Buried Treasure

Last night, while looking for something else entirely, I discovered a box in my sewing room marked DRESSES.  I couldn’t imagine what it could be since all of my clothing storage consists of summer or winter, and the off season stuff is always stowed under my bed.  Mystified, I opened the box to discover some gorgeous old dresses that had belonged to my grandmother, mother and aunts. I have no recollection of stowing them there and thought they had been thrown away, so I was very happy to see them.

Like my relatives, these gowns had been quite fabulous in their day.  The first gown I pulled out was worn by my grandmother Alice to her daughter Sally’s wedding.  It is a pale aqua blue peau de soie gown with pleating under the bust, a sequined neckline and spaghetti straps.  I remember seeing photos of her in that dress with her hair done up, opera length gloves and a mink stole.  She was married to one of the most prominent area surgeons of the day, and totally dressed the part.

The next dress was an off-the-shoulder silk taffeta tea length dress in a color resembling cafe au lait.  Like many of the fancier dresses of the day it had a wide band of beading around the neck and the waistline looked ridiculously small.  My mother told me once that the fashion was to put your belt around your head, mark the location of the buckle and use that measurement for your ideal waist size.  Apparently societal body issues began way before Twiggy.

Under the taffeta was a dramatic dress the color of eggplant which would have been called aubergine back then.  I think this dress belonged to my aunt Sally.  It is a strapless silk with an asymmetrical top band (beaded, of course) and a dramatic scarf arrangement attached to it.  It had several pieces of twill tape sewn to the back of it because it had a small train, and I remember using this dress in my dressmaking days to work on my bustling technique.

In the bottom of the box were various fashion accoutrements of the day; a pink french net petticoat, a tulle sash and a few pairs of kid gloves, all impossibly small.  It was fun to look at these reminders of a more genteel era, and it brought back a lot of the stories I had heard as a young person about dances and parties at the Albany Country Club which my grandparents belonged to.  I guess they would be called “vintage” now!

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1 Comment

  1. Charley said,

    June 20, 2008 at 8:13 am

    I think my favorite was the dark purple, too bad there are no longer many opportunities to dress like that any more.


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