The Dress

The Dress by Sheri Hansen Hogle, BYH Class of 1964

I never had a boyfriend at BY High. I did have friends that were boys. Each one trying to figure out the female mind, they would ask me if a certain girl liked them, or might learn to like them, or maybe accept an invitation to a dance.

I would then find the subject of our discussion and ask her if she liked a certain boy, and if he asked her to the dance, would she say yes?

It was all quite Shakespearean, full of whispers and intrigue. That’s how it was done back then.

Of course, those who were “going together” didn’t need to go through this. Occasionally, there would be a breakup and a boy would get to experience the world of “Who can I ask to the dance that will make my old girlfriend take notice?”

That is how I got a last-minute invitation to a dance. I had no illusions that Marvin had been dreaming of me for weeks in anticipation of dancing under the crepe-paper-draped gymnasium. He just wanted “her” to see him dancing with someone else, and realize what a fool she was to let him go. Besides that, I was a year ahead of him, a Senior, an older woman.

I said yes.

My father was not happy. The dance was only four days away. To him, accepting such a late invitation indicated that I was too available. He did not want his daughter looking too available. It might lead to the assumption that I was one of “those girls”.

“Those girls” was something my father often said, but never defined. It wasn’t necessary. The tone with which he said it brought up vivid images of ragged, tragic women, trapped in the dark dirty streets of Calcutta, after accepting a date to a prom with less than 48 hours notice.

My mother wasn’t happy. Nobody we knew or had ever known had bought a ready-made dress at a store. She would have to make a dress for me in record time.

We drove to the fabric store in Provo. Then we had to wait for other mother and daughter teams to thumb through Simplicity or McCall pattern books, before they moved away to the fabrics.

A fabric store in Provo, Utah

My mother and I had very different tastes in just about everything, especially clothing. We had agreed that this dress would be classic.

To me, that meant something Grace Kelly would wear, with pearls. Mom got the pearls part, but somehow in her mind the dress was more like one Mamie Eisenhower would wear.

How a woman who had been Harvest Ball Queen in her own high school days, could think that her daughter should wear something resembling a nun’s habit, I shall never understand. And so the afternoon wore on.

Finally, it was settled -- we reached a compromise. I agreed to not die of embarrassment, and she agreed to sew a two-piece pink crepe sleeveless gown. The compromise was that I would wear long opera gloves, lest the sight of my bare shoulders and naked elbows might indicate something provocative.

Home we went, cutting, pressing, pinning, basting, and getting my little brother to stop jumping from pattern piece to pattern piece as though they were boulders in a river. And on we went.

People still had to be fed, errands run, dishes washed, etc. But nothing would stop the dress. The one thing we couldn’t do was slow time down.

Something we had failed to consider was that the dress had to be fully lined. It was like making a second dress. We didn’t discuss it because by now, my mom’s nerves were shot and she was barely speaking to me.

It was partially her fault. She was a perfectionist and insisted on hand basting and tiny hem stitches.

The day of the dance came. I painted my nails and put on makeup. I did not make eye contact with the woman, sewing frantically on the dress.

If I had been reasonable and agreed to the one-piece taffeta Mamie Eisenhower dress, we would not be in this last-minute frenzy.

Before I knew it, Marvin was at the door, holding a gorgeous corsage. My father invited him into the living room and was giving him that special look and interrogating him about every facet of his life and family history.

And still, my mother sewed. Each tiny stitch on the hem seemed to take forever. I was standing there in my slip, sensing the discomfort seeping through the wall separating the living room from my room. Still she carefully pulled the needle on and on.

Finally, it was done. I grabbed the top and pulled it over my head. My mother headed toward the ironing board. “You are not leaving this house before I press the hem!” she hissed.

I snatched the skirt from her and pulled it up to my waist before she had time to react -- then on to the living room. I rescued Marvin from my father. When we arrived at the dance we were late, but we were there.

My parents eventually started talking to me again. Marvin made up with his girlfriend and didn’t have to see my dad ever again.

And the dress? Grace Kelly would have loved it!
By Sheri Hansen Hogle, Class of 1964

Grace Kelly in a pink gown

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