Pour Your Heart Out: Four Dresses

My mother was carefully arranging my long hair into a high bun and pinning a crown on top of it. I was looking down at my yellow tutu and admiring the gold sequins on the bodice of my costume. I was glaring down at my ballet slippers, which used to be pink and were now spray-painted a gold color to match the costume selected for us. I shot a quick dirty look at the group beside us, the girls in PINK tutus, whose shoes were the color I so loved.

But, a glance in the mirror showed me that I still looked like a ballerina. Like a princess. Who was ready for her time in the spotlight, her time to shine. To step out on that stage and DANCE.

It’s been close to 30 years since I put on that dress.

Long hair, kept straight and simple. A pretty blue dress that twirled when I spun around. Flowers in my hand. A new sister and father being welcomed into our family on that day. Uncomfortable shoes and untamed eyebrows, a few zits making their unfortunate appearance on my forehead.

The mirror this time showed a young teenage girl, totally unsure of herself, not at all ready to take on the world like that girl in the ballerina costume had been.

It was over 20 years ago that I wore that dress. 

A graduation cap pinned carefully to my hair. A heavy black robe over top of the lightest slip of a white backless dress. Glancing around at the place I’d spent the past four years, the friends I might never see again. Knowing who had job offers and who was headed off to grad school and who had no idea what to do after we left college.

After the ceremony, robe discarded, a final glance in my dorm room mirror showed me someone much more confident than that girl in the bridesmaid dress had been. Not a girl as confident as that young ballerina, but one who was on her way.

Over 13 years since I wore that dress. 

Hair elaborately twisted on top of my head, another tiara of sorts placed on my head. A gown that twirled in a way that the previous dresses in my life hadn’t. Tiny blue beads on the bodice that matched my soon-to-be husband’s eyes.

No quick glances in the mirror this time. Staring. Thinking that I did, in fact, look just like a princess. One who was about to marry the man she was madly in love with. Happy, confident, excited.

Almost 10 years since that day. 

Four dresses, four very different times in my life…. each seeming alternately like a lifetime ago and like it just happened.

What moments(and dresses) do you remember from your life?


  1. says

    What a beautiful post, Shell. My mother sewed my wedding dress – it’s my all-time favorite. But then there are so many others, for so many different reasons, which I haven’t thought about in years. Your story makes me nostalgic. And – it reminds me that my daughter’s ballet costume fee is due next week. Ha! Thanks!
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  2. says

    You are just adorable in that recital costume! Clothing does elicit memories.  I remember my graduation gown, my wedding gown, my recital dresses too.  All landmark days distinguished by what we wore. 
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  3. says

    I love this!

    I remember the dark blue long dress, my first formal dress, that I wore for my college graduation dinner. I remember the maroon dress I wore to a formal event in university when I was 21, and one that I could still fit into at 28 for a cousin’s wedding.

    My favorite dress is my tailor-made cheongsam, navy blue with gold trim, that I wore the day I got married. :)
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  4. says

    I love this post! I rented my wedding dress, so it wasn’t really special to me. My mother made my 8th grade graduation dress and it was beautiful. That was always important to me. I still have the prom dress she made for me…30 years ago.
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  5. says

    Moments through dresses-just beautiful!

    My mom sewed many of my clothes when I was young. I especially remember the robin’s egg blue dress covered with white lace for my third grade piano recital, and the soft and flowy full-length yellow print 8th grade graduation Gunny Sax dress. I felt so grown up!

  6. says

    Love this post. I can think of so many moments that I remember through the reflection of me in a mirror, looking at a dress. My wedding dress most definitely the one that stands out the most. Like you, I can remember varying levels of confidence with each one. What a lovely way to look back. 
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  7. says

    Beautiful post!

    There aren’t many dresses for me, because I’ve always hated wearing a dress.    There were dance costumes, and a flower girl dress that I wore, then probably the homecoming/prom dresses that I had.  

    By far, the most memorable is my wedding dress, which is now balled up in a comforter bag in my basement.  

  8. says

    This was a beautiful post…loved it!! But I can’t get past the pic of you in the yellow outfit…because I wore what I remember being a very similar, if not the same yellow outfit for a dance recital when I was that same age…and since (I’m pretty sure) we lived in the same area at that point, I’m scratching my head and wondering if there is a remote chance that you and I were in the same freakin’ dance class as little girls and didn’t know it!!! OMG.
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  9. Diana says

    My gymnastics memorabilia and outfits bring back the most memories for me. Competitions, teammates, summer camps, boyfriend and jobs – they are intertwined in ribbons, medals, leotards, pictures, warm ups and t shirts!
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  10. says

    You know, I have a picture that looks almost identical to the one you posted. Mine was also yellow and I desperately wanted to have the pink sequin dress with the fluffy tutu! What a great post, Shell!
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  11. says

    The dress that has the most memories for me is a long, short sleeved, daisy-print dress that I splurged on during my senior year of high school. I wore that dress as much as possible through that year, college, and even after college – to memorable events, to college classes, on dates with my first love. It’s still hanging in my closet. I still love that dress.
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  12. says

    I remember an Easter dress from when I was about five years old. It had a yellow and white gingham skirt, a white pinafore, and a built in petticoat. It twirled and flounced when I walked. I thought it was the prettiest dress ever. Then I got chicken pox and didn’t get to wear it.
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  13. says

    I liked this post. My mom made a lot of dresses for me growing up and made all of my prom dresses. I don’t know if my kids will be that lucky to get that from me. The most I can give them that way is blankets and hemmed pants. It’s better than nothing, right? :)
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  14. says

    You are such an amazing writer. I was drawn in from the first dress. I wanted to see a picture of each of them. My communion dress stands out in my mind. I was 7 and thought I was getting married because it looked like a mini-wedding dress. I loved that dress.
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    • Shell says

      I was trying to find pics of each but didn’t have much luck with the graduation one- and then I got lazy with the others. 😉 

  15. says

    Oh I love this idea. What wonderful memories conjured up from dresses. I love dresses and wish I lived in a weather suitable for wearing them year round. I remember my prom dress, my wedding dress, my eighth grade graduation dress (but not my high school or college dress apparently!), there are so many memories woven between those threads of fabric. 
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  16. says

    So beautiful. That could be a premise for a movie. I hadn’t thought about it like this before, but you’re right – many memorable moments of our pasts are marked by a dress or special attire. Several dresses were difficult for me to get rid of long after they didn’t fit anymore and/or were out of style. Even though I knew I would never wear them again, the material held memories that I could still touch as long as those dresses hung in my closet. 
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  17. says

    What beautiful memories something so small can keep. I have my Quince dress or fifteen’s dress that I have not worn for 18 years. It was red with white lace it reiminded me of a southern bell. I remember modeling in it for my pictures back when I weighed 90lbs and had no care in the world. 
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  18. says

    Funny how what we wear is so important in our memories. My wedding dress and senior prom dress and both pretty special to me. I also have the dress I wore to my college graduation still hanging in my closet.

    • Shell says

      Ha! I’ll have to show you the pics of Hubs where he looks just like Monkey and Cub. The kids even think that’s who it is in those pics. 

  19. says

    Please tell me that you wrote this before you came down with your fever! If you wrote this while sick I am incredibly envious! It is beautiful way to look back on life. Makes me want to go back through photos and remember my own life like this. I can already picture my very favorite toe ballet costume that was a royal blue and made me feel like the most special little girl on the planet. 
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    • Shell says

      I did write it before I got sick. I was pretty out of it last week- the fact that I could even schedule a post was impressive. LOL 

  20. says

    Ahhhh, Girlfriend. So sorry I haven’t been around. I’ve been buried in writing and trying to find my writing place in the world. 

    You. You are one of the main reasons I miss the blog world. Beautiful post. 

    Your words made me think about my own dresses and besides all the beautiful and memorable dresses in my life, I think the one that stands out for me is my 8th grade graduation dress. We didn’t have a lot of money in my house, growing up, so new clothes were a rare thing. When I got my graduation dress, peach with fluttery sleeves, for the first time ever, I felt beautiful. I was such a gawky, scrawny girl who never felt pretty, but this dress changed all that for me. My 6 years at this school had been tough. I was this shy poor kid. I was bullied, teased and I really didn’t have many friends. I didn’t know what to do with myself except immerse myself in my studies.  It didn’t help the way I saw myself. At that graduation, I was shocked when my name was called during the awards ceremony, not once, twice or even three times. Four times I was given an award including The American Legion Award from my local community. In that dress, I walked up on that stage, kind of shocked but mainly, for the first time, happy and proud of myself. I look at that dress as my Coming Into My Own dress. 
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