For a couple of years I worked as manager of the Piece Goods Shop on Patton Avenue in Asheville, NC. It’s no longer there, been gone quite a while now. One of my favorite things about working there was making display samples designed to ‘push’ new fabrics, patterns, notions, crafts or overstock items.
We had a lot of brides come in to the shop and order specialty fabrics and patterns to make their wedding day as unique and special as possible. One such bride that came in picked out her brides maid dress pattern, trim, etc… Her fabric of choice: pale pink taffeta. Anyone that has ever had to work with the stuff knows it is a challenge. When the needle hits the taffeta the damage is done and cannot be redone; in other words if you make a mistake a whole new piece has to be cut. The blushing bride needed six full bolts of pale pink taffeta to make her dream wedding come true so the order was placed and soon the taffeta was delivered from the warehouse. Calls were made to the bride, to the brides mother, sister – anyone connected with the order. Several weeks later we were told the wedding was off and the fabric would not be needed.
Piece Goods Cooperate was not in a good financial place and refused the return of the fabric to the warehouse meaning we had to ‘push’ six bolts of pale pink taffeta at full price. A display sample had to be made. I was very blessed to have some of the most talented ladies working at store #18. Amazingly talented women; none of which would touch the pale pink taffeta with a ten foot pole. Daisy Kingdom Dresses were all the rage back then made with yards and yards of custom fabrics. The only way to get them was to have them custom made. Being the youngest person working in the store and as it so happened I had a beautiful 3 year old daughter at home I decided to make an over the top specialty dress hoping to cash in on the Daisy Kingdom trend.
Two weeks of my time, late nights and early mornings produced the most beautiful dress I have every made. I had made 42 folded white satin roses for embellishment. On the skirt part of the dress the top layer of pale pink taffeta laid neatly over a layer of white voile that featured pale pink abstract flowers laying over a fine white tulle then white satin lined inside the dress throughout.
I put a white satin sash ‘tied’ with a faux bow in the back that had most of the folded (not rolled) roses in various sizes nestled around the center of the bow then draping down the ends of the bow. The bow actually snapped on to the dress, a beautiful illusion if I do say so my self. I used the remaining folded roses in various sized to trim the top of each puffy sleeve.
As per Piece Goods rules the dress was displayed in the shop for six weeks, and we did sell a lot of the pink taffeta. When the dress came down it went home to my three year old daughter. She looked at the dress, turned her nose up and walked away. I begged her to at least try the dress on, she wouldn’t have anything to do with it.
I took her and the dress to my parents house. My mother is a accomplished seamstress able to make anything and I was anxious to get her opinion of my work. She and my Dad tried to get Cyann to try the dress on – just once. Not going to happen. Daddy got real quite, whispered something in Cyann’s ear to which she broke out in a big grin and shock her head in agreement. Daddy then said to Mom and me, “We’ll be right back.” After a quick trip to the Roses Department store in Weaverville they returned with a brand new pair of white shoes. What girl can pass up a pair of new shoes – my father was a genius!
Cyann grabbed me and the dress and we went to try it on. The shoes went on first then the dress. Cyann stood very very still in the bedroom looking in the full length mirror. I got my parents so they could see her in the dress before she threw a fit to get out of the thing. Daddy asked her what she though of the dress, as she turned to look at him her movement made the taffeta ‘swish’ as only taffeta can and her eyes grew big. She moved again: ‘swish’ and again: ‘swish’. It didn’t take long for her get the rhythm and the ‘swishy dress’ was born. She went from never wanting anything to do with the dress to we couldn’t get it off her. She wore it anytime I would let her, and I let her wear it a lot.
I use to think every little girl should have a swishy dress; a dress that makes them feel like a princess until last month when I asked my baby girl, now a freshman in college, and standing six feet tall, if she remember the ‘swishy dress’. We had lost the dress along with everything else we owned in a house fire two years after I made it so it was not around to pull out and enjoy. She laughed and said “Yeah, it itched.” I was a little shook up. I said, “With all the time you spent in that dress ‘swishing’ everywhere you went and all you have to say is ‘It itched.’ Is that it?” To which she replied, “Yeah. . . . What?”
Now I think its not the little girl in the dress but the little girl in the Mom. I cannot put in to words the joy I felt watching her try different walks to make different swishy sounds; her skipping around the house watching the fabric bounce and sway.
I sure do miss the swishy dress.