When thinking back to your youth, what springs to mind? Causing havoc in the garden, making potions out of Mum's favourite shower gels, learning to write the number 8 by drawing little snowmen, pretending to understand Pingu's language. For me, all these things hold that certain nostalgia bringing back a simpler time when all I had to worry about was writing a simple haiku- none of this essay-a-week along with dissertation nonsense! Childhood is such a beautiful thing, so innocent and so carefree, one of those things you don't recognise until it is gone. And of all the nostalgic things that colour my teenage years- one is most poignant. The velvet and lace dress.
Every single year, my mother, my grandmother and my great aunt would travel down to London for the Chelsea Flower Show weekend. They sat on that 5-hour train together ready to examine the dream gardens and the pretty rainbow flowers on display in typical ladies fashion. At this time, I was just about nine and sat at home doodling little fashion sketches wondering if my mum would bring me back a present from her glamorous weekend away.
When she came in the door, her herby Hermes fragrance comforting as I hugged her, she carried three large Harrods bags. We all went and sat down in the kitchen, asking about the trip and where they ate and where they shopped... Leading to my rather rude outburst of "Did you get me a present?". My mum gestured to the middle Harrods bag and I couldn't believe it- expecting a Body Shop lip balm or something! I took out a cushiony parcel wrapped in fine feathery tissue and tore it off unveiling the most delicious shade of raspberry pink. I stroked the smooth silk shawl before placing over my shoulders and exclaiming "thank you! thank you! thank you!". My mum smiled sweetly as I stood playing with the scarf before laughing and interrupting with "have another look in the bag". Another parcel lay at the bottom- slightly bigger with thinner tissue and a muted shade of teal peeking through. The same shade of decadent pink appeared as I peeled away the tissue, a velvet strap. Then a dusty teal lace dress scattered with vintage raspberry roses revealed as the tissue danced to the floor.
It was lined with a silk satin that breathed softly on my skin and it hung beautifully. I had never had a dress like this before- nothing so expensive, nothing so glamorous and nothing so special- fitted to my waist, a delicate slim band of deep pink velvet before the loose-fitting skirt, ruched and draped. It felt like Parisian Couture to me, as if Lagerfeld had decided to start sculpting regal lace dresses for Scottish nine year-olds. I never wanted to take it off, I felt so beautiful. It wasn't that it was girly or that it was Disney princess-y or saccharine pink, it was more that it was unique and a kind of pretty that primary school children don't usually appreciate.
I think the first time I wore it, aside from trying it on in front of the mirror after grey days at school, was that Christmas. We have a family picture of that year sat in our kitchen. I was really chubby, with odd features and bad skin but I can't say I care because I know how beautiful I felt that day. I had the dress with the shawl over my shoulders and some raspberry glass Cherry Chau beads from my stocking tied around my neck. I looked in the mirror and in that dress, though I was never really pretty, I felt it. And I suppose that is what made the dress so special to me.
Anything that can make us feel beautiful is worth everything, be it someone or something. And getting this dress was key to my adoration of fashion. I noticed how clothing can bring a smile to someones face, how feeling happy in yourself is ten times more important than what other people think. This dress made me realise that things that may seem trivial and shallow can actually be worth so much. It really is strange how one item can change how we think about the world and the way we live.
That item can be anything but everyone has something and mine was that little lace dress.