Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Good Belt.

An acquaintance of mine makes a small side living selling used clothing. This isn’t as tawdry as it sounds. In fact, being Los Angeles, it’s downright posh. She has a selection of vastly wealthy woman from whom she picks up cast-offs anywhere from two to five times a year. The items in question are worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars and have committed no greater sin than having bored their owner. For these women the path from “MUST have it!” to “What, are you still here?” is about a yard long and space in the converted bedroom-turned-closet must be made for this season’s weird platform shoes and the purse of the moment, which is the size of a Great Pyrenees.

This is how I ended up contemplating buying a dress I could never have justified in its first incarnation. It is a sweater dress, in a flattering color, restrained in detail. People who care about such things would recognize it as the work of a particular designer and wonder why I spent this month's mortgage on a dress. People who don't care about such things might think “Oh, Quinn looks less dead than usual”.

I held it up to me. It appeared to fit. I tried it on. I decided that it while it was nearly impossible to get the full effect wearing Converse low-tops, it appeared to compliment me. Not that these clothes are ever worn-out, but while checking for any damage I noticed as how the dress was especially new-looking. In fact, it appeared unworn. I asked the woman selling it about its history.

She plucked at it once or twice and said, “Oh, this one. Yeah, I think she wore it once. If that. It’s a beauty, isn’t it?”

It was a beauty, which made the non-wearing all the more puzzling. I looked at myself in the mirror again, felt the rush of pleasure which is the opposite of the usual heart-sink I feel when I glance at my own reflection and thought, Oh hell, rich women in Los Angeles buy things they never wear all the time. The dress is lovely and suits me and sometimes you just get lucky...

Which is true. Sometimes you get lucky. Me? I don’t get lucky. I get the consequences of what happens when you don’t ask the right questions. For instance, I should have walked around the room for a few minutes and then asked the dress, “Are you comfortable with being a dress?”

Because, as it happens, this dress suffers from a rare and painful personality disorder whereby it is a belt trapped in the body of a sweater-dress. Any movement greater than that of breathing shallowly causes it to manifest its inner belt-ness. And while I am sure it is terribly painful to live a lie, it's no picnic at the beach to wear a dress whose hem keeps lunging up towards your waist.

I discovered this on Saturday night about twenty minutes before we had to leave for our first holiday party. I had been dressed for nearly an hour at that point, but between getting Daughter to eat dinner, getting her ready for the babysitter and giving the cat antibiotics for her bladder infection, I hadn’t noticed how often I was hoiking down the dress.

[The computer just insisted hoiking isn’t a word. Well, guess what, Spell-check? Hoiking is the thing women do when they tug a skirt into place, so you can just add it to your dictionary because I’m going to be using it a lot.]

Every movement sent the skirt off on a personal journey of discovery. Every action contracted the beautifully woven fabric by an inch or more. There was no activity so miniscule that my dress didn’t cry out “Oh, God, don’t you understand? I was meant to encircle your waist!”

The dress, realizing this new life it aspired to might come as something of a surprise to me, offered me a compromise of parking at the middle of my thighs. I looked in the mirror and was reminded of Mariah Carey, a woman of great vocal talent but the wardrobe of a, shall we say, slightly younger woman. I am older than Mariah Carey which means I have no business prancing around in a mini-dress. I mentally ran through my closet, and found no other options unless the party turned into a spontaneous hiking trip. I had no choice so I hoiked downwards fiercely.

You know what’s fun? Fun is getting out of a car in a dress that wants to be a three-inch wide fashion accessory. You get to swing your legs out, knees locked together in a death clench, adding a firm hoik as you try to maintain eye contact with the parking valet. I think this exercise could be used as a sobriety check for women. It’s also nice to meet business associates of Consort’s as my skirt is stubbornly clawing its way up towards the Promised Land.

CONSORT: Quinn, this is Carter and his wife Siobhan.

QUINN: It’s a pleasure to…are those shrimp rolls coming this way?

(Everyone else glances at the waitron heading towards us as I do once quick, brutal all-around hoik)

SIOBHAN: What a pretty color your dress is.


I’m fairly certain several wives didn’t speak to me because they assumed I had gotten lost on the way to the next ballroom and my job in as the entertainment for the Sigma Phi holiday mixer. And yet I had a good time, mostly because I developed incredibly low expectations. As long as I sat still, or moved with the mincing deliberate steps of a geisha, the skirt would stay below where it would embarrass Britney Spears. By the time the evening ended, I had had such fun that I hoiked down my skirt no more than twenty times between the restaurant and the car. I mean, by then, what hadn’t everyone seen, right?

The good news is that I won’t see some of these people again until next year when I’ll be the one in the ankle-length skirt and head covering, gazing down modestly and murmuring, “I understand you met my cousin last year…?”

This year’s dress will be at home, folded up, quietly dreaming of a world where it can hold up pants without being judged.



Blogger OHN said...

Thank you for the laugh out loud post this morning! I had a perfect visual of what you were doing--too funny! I am imagining that this dress will become one of your fashionable tops to wear over the perfect jeans :) By the way, since you are out there, can you teach Brit,Paris et al the proper way to exit a car w/o a hoohoo shot?

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The worst is thinking that wearing a slip will help that situation, and having the slip go a-wandering with the dress.

We trust you were wearing panties?

Get your grey pants ready. Sounds like they'll be seeing some action.

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean that Britney Spears does gets embarrased for showing too much off?

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might be able to block this dress and solve your problem. You don't mention if it is wool or cotton, but you can steam it out so that it doesn't hug to your body and then will have nothing to crawl up against. And, the blocking will hold as long as the dress remains dry.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny Stuff! I have experienced much the same. You, however, have totally come up with the best word ever - hoiked! I have hoiked many a skirt, slip, even ill fitting jeans in my day. Thanks for finally giving it a title!

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I like it.

I've been doing it for years, but never knew quite what to call it.

My mother used to sew nickels into the hem of dresses like that.

Maybe a lovely brick fringe would help? Italian tiles?

5:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As long as I sat still, or moved with the mincing deliberate steps of a geisha, the skirt would stay below where it would embarrass Britney Spears."

Your bellybutton?

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel your pain and have lived with it off and on for years. I have hoiked just about every piece of clothing known to man, er, woman. Beautiful, snug fitting summer tops that suddenly stretch out and get too big, having to be hoiked every two seconds. I imagined people thinking..."why didn't she just wear a tube top, for God's sake. It would've been less revealing."

I've hoiked dresses, skirts, probably pants, too.

I've even been known to hoik the straps of sandles that continually fall off the back of my feet.

I've given up. "Be Graceful While Hoiking!" That's my motto.


9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, man. I was at a meeting this afternoon and it hit me that I needed to do some hoiking on some spelling in that comment above. (I've never claimed to be a perfect speller!)



4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wwell if you love the dress and it is expensive....slit the hem and insert either coins or a chain for weight. Chanel weights all of it's jackets etc that way with a chain in the lining. And a slip would probably help. 1/2 hours work may be worth saving the dress. Alterations do lead to better fitting and lasting things!

7:49 AM  
Blogger Melissa C Morris said...

Hoiking is totally a word. Lame spellchecker. The same autocorrect also insists that "Chappy" is not a word -- hello, he's my husband, of course it's a word. Whatever, I dig "hoiking".

And a very Merry Christmas to you and your family!

5:22 PM  
Blogger Eris said...

I have a decidedly non-designer sweater dress that has only ventured out of my closet once for much the same reason. I don't think mine had aspirations to be a belt like yours, rather, I think mine suffered from being a sale rack find at JCPenney.

I just linked over from Jennsylvania and am utterly delighted.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now where's that Sartorialist guy when you need him? =)

6:18 AM  

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