For sale: red dress


Vintage. Size 8. Worn three times in 1992.

The reason
I wore the dress for the first time at a Meeting Planners International (Ottawa Chapter) Gala. I won “Planner of the Year”, for which I received a plaque. Now when I hear the word plaque I think gum disease and heart attack but back then it meant achievement. I was good at a job that, among other things, demanded good feet. Back then when scouting a location for a 1200 delegate conference and 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, I walked every inch of too many hotel function rooms and concrete floored trade show halls – in stilettos. I tromped service corridors and loading bays. I hoofed the cobblestone streets of old Montreal surrounding the Montreal Convention Centre. I pounded the paved cruise ship docks beside the Vancouver Convention Centre and marched up and down Halifax’s hills to and from the harbour and up to the Citadel because back then there was no Google Earth or Mapquest to help situate the convention site within a city. I had to see it for myself. In stilletos. Because. Fashion.


The boutique
I purchased the dress in a shop in L’Esplanade Laurier in Ottawa, long since gone. The Québecoise saleslady knew me. “Bonjour, Madame FletCHER. I ‘ave something to show you.” Yes, I was that kind of customer. I can’t tell you how much I paid. It was bought on the layaway plan and a fair chunk of my paycheck went into owning it bit by bit. My husband would have killed me then – and maybe even now – if he knew how much it cost. He’d say “I could have bought a bike!”

Yes, this tells you a lot about me. Judge away. I’ve made my peace with these facts:

  • I was/am/probably will always be a peacock.
  • I was/am/probably will always be too concerned with sparkle. It hides much.
  • I was/am/probably will always be eager for attention though nowadays I don’t look for it in tight fitting garments with sequin appliqués. I blog instead. Same diff, right?
  • I am/was/probably will always be a fan of red anything but especially red shoes. Red has always been my black. I wanted a red wedding dress but my conservative Catholic mother-in-law kiboshed the idea.

The gala
My husband, the Hawaiian shirt-wearing, athleisure wear loving man long before these were things, rented a vintage tux and wore an orange and black bow tie, chosen because these are the colours of Princeton University. Let’s just say we had pretensions. Or, looked at another way, we were both masters of disguise which worked well for the event’s theme – a masked ball.

I think the dress served its purpose and I had a ball. I gave an acceptance speech in a room crowded with masked guests. I sincerely thanked my husband for supporting my career – a job that required too much travel and too much schmoozing with glib sales people pitching their fine-dining restaurants, their empty ballrooms, their flawless check-in process.  They talked and talked and talked and talked. Back then I didn’t know I was an introvert. I would come home from site inspections and conferences grumpy as a canker and retreat to the backyard with a beer and a book and doze away the weekend. My husband said “Everyone gets your best except me.” He was right.

The aftermath
We spent the night compliments of the very swanky hotel at which the gala was held because I was an award-winning, plaque-holding event organizer. What did I do? I continued celebrating with three salespeople into the wee small hours while my husband didn’t sleep worrying in the football field sized bed back at the hotel. No cell phones in 1992. When I rolled in at 3:00 a.m. we fought rather than having lavish hotel sex and leaving behind wet spots instead of an anger filled room and towels damp with my fretting whether our marriage would survive my career.

Fortunately, our children came to the rescue. Nothing like the arrival of a child to hone your decision making. I left event planning and hung the red dress in a garment bag. I stored it in the basement, under the stairs where it has been until today.  Its yours if you want it. Vintage. Size 8. No strings attached. Plaque not included.





48 thoughts on “For sale: red dress

  1. Heels…ouch! Just donated a pile. I’ve been holding space this past week for a friend as she’s cleaning up and out the physical clutter in her life…the stuff stashed in bags in every corner of the house containing scraps of paper that meant something at one time, the piles of unread magazines held onto so as not to miss some important bit of info that now either means nothing anymore or she knows already, the do-dad things attached to memories, heart-rending and toxic, which no longer serve a purpose. I’m glad you’re writing. I love your writing. It’s never pretentious or flashy. It’s from the heart. I always save your blog to read when it’s quiet so I can savour every word.

    Liked by 4 people

    • There are some things I don’t have any difficulty purging – magazines, books (yes, books!), even clothes. But I have a small collection of lovely old fancy dresses including one that is from the 1950’s that I just haven’t been able to let go. Its time. I totally get your friend’s difficulty. When you’ve lived in one house a long time the stuff piles up even when you’re diligent about tidying. I too have “precious” googaws that once belong to my mother that collect dust but hold a memory I want to hold on to. I hope she succeeds in clearing out. I know that when I get rid of toxic stuff I always feel so much lighter in every sense.

      Its good to know my written purging had a good effect on you, Donna. Thanks for that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Red is the favorite color for women; blue for men. “Put on that red dress, Mama!” But enough of that. Someone finally got real, and you put it so well, thank you. Those 3 a.m. wet spots… Don’t see that in the movies…or read about it…. Not. Your contrast was beautiful, with the argument, sheets, and towels. THAT was real experience, married-conflict experience for me. Like, “Been there, done that.” Well done. You nailed it; I got it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I had my husband read this one over before I posted because he played a big part in it – obviously – and I didn’t want to offend or hurt. He hardly batted an eye. Someone once told me they weren’t sure they could be so honest in their writing and I thought (forgive me) then you best not write. Its funny, but I find it much easier to be honest in writing than in talking. Must be that introvert thing. Thanks for your encouraging words, James. Hope you’re well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this blog. I think most women can point to a piece of clothing that represents something important about who they are/were/want to be. I think you are too hard on yourself for being “a peacock,” and for treating yourself to a wonderful dresss. You earned it. You deserved it. And you were also wise enough to hear your husband’s insights.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Ellen. I did earn it but its so strange to look back because now my favourite places to shop are women’s consignment stores and thrift shops! Yes, my husband is wise. A regular Ghandi.


  4. No one is going to look as good in that dress as you did, all those years ago. What struck me about your story was the part about not realizing you were an introvert, and how it affected your mood and interactions. Because you were an introvert with social skills, no one, not even you, guessed how hard it was to be “on” all the time! I can relate . . .

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m so pleased you got that bit about the introvert. I don’t think most people would guess that I am because I can be lively and engaging but it takes a toll and I need an equal amount of quiet time to recharge. When I read the book “Quiet” a few years ago, I suddenly understood myself. I’m glad this was relatable, Kerry. Thanks for letting me know.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m purging storage space and came across this lovely dress and it brought back all these memories. It asked to be written inasmuch as I couldn’t shake the memory. Thanks for reading, V.J.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. * My husband said “Everyone gets your best except me.” He was right.

    Ohhh, this is how I often felt about my PR mom. Always the soul of every party, and (often) the nervous wreck at home. Always ready to talk to every friend, and often non-communicative at home. Not drawing comparisons with you, but this sentence hit me right in the memory of this feeling.

    You did very well walking so much in heels. I’m certain your legs own some of their shape and strength to that. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • I suppose there are worse things that being thought of as the peacock blogger. So right about feeling like drowning at the time. I probably longed for an opportunity to wear that red dress – or anything other than my mom ensemble of jeans and t-shirt – when the kids were younger. Now I simply enjoy my pajama wardrobe consisting of clothes so soft and well broken in they could be worn to bed.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderfully written Susanne – I love how you reveal the depths of your (any) relationship with those few well chosen words. I was once a size 8 too 🙂 It makes me smile – and sometimes cringe – when I think back to the stylish. stiletto wearing, bouffant haired lass I was – it’s so much better being here! I hope you find a buyer for that gorgeous dress and make enough to retire and write full time!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you kindly, Josh. No doubt in my mind I made the right decision back in ’95. When I returned to the work force full time in 2010 it was on contract as a meeting planner again and after the 6 month contract was up I knew I neither had the feet nor the heart for the work anymore. I’m now in a role that allows for happy feet and time to write – and minimal travel.


  7. The dress looks much better on you than on the hanger. I was a size 8 once after having my jaw wired shut for 6 weeks after some TMJ surgery. I’m not willing to go through that again for a dress. I think there are a lot of husbands out there who believe their wives short change them in the attention department, but it goes both ways. Happy Sunday!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I am actually going to sell this thing. Not sure how much to ask for it though. I note your comment that it looks better on me than on the hanger. I will post the picture of me wearing it on the ad (cropping husband, of course) once I figure out the asking price. I hear you about the size 8 situation, too. Those days are long gone for me and I’ve no ambition to return there. I like chocolate, good food and wine too much!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I really liked the bit about how your introversion wasn’t known to you then. I love this: ‘My husband said “Everyone gets your best except me.’ He was right.” — I feel like there’s a certain amount of that in every relationship, both ways, at least for certain chunks of time. Relatable hotel argument, too.
    I do not share your peacock feelings, especially about red and sparkle, but I enjoy this contrast between us, and I see the red dress working well on you, sparkle and all.
    My feet ache at the thought of your long walks in the heels. Truly.
    Oh, and much belated Congratulations on your award!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I worked so hard at fitting in that I think I was harming myself. It was exhausting! I believe you’re right about the relationship thing, too, Joey. Certainly kids are like this at school. they’re on their best behaviour all day holding themselves together then when they get home they melt down.

      No heels for me now! Not necessarily sensible – just reasonable.

      I don’t have the plaque anymore. Not sure which purge it disappeared with. Maybe the one when child #2 arrived and we needed the then office for a bedroom?

      Liked by 2 people

      • No heels for me now, either. Wedges, but no heels. I think back and wonder if I didn’t notice how uncomfortable, or if I really didn’t care. Do I love myself more now? Did I give in and give up? I dunno. But no more heels.
        I agree, there ARE a lot of kids like that.
        That plaque, gotten and gone, says a lot about changes in our lives, too.

        Liked by 1 person

"The river flows both ways." (Margaret Laurence)

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