I love this dress. I’m not sure quite how I got it, but at some point in the early 80s my mother finally despaired of ever fitting into a slew of my grandma’s 1950s designer frocks from Isabel of Birmingham and handed them over to me. They were all beautifully designed and well made stylish things for events that people just don’t have any more, like luncheon or canasta with supper. I had them taken in and wore a few of them to destruction. This one was a particular favourite, it’s been to at least two weddings, parties in London, Krakow and Hamburg raves in Berlin, it’s been in a swimming pool with me still inside, and the sea, come to think of it. The fabric is man made, some kind of viscose or nylon, whatever it is it feels delightful on the skin, like a heavy soft silk. I love everything about this dress, the cut, the ruching, the pattern, the kick pleat at the back, the way it flatters my figure even now I’m in my 50s because every time I put it on, I remember walking into a room one time, wearing that dress, and being noticed in a way that made me understand the power a clothed body can have.
I wanted to wear it to a wedding this year, but it is full of holes, the kick pleat is barely hanging on, the ruching is lopsided, so I wore a thing far more anodyne from Jigsaw that I seem to wear to almost every wedding I attend these days. I felt quite sad which is why I decided to wear it for my Little Races portrait.
My grandma didn’t like me and I didn’t like her but we both liked this frock.