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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Dresses

Saturday nights we dressed to dance:

flats, and skirts as full as wartime fashion

     and fabric scarcities allowed.

 

Mary’s peplum stuck out

     like a frill around her full hips, bouncing

     as she danced. “Anything worth doing,”

she said, “is worth overdoing.” Ah, my wicked cousin.

“Why should I pretend I don’t have hips? And why should you,”

     she asked, “pretend you do?”

“Gee, thanks,” I said.

“No, that’s not what I meant. You’re figure’s great—”

—I may have snorted—

“but why pretend it’s round when it’s not?”

I looked at her.

“You’re tall, you’re thin, fine. But don’t dress

like you’re short and round. You’ve got to

take advantage of your height.”

By then I got the principle, but had no idea

     how to apply it. Especially since my mother’s only

approach to my height was how to hide it.

“On you a short peplum looks like a crinoline

     on a stick.”

Not one to mince words, my cousin.

 

I hated the things, though my mother

always said that I should wear them, her theory being

the opposite of Mary’s: that lacking hips, I should

fake them. But it was a dress

Mary had picked out that I wore, the night

     I met Cory; an off-the-shoulder wrap dress in

shot blue silk, more indigo than navy, and with that

shimmer of shot silk from some lighter color,

almost gray. Two wide swatches of material

swept up diagonally from the waistband to just

above each breast, where slender ties gathered

and held the cloth, which spread a little as it crossed

the upper arm; just above the shoulder blades, two ties

gathered it again, before letting it go, on its downward

diagonal sweep, to the waist. The left side of the dress

hooked to the inside of the waistband; the right side of that band

became a single sash. How do you tie

a single sash? you wrap it once around your waist, tuck a loop

up underneath that wrap, pass the free end

through the loop and once again over and under

the part around your waist. Voila. The skirt fell

in soft, wide folds, to mid-calf.

That dress had no sequins, no bright beads; its sheen

came from its very weave; no ruffles, no buttons,

no ornaments beyond those sweeps

and gathers of the fabric itself, the accent

of the single sash. I did love that dress.

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