HAHAHAHA.

  6. I had this lovely spaghetti-strap black floor-length rayon dress that draped perfectly on my 23 year-old body. I miss the dress and the body that went with it.

  7. I miss being able to wear a cute top that doesn't need a bra...without a bra. I did love my ditto jeans. I had a jacket in the late 80s that was...puce? Kind of green yellow? I loved that with a pair of stretch pants and cowboy boots. It was a specific look, and I could carry it off. I miss that.

  8. Ha Ha!! I knew that dress was a gunnesax before I even scrolled far enough to see the words. I have a long history of wardrobe mistakes. I think the piece I miss the most was a pair of granny style black lace-up boots that I thought were SO punk. My father--I will never forgive him--threw them in the trash when I wasn't paying attention.

  9. Gunnesax were big when I was in high school, but I never had one. I wore a Laura Ashley dress to my prom.


  10. My dress was Jessica McClintock and had that neckline--though I do think it has stood the test of time a wee bit better. Maybe because it didn't have long sleeves?

    There are so many outfits I remember fondly--the purple painter paints with baseball sleeves (a perfectly matching shade of purple), the gray corduroy dress with the high neck, long sleeves and basque waist, the Liz Claiborne gray wool leggings with a large checkerboard red-gray sweater with rolled cuffs and neckline, but my all-time favorite was my kilt (kilt pin, natch) and peter pan color collar blouse worn with Bass Weejuns--I was an image straight out of the The Official Preppy Handbook.

  11. Today I shared this post on my FB page (spurred some other prom-dress chatter) and one of my nieces outted her sister for wearing that blue Gunnesax dress for her eighth grade graduation. Although I admit I wore many appalling garments in my youth, I really loved my prom dress (a black nylon tee and a silky black long skirt, which I made), and if I still had it (and could fit into it), I'd wear it. Check your stats! You're a hit.

  12. I wore a white eyelet (Laura Ingalls like) nightgown. I also wore a white wicker hat. Don't ask.


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