Dress Memory4


I bought this dress in Istanbul on my eighteenth birthday. The treasures you don’t even go searching for! Hidden in a cave-like junk shop, obscured by hookahs, feathers, bulldog clips, lace, jewellery.

‘Vintage seventies! Italian!’ the shop assistant told me. I only wanted to buy the skirt: I couldn’t work out how to tie the top. I tried to ask, but at that time my Turkish was mostly made up of English. And some English words sound like some Turkish words which are vulgar and offensive or cute and irrelevantly equine, depending.

Um?’ [UM = AM: sl. cunt, pussy.]

‘Um, tie together?’ [TIE = TAY: zo. colt, foal.]

‘Um, how to? Um, ummm?’ [STOP: pls. stop speaking.]

I ended up just buying both pieces and a mere two years later I worked out how to tie the top up (safety pins), and I finally debuted the dress at my twentieth birthday party.

The Brisbane house I lived in then had maggots and a shocking stench that wafted up from the superannuated dishwasher, but the place was a symbol of social success for me and my friend Ross. We’d spent the entire first semester of uni gazing across a media studies lecture room (from West Egg to East Egg) at three exotic creatures we were secretly obsessed with: Kate, Caro and Leon.

They had amazing haircuts and many-coloured Bonds t-shirts. When we met them and became friends and then moved in with them to the house with the maggots, it was everything we ever dreamed of.

Bernice bobbed her hair; I shaved my head. By the time my birthday came round it had grown out into a short platinum blonde wave and I was feeling like a reluctant flapper, unsure if I wanted to move into a new age after all, vacillating between the two worlds of my birthday guests: old friends from high school and my new friends. I remember flinging myself dramatically across the couch that night, disappointed, having failed to tie the groups together.

Um?’ ‘Tie together?’ ‘How to?’

One of the last times I’ve worn this dress was to Meg’s thirtieth birthday; Meg who is now Ross’s wife. The theme was Goodbye to the roaring twenties and we’d all experienced the boom and bust by then. But unlike Fitzgerald characters or twenty-year-olds we were starting to see that things were probably going to boom then bust then boom then bust, over and over and over again, forever.

And presumably we’d be there still, in our thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, our vintage seventies! Italian! just trying to suck it all up whatever happened.

Istanbully: 4 comments

  1. Sky Says:

    Love love love. Words, dress, image. All golden.

  2. Ross Says:

    I’m especially fond of this Dress, Memory! :)
    So true about the gazing and the bonds shirts. You are a genius.

  3. Leon Says:

    And we were gazing back.

  4. Jessica Says:

    Love this dress. The story behind it reminds me of the crossroads i’m currently at in my life. Unsure of the new age, trying to tie together two halves of my life that aren’t quite knotting properly.

    Thanks to this, my 20th birthday will be roaring twenties themed.

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Image by Lee Sandwith © 2011