Lady in Red

On the weekend I was visiting with friends whose teenage daughter had just graduated high school. I looked at the photos and she looked absolutely gorgeous, with her flowing curls and her clingy, floor length lace gown.

“Grad dresses have changed a lot,” my friend said to me in what must be one of the truest statements of all time. Have they ever.

It’s grad season, and last Friday my husband and I were trying to figure out why in the world there was so much traffic on the way out to dinner, in the small city my in-laws live in. It was impossible to get parking, and it finally dawned on me when I saw a gaggle of teen boys in tuxedos and suits, that it was grad night. Smiling faces taking selfies, girls in sparkling gowns with their dates in matching accessories, it was a delight to behold.

When I was in high school, wrist corsages were a relatively new thing. No one really wanted to pin a flower onto their fancy dresses; it was much preferred to have the prickly elasticized lace wrist band with a coordinating flower. I am happy to say that girls still get wrist corsages; I was wondering if it was a thing of the past or not. I mean, I have no horse in this particular race, it’s not like I have a vested interest in the floral industry, but it was nice to see all the same.

But the dresses! The dresses. The dresses the girls are wearing now are red-carpet worthy. Perhaps they could even be described as Beyonce-worthy. The dresses we wore for graduation were certainly not of that caliber. My own graduation dress was a satiny red off-the-shoulder number; it was cocktail length and I completed the look with dyed-to-match satin shoes and handbag. It seemed very important at the time to have red shoes and purse that exactly matched my dress. Why, I am not sure. I can say for certain that girls don’t get dyed-to-match shoes and handbags anymore, and that is definitely not a bad thing.

Looking back on it, my red dress was just one in a long line of single-occasion-never-to-be-worn-again dresses – between that, bridesmaid gowns, and my own wedding dress, I have quite a collection of one trick ponies. All of those dresses – with the exception of my wedding dress – I had high expectations of; I thought that I would somehow incorporate them into future outfits. I’m not sure if I thought that I would have a much more gala-oriented life wherein long gowns would actually be required, or if I would somehow develop advanced seamstress skills to create them into something else entirely, but I have – needless to say – never again taken them out of the plastic bags in which they reside.

And so, as I looked at the girls in their lovely long and likely expensive dresses, I wondered if they had the same expectations. I wondered if they justified the money spent on their gowns by thinking that they would somehow, somewhere, wear them again. I hate to disappoint you, girls of today, but it is very unlikely.

me

So tell me: what did your grad dress look like? Do you have a collection of dresses that were worn once and then banished to the closet? 

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8 thoughts on “Lady in Red

  1. I don’t think I even wore anything special for graduation because the robe would have covered it. If so, I don’t remember. And I didn’t go to prom. So there’s a lack of nostalgic and/or embarrassing high school photos. You were lovely, btw.

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  2. When I was a kid my mom gave me her old HS and college formal dresses to play dress up with and I’ve done the same with Youngest. She’s got any old fancy dress that I managed to hold on to after my parents moved out of the house I grew up in. She and her friends (7 YOs) think it is THE BEST. I’m happy because FINALLY someone is actually wearing them again 😉

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    • I LOVE that idea. I remember I was a queen in a grade six play and my mom gave me some of the dresses from her wedding trousseau – gold lamé everywhere. Also, man, my mom must have been really thin when she got married.

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  3. We had a very strict dress code for graduation (black skirt or trousers, white blouse, neutral or black tights, no frills, no jewellery, no personality or individuality, shoes absolutely essential) but I have several ball gowns from, well, balls (I went to one of THOSE universities). Mostly they were bought off the internet for £30 or so, but nonetheless I still hold out hope of finding an opportunity to wear them again and get more value out of them. Floor-length blue floaty gown with plastic gemstones? Frozen dress-up parties, here I come!

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  4. Your dress was disappointingly non-embarrassing other than the dyed shoes and purse (I confess that dyeing purses was not something I had heard of). My grad dress was much like yours except the shoulder swoop was white, the rest was black and the skirt was more a-line swooshy. I actually loved it and wore it several more times to theatre productions in Toronto and fancy dinners. I had one for my boyfriend’s grad, though, that was green and purple – GOD, what was I thinking? This very afternoon there was a pre-prom party across the street, and Lucy lost her mind barking at all the picture-taking which totally looking more wedding-y than prom-ish.

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  5. My grad dress was peach. Peach satin, no less! I wore elbow length gloves and my hair in kind of role/twist thing. I looked like I was from the monarchy- and I don’t mean that in a god way. Worse, my parents couldn’t afford an expensive dress so the one I got was discounted because some lass who was too large for it stretched the seams and the fabric gave way a bit. I didn’t have a date because my boyfriend and I broke a few weeks before the dance. I went with friends. He didn’t feel comfortable with being dateless so he took his next friends little sister. She was at least 3 years younger than us so it was almost kind of creepy. Anyway- the whole night was weird with some moments of wonderful. I’ve never worn peach satin since. Hey – it was 1989, after all.

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  6. My grad dress was peach. Peach satin, no less! I wore elbow length gloves and my hair in kind of role/twist thing. I looked like I was from the monarchy- and I don’t mean that in a god way. Worse, my parents couldn’t afford an expensive dress so the one I got was discounted because some lass who was too large for it stretched the seams and the fabric gave way a bit. I didn’t have a date because my boyfriend and I broke a few weeks before the dance. I went with friends. He didn’t feel comfortable with being dateless so he took his next friends little sister. She was at least 3 years younger than us so it was almost kind of creepy. Anyway- the whole night was weird with some moments of wonderful. I’ve never worn peach satin since. Hey – it was 1989, after all.

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  7. Picture this: strapless, cocktail length, bodice black with a red and white polkadot bow, skirt black and white stripes with some crinoline underneath. material? cotton. worn with white pumps and a white bolero jacket. yep, I was also a little different when it came to fashion. I wore it the next year for my friend’s grad (different school so there was no worry about being in the same dress). and then it went into my nieces’ tickle trunk.

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