My friend (Sunny) is an artist. She writes and paints and makes beautiful, whimsical dresses out of found objects and magic. One of my favorite dresses of hers is the red poppy dress and I wanted it the first time I saw it but I knew I’d never get it. For one thing, it’s not sensible. It’s impractical. It’s bright red and vibrant and shocking and “inappropriate for a woman my age”. And I have no shoes to go with it. And I have no place to wear it.
And I want it.
I want, just once, to wear a bright red, strapless ball gown with no apologies. I want to be shocking, and vivid and wear a dress as intensely amazing as the person I so want to be. And the more I thought about it the more I realized how often we deny ourselves that red dress and all the other capricious, ridiculous, overindulgent and silly things that we desperately want but never let ourselves have because they are simply “not sensible”. Things like flying lessons, and ballet shoes, and breaking into spontaneous song, and building a train set, and crawling onto the roof just to see the stars better. Things like cartwheels and learning how to box and painting encouraging words on your body to remind yourself that you’re worth it.
And I am worth it.
And last week…?
…I got my red dress.
I didn’t have shoes, or a party to wear it to, or even a valid excuse to own it, but I had the dress.
And it was everything I thought it would be.
But here’s the thing…you are worth it too. Which is why this week the red dress will begin a journey, traveling from city to city so that other people can wear it and love it and feel as special and vivid and dynamic as they already are. Because sometimes we all need a little red dress to remind us of that. So today, think about what it is you need and were too embarrassed to ask for. And then go fucking do it. Wear a ball gown to the grocery store. Invite the neighbors to have a picnic on the front lawn. Get that novel out of your sock drawer and publish it yourself. Stand on a bus stop bench and belt out a song for the waiting strangers. Find a playground swing and remember how it felt to fly. Find your red dress. And wear the hell out of it.
The Devil-and-the-Details: This dress was custom-made by Sunny Haralson of Rubypearl and was specially made for this project. Photographs taken by the amazing Karen Walrond, a woman who knows me so well that she’s become unfazed when asked to meet me in a graveyard with her camera and bail money. (She *did* hesitate briefly when I mentioned that I’d be in my pajamas and that I’d have to get naked in the graveyard because I can’t actually put on the dress without someone cinching me up but then she just sighed and nodded and reminded herself to renew her license to practice law.) Click here for her whole set. Also, I’m bringing the traveling red dress to Blogher in August so if you’re going to be there and you want to get photographed in it then just come find me. It’s totally worth it. And so are you.
Comment of the day (although you should really read all of them because you people are fucking amazing): I can only hope like the “Traveling Pants”, the “Traveling Red Dress” is magic enough to make it fit my size 18 self by mere magic. Honestly, being able to see it.. to touch it and be near it will be enough to prove I will be living my own Red Dress moment. I’m going to Blogher! I’m going to fly (!!!) to New York in 70 days and I’m completely and utterly terrified. But I’m doing it anyway dammit! This is a nerve-racking trip for most people, but for me? It’s so much more than that. For me, this trip will be a catalyst to take my life back from the ruthless clutches of agoraphobia. Sort of extreme exposure therapy. Today I can’t drive to the next town on my own, I can’t be alone at home, I can’t even take my daughter to the beach. I’m so much better than the housebound puddle I was 10 years ago, but I’m stuck. I’m so tired of CAN’T. In 70 days though (god help me), I CAN and I WILL.
That red dress? Home plate. The finish line. And also new beginning.
Thank you. ~ Karen
Updated: The red dress has traveled to so many women celebrating miracles and overcoming struggles but this is a favorite.
There are tons of other stories…women bringing the red dress to retirement homes or to dying friends or just wearing it to celebrate life. It’s a good thing. Vivid, wonderful and amazing. Just like the women inside.
UPDATED 2012: The red dress is now years old and is a bit tattered but it’s still filled with magic and is currently on the road visiting people who need some magic in their lives. Ideally, we would have 15 red ball-gowns in various sizes all traversing the globe at the same time but I just can’t afford it. If your company is interested in donating red ball gowns, just drop me an email at advertising (at) thebloggess.com.