Age, Gravity and Summer Dresses

By Janey Womeldorf

I have a secret wish. In the big scheme of things, it is embarrassingly fickle: It is not to bring world peace, win the lottery, or even to lose those dreaded ten. It is, quite simply, to wear a dress with spaghetti straps.

Summers are the hardest because of “them”– those enviable, perky women who sashay around, breezy, cool and carefree, showing off their naked shoulders, but for a flimsy piece of string. I struggle to ignore how their feminine, summery dresses not only offer absolutely no support whatsoever, but represent a slap in the face to us other women out there who cannot, and will not, ever be able to go out in public bra-free.

There, I’ve said it. I’m jealous.

My summer wardrobe aspires to be cool and carefree but everything comes to a crashing halt at the word perky. You see I am more of a lasagna-strap girl myself, or in my wildest dreams – fettuccini. I gaze longingly at the tops and dresses that flood our stores this time of year with their flimsy, delicate straps that ooze pretty and feminine. Unrealistic wishful thinking and good store lighting beckons me in even though I already know my fate. I rub their fabric between my thumb and fingertips. My husband once asked me why women always rub together the fabric of clothing as they walk by even though they have no intention of buying the item. All I could answer was that it’s part of our training, and because that’s what our moms do.

As for the flimsy, summer dress, I have accepted my fate. Bras are a necessity for me, not an option; besides, what if, heaven forbid, you suddenly had to run? So I dress appropriately because I have no choice. Or do I? After all, there are always vacations.

There is something about vacations that empower people to wear clothes they wouldn’t be caught dead in back home. Older men suddenly develop the urge to relive their youth and wear tight-fitting Speedos; worse, they feel totally comfortable wearing them with sandals, and in the scariest of cases, dark socks. Women get caught up in the euphoria of the vacation spirit and succumb to the lure of the Caribbean-inspired, spaghetti strap dress which once on, gives these happy holiday goddesses the confidence to think that nobody will notice as they swing and saunter along. Age and gravity are no longer a concern to the woman on vacation.

The truth is: I admire them.

I visited Miami Beach recently. Different rules apply there. Women of all shapes and sizes wore what they wanted with confidence and smiles. Underarms flapped, spare tires were exposed, and cleavages were something to share not hide. It was only a matter of time before the lure of risqué vacation clothing tugged at me. Suddenly, my inner svelte, carefree persona was not only rubbing the fabric of outfits that clearly don’t belong on a body like mine, but wanting to try them on. I had breathed in the vacation spirit and felt inspired; perhaps this was the moment for my braless, spaghetti strap debut.

I picked up the dress that had tempted me earlier, instinctively checked the price and washing instructions, and told myself, “what the heck.” I interrupted the staff, heavy in conversation and all young enough to be my daughters, received my one-item door tag, and strode into the changing room. I slipped off my shoes, got undressed and lowered the pretty dress over my head, trying to ignore the two deep, dark-red ridges blaring from my shoulders. For a brief moment, it transformed me. The dress was feminine and summery, and I felt young and carefree. I slipped my bare feet back into the dark, sensible flats that screamed woman-with-knee-problems and looked up; I would overlook the bulky sandals that so clearly did not go with the dress but I needed the distance view. I tucked my purse under the mound of clothes, opened the door to my cramped cubicle, and walked out to the vertical mirror at the end of the passageway. Within seconds, the sway of two things brought me back to my senses; I pressed on droopy and undaunted. A young girl behind me commented on what a pretty dress it was. From the back, that might have been the case. She was young and idealistic; I was older and realistic. I smiled in thanks even though she could not see me. The reality of my womanhood dangled in my face and after a solitary twinge of sadness, I laughed. What was I thinking? For the millionth time, I questioned whether I should research a strapless bra but I knew deep in my comfort level that I would never trust it to hold them up and keep them in. Besides, heaven forbid, even in a strapless bra, what if I suddenly had to run?

I walked back, arms crossed, to my cubicle. I checked that my purse was still there and questioned the wisdom of feeling more comfortable leaving a purse unattended than I did of exposing my bare feet to a public, changing room floor. I took off the dress and hooked up as I chuckled at my own sense of adventure. My bra straps fell neatly back into their grooves and before long, my shoulder-covering, sensible t-shirt, combined with the comfy Capri pants that have become a middle-age mainstay since the onset of spider veins, brought me back to my senses. Nope, a dress like that would never be seen on this body, not in public anyway.

I exited the store and re-entered the real world where once again, the perky and seemingly carefree women of South Beach surrounded me. I regarded their summery clothing, marveled at the amount of exposed skin and smiled to myself. I had indulged in my vacation-clothing, spaghetti strap moment, and I felt at peace. I sighed and walked on.

It never hurts to wish.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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