In 1959 my mother bought this incredible “wiggle dress” of black silk lace embellished with black sequins with alternating panels of black silk chiffon (complete with a fishtail ‘train’ of the same which floats behind as you walk). It has the tiniest lingerie straps and one assumes she MUST HAVE worn a Basque corset with it (though I am not going to ask) because at 5’ 9”, and not exactly petite woman in her wedding pictures of 1960, I cannot imagine her getting into this otherwise. It is exactly the kind of dress that a Bond Girl would wear as 007 slides up, tuxedo suave and orders ‘shaken not stirred’. It is something that (most of) our contemporary ‘lifestyles’ wouldn’t find an opportunity to wear.
Of course I have worn it, when I reached the same age of 19 she was when mom wore it and at left in 2002. My niece is just twelve so has some years before I can make a gift of it to her. Frankly speaking, if you tried to purchase something made as well as this today it would be at least a couple of thousand dollars.
So the Little Black Dress has (mostly) hung in my closet for 33 years like a piece of art and a relic from a time when ladies wore gloves, men opened doors, Charlie Parker made Jazz hot and people actually drank gin in their Martini’s (not insipid, tastes-like-nothing vodka)! I am writing about this dress because I received the most extraordinary gift to go with it from a gentleman met on OKCupid – updated this was in October 2013 – absolutely exquisite 20 denier black silk stockings. The accompanying note read (in French) ‘Not many French women would appreciate the difference…’, what a fine compliment!
When the dress fit me for the first time at 19 Raquel Welch (then age 42?) appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated inside proclaiming that she ‘had to’ do two hours of yoga a day to maintain (yes, maintain) her body! I suppose I will work up to that but for starters I walked two and half hours this morning covering a circuit of about 6 miles – in conjunction with errand running (a large – heavy – parcel to the post office at the farthest end of the route, a trip to the hardware and drug stores) and grocery shopping (lugging equally balanced bags with a pineapple, a gallon of milk, a package of Halal chicken breasts weighing 5 pounds, 4 Granny Smith apples, 4 cucumbers, a pound of green grapes, and 5 cartons of yogurt six city blocks simply HAS TO count for weight training!). Hardly sophisticated looking! I can irrevocably state that there is almost nothing I hate more than a trickle of sweat running down the small of my back and across my brow (subsequently making my naturally curly hair resemble the coat of a Standard Poodle) – needless to say, Bond Girls never look like this! It might take me a year to get back into the kind of shape that would do justice to the dress and those silk stockings (both in storage as I edit this in December 2015).
The stockings provided the catalyst to the physical change that for any number of reasons I chose not to do for myself before this time. This is not to suggest that the man made any claim on me, nor I him, (our ‘romance’ never advanced as his career as a sports photojournalist always put some excuse in the way of not closing the distance to explore us) or that my (unread) Tarot cards have made prophesy of his continuing to be in my life but, suddenly, while my skin tone can still carry this off I WANT TO! Who knew that a pair of silk stockings could spur on such activity (in addition to the above) as 20 minute sessions climbing staircases, doing incline push-ups against the washing machine while it is on spin cycle, oh yes, and the big pink yoga ball now sitting on my antique Heriz carpet demanding my use for core work?
Minus the smoke rings above my head, the idea of re-capturing (for a brief moment) the refined sophistication of wearing this dress while imbibing in a so-cold-it-should-be-illegal, shaken-not-stirred, served in a chilled glass with a lemon twist and a splash of St. Germain gin Martini someplace such as Georges V, the Hotel Cipriani or the Hotel Aldon Kempinski is pretty compelling rationale for exercise.
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