I remember this scene from Great Expectations, when Pip visits Miss Havisham in her home, and comes upon the wealthy spinster dressed in a rotting, decrepit wedding gown, surrounded by the detritus of her would-be wedding reception. Mice run in and out of holes in the cake, which still sits on the banquet table, set for the big day some decades before. Miss Havisham has lived like that since the moment of her wedding day betrayal–her dickhead of a fiance only loved her for her money–and has nursed a huge, honking hatred for men ever since. She looks like shit, as anyone would if she never changed out of her wedding dress, taken a shower, exfoliated or, well, left her mansion.
I was reminded of that scene this morning when I was looking on one of the discount shopping websites I am addicted to. They are having a sale on Betsey Johnson’s dresses. Back when I was shopping for my prom–that would have been 1985–she was the one to wear. I couldn’t afford anything at her store, but the ’50s retro look updated for the ’80s, was precisely the style I hoped to achieve (I wore an actual ’50s dress given to me by my stepdad’s secretary, who had saved it from her prom. It got vomited on, and was too delicate to have dry cleaned, so I tossed it.) Betsey Johnson did that Go-Gos/early Madonna tiered mini-skirt thing with lots of mesh and ribbon like no one else. I also loved the gigantic cherries and huge sofa-upholstery like flowers on Lycra.
But here’s the thing: Betsey Johnson is still doing the same kind of thing. That’s fine, fabulous even, although now it’s the 80s retro look with shades of the ’50s updated for 2010.
What’s not fine is that I still want a dress, probably because I could never have one back then. I feel the same way about Apple Jacks, which I was not allowed to have back when my mom was the breakfast decision-maker, and now I eat them whenever I get the chance (while simultaneously feeding my own daughters Kashi).
So what now? My fashion instincts are telling me NO, DON’T DO IT! YOU ARE 42, NOT 16, AND IF MILEY CYRUS IS WEARING A TIERED MINI-SKIRT, BUSTIER AND HEART SHAPED GLASSES, THEY ARE OFF LIMITS TO YOU! I know I would look absurd in it, not to mention the fact that I can’t wear the pointy high heels that would complete the outfits. I’m getting the beginnings of a bunion on my right foot.
My heart, however, is singing a different tune. It’s singing Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, goddamn it! And I can afford a Betsey Johnson dress now, especially on sale. Instead of having a button such as “Add to my shopping cart,” the site that I’m looking at, ideeli.com, has a button that says “I want it!”
I want it!
Stop me. I need to let it go and move on, like Miss Havisham surely should have, rather than seething in resentment for decades. Right? Or will buying it set me free, like Miss Havisham might have been free had she entertained another suitor to get the awful one out of her system once and for all?
Photo from ideeli.com
January 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm
BUY IT. YOU ONLY LIVE
January 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm
BUT IT. YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE AND YOU CAN PASS IT DOWN TO YOUR DAUGHTERS ON HALLOWEEN 2020.
January 11, 2010 at 3:12 pm
I’m a regular Ideeli peruser (I have yet to actually buy anything) too! AND I picked out and covet the exact same dress you’re talking about. It’s the most fun party dress on the page. So of course I had to write.
I also had the same immediate response – am I too old for this look? But then I think of Betsy Johnson herself… she made it, she’d wear it, and she’s how old? I think my real issue is that while I think I could look physically great in a dress like this, I don’t have the oomph it would require to carry it off for a whole night of fun. More likely, it’d sit in my closet, unworn, deemed inappropriate for all the social occasions I have these days.
Get it IF you can think of where you’d wear it. And I’ll admire/envy you from afar.
January 11, 2010 at 3:39 pm
I’m with Harlene.
you know you will put it on, look down at yourself, and go, oh, perfect, then do a little twirl and feel fabulous, and then look in the mirror and go…. oh, um, no. And vomit on yet another wonderful dress. I’m just sayin’.
January 11, 2010 at 10:06 pm
For the record, I was vomited upon by a third party.
January 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm
Hi Stephanie-I don’t mean to buck the trend, but I can only give you the advice my sister would give me…take the same amount of money and buy some ass-kicking Blahniks that make your heart SING!!!
It might come just as close to giving you the girly thrill of a Betsey Johnson moment, and you’ll be able to wear them again and again and again.
But who cares what my sister thinks! Hit Nordies post haste and get a sweet little Betsey Johnson nightgown that you can wear every night!
January 12, 2010 at 10:36 pm
Can I just say that I took one glance at the picture and knew it was from Ideeli! Mainly because I, too, was looking at that dress thinking, “this look is really coming back and since I was actually alive when it originated, this completely justifies my buying it. The 19 year-old little trixies that try to don that look are the posers.” I still didn’t buy it. I had already depleted my $131 credit on Jessica Simpson shoes. But, I say… if you want it… go for it, sister.
January 20, 2010 at 5:02 pm
I just found your blog today, and this post cut straight to the heart of the issue of my day. At 46, am I too old for the Target by Rodarte black sequin dress with the silk-screened rib cage on the front? Because I visit it every single day.