Confidence in the form of a dress (Non-Fiction)

This piece is part of a creative challenge, embarked upon with talented friends. Each month, a word is set as a theme to inspire a piece of art in their chosen artistic field. I have chosen to write 800-1000 words, fiction or non-fiction. This is Februarys submission with the word: DRESS

Valentine’s day in my world has always been special. When I was young and in primary school (read: naïve), I’d have a boyfriend lined up for the day to make sure I got a card. It’s not like love; it was the fake, schoolyard love that only children understand. When one moment, you’re in ‘love’ with Peter, then Kyle lets you go next on the skipping rope, so now you’re in ‘love’ with him. Though it wasn’t real, that kind of love felt real and is still remembered with a fondness to this day. Everything seems straightforward as a child. Even as a moody, hormonal teenager, you think you know everything, then your twenties hit you with a reality check. You know nothing.

Now I’m twenty years older, divorced and a little jaded by love, so you’d think there would be some hope lost in a day all about love; yet I found myself planning a romantic, very fancy Valentine’s dinner with my partner; a man I’ve known since I was that moody teenager. To us, it’s a once-a-year treat to go to a Michelin star restaurant in London and eat very, very well (stopped only by covid in 2021). The foodie in me welcomes this cheeky treat, the cheapskate in me is hushed for an evening, and the wine lover in me tries not to drink too much…though that is not unusual.

While it may seem a bit superficial and silly, the outfit you wear can make or break an evening. A strap digging in too tight can taint an otherwise beautiful memory, and comfortable attire can turn a good night into the best night.

The last time we’d eaten at this restaurant, I donned the most beautiful dress I owned, and as it swished around my legs and feet, I felt light and glided through the room like I was walking on clouds. With all the chaos of the last two years of pandemics and pyjamas, I wanted to; no, I needed to feel like that again.

As the day approached, I scanned my wardrobe each day, searching for inspiration and outfits I knew didn’t exist. The day before the big event, I realised I was getting nowhere and needed to shop. However, having gained weight during the many lockdowns, the idea of shopping at a new size scared me a little. I wandered into town during my lunch break to browse, a little nervous and unsure about my confidence in a dressing room. Everywhere I looked, the dresses were lovely, but nothing jumped out as ‘the one’. I’m not exactly into fashion. My style is very laissez-faire consisting of yoga pants and hoodies most days. More comfortable, practical. Not stylish or by any means’ nice’.

I hit a dead-end when the first dress I tried fit perfectly on the bottom but wouldn’t do up across my chest. Giving up on the dress and hoping the solution lay at my feet, I went into M&S to purchase some new shoes. My last pair was destroyed wearing them around the office two years earlier, but I’d not had the heart (or need) to replace them. Where was I going to wear a new pair? Around chez-Moi? Uh, no.

After another browse, praying I’d missed some treasure hidden in the Narnia of my wardrobe, I drove to shops promising to make me look the part. None offered anything that seemed remotely comfortable. Everything was too short, too booby or made me look desperate to recapture my teenage years. Each of the more promising options had its own bizarre reason making it unsuitable. One came so close to perfect, but the sides came so far up my thigh, I could see my underwear… am I getting too old for New Look? Let’s not go there right now.

Amongst the discards and offcuts, I found a dress that, while lovely for the summer and very flattering on my body, was not a ‘restaurant’ dress by any stretch.

I was about to give up hope and had tossed the assortment of various misfits when I spotted a black, silky number hidden behind another rail of dresses. I rushed over with too much enthusiasm to extract it from its hiding place. 

The arms were covered, check. 

It didn’t show my butt; check. 

The material was pretty; check. 

It was dotty; double-check! I rushed back into the changing room as the announcement that the store was closing came over the tannoy, providing an unnecessary burst of pressure for both me and for this story.

As soon as I put the dress on, I felt it. That flow, that confidence, that sparkle. It’s me. In fact, it makes me feel more like me.

An out of character squeal of excitement and a rush to the counter later, I was at home attempting to iron out the creases with a hair straightener. Ahem.

The dinner was an absolute picture of perfection. I’m pleased to report the vegan options at Galvin La Chappelle lived up to my certainly embellished, pre-pandemic memories. The evening was sweetened further by a surprise visit to my favourite bar in London (Black Rock).

While the evening was tranquil and full of laughs, the confidence gained by the right dress/outfit cannot be undersold as the MVP of that night.

I should probably put out some feelers for Valentine’s 2023…

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