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Fashion reaction: red dress be gone

A client of mine who lived in the same neighborhood had referred Sarah to me. We chatted on the phone first before meeting face-to-face. She told me she did a fair amount of traveling and wanted to pare down her wardrobe and create some grab-and-go travel capsules. We made a time to meet and I looked forward to helping her.

Before I roll up my sleeves and get to work with a new client I always have questions. We can get started in her closet once I know about any clothing challenges she has, what her goals are so her wardrobe can support them, and what she wants to share about her personality through her image.

When she met me for our first appointment, her beauty struck me immediately. She was in her mid to late 30s. She was about 5’7″, maybe 135 pounds. She had a curvy body, not on the thin side, but she’d easily fit into size 8 dresses right off the rack with no need for alterations. She had long, wavy chestnut colored hair and exotic green eyes.

She was reserved, didn’t smile much and didn’t reveal much either. I defaulted earlier than I normally would to the goals she mentioned on our phone call. Once I got her into clothes and watched her body language, I knew I’d learn more about her. I felt confident I could ask questions along the way and make up for what I wasn’t getting from her verbally in the style interview.

I pulled a group of clothes out of her closet and put them on my portable clothes rack so we could review them one by one. I could give her feedback about what might be out of date, ill fitting, or not well suited to her current lifestyle. Along the way we’d build wardrobe capsules.

fashion reaction

We were into the appointment about forty-five minutes when I reached for a red dress. I started unzipping it and asked her, “Would you try this on for me?”

Without a word, she took it from my hands and obliged, stepping into it, lifting it up her body and putting her arms into the sleeves. I zipped up the back and asked her to turn around so I could see it.

It was a perfect fit. The shade of red was stunning on her. The dress hugged her curves just right. All she had on underneath was her bra and panties. If she were an actress wearing this dress on the red carpet for a movie premiere, she wouldn’t need Spanx to smooth out any lines. They were already smooth.

“It’s beautiful!” I said.

She reached a hand behind her and groped for the zipper. “Can you help me out of it?” she said. Had it even been on her body five seconds? I wondered.

I unzipped the dress and she stepped out of it and handed it to me.

“This is the dress I was wearing to dinner the last night I saw my fiancé,” she said. “He broke off our engagement and I found out about the other woman.”

A silent tear slipped down her cheek. This show stopping dress was a betrayal dress. If it had been ripped in such a way that it couldn’t be repaired, we’d have put it in the ‘to go’ pile without hesitation. It was in perfect condition and a perfect fit but it was beyond repair. She’d never wear it again. No trip to the cleaners could take out the permanent stain of her heartbreak.

“I’ll put it in the ‘to go’ pile,” I said and we moved on to the next items on the rack.

I wish I could have taken her pain away and restored her confidence. All I could do was make the dress go away and make space for something new to come in.


Donna Karan one-shoulder jersey dress

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