Tag Archives: body image

I Have One Lilly Pulitzer Dress

“Being happy never goes out of style.” ~Lilly Pulitzer

 When I was in middle school, the pretty girls took off their Fair Isle sweaters in May. They sloughed their turtlenecks with the little whales on them and switched up the covers on their Bermudas bags. Spring meant sunshine and tulips and daffodils and lovely lightweight dresses.

One day, I dared to ask a pretty girl where she found her colorful sleeveless shift.

“It’s not from here,” she said, crossing her arms in front of her very flat chest.

“But where did you get it?”

This particular pretty girl – let’s call her Courtney — flipped her hair and caught it in one hand, a move I could never master.

“It wouldn’t work on you,” she said. “It’s a Lilly.”

Cover of The Official Preppy Handbook

Cover of The Official Preppy Handbook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That night, I consulted my Official Preppy Handbook. It showed a photograph of a similar looking dress to the one Courtney had worn in school that day. The handbook stated that Lilly Pulitzer clothing was a “must-have” item for all “preppy” women.

In middle school, I didn’t care that my mother made kick-ass matzah balls.

I just wanted to be a prep.

Looking at myself in the mirror, I thought about Courtney’s words. A little Jewish girl with a big nose, I’d never look good in a casual shift dress. I’d never rock pale pink lip-gloss. At summer camp, when I got off the sailboat, my hair was a frizzy triangular mess. I’d never look like I’d spent the day relaxing on the yacht. Who did I think I was?

About five years ago, I was in Florida shopping with my friend, Jan, when we passed a Lilly Pultizer Shop. I’d never seen one before. We don’t have Lilly Shops in Western, New York. Why would we? We wear sleeping bag coats for most of the year.

Anyway, Jan encouraged me to go in. She may have physically pulled me through the door.

I didn’t think I had any business being there.

But I sifted through the yummy racks filled with whimsical fabrics.

How can you not love orange elephants?

How can you not love orange elephants?

I heard Courtney’s voice in my head.

What was I doing? I was still that Jewish girl. And now I had boobies. Big ones. How was I ever going to fit into anything Lilly? It was ridiculous.

Jan handed me a pile of dresses and commanded I try them on.

And there was this one.

When I came out of the dressing room, the Lilly ladies made a fuss.

{But, you know, they work on commission; they’re paid to smile and coo.}

Still.

I looked at myself in the mirror, and I liked the way I looked.

I’m no socialite.

And I’m decidedly unpreppy.

But I bought it.

Because screw you, Courtney.

It works on me.

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Lily Pulitzer passed away last month, on April 7, 2013 at the age of 81. I am confident her legacy of brightly colored fabrics featuring flamingos & seals & peacocks & turtles & elephants & hippoptamuses & flowers & flowers & flowers will live on forever. A believer in the power of whimsy, I like to think we would have been friends.

• • •

May 14th marks the beginning of my 4th year in the blogosphere. Come back next week because I’m giving away a Lilly Pulitzer handbag, baby!

In the meantime, tell me about something you never thought you could wear/do/be, but you did it anyway!

tweet me @rasjacobson

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A Reason To Hate Communal Mirrors

Image by Deric Bownds

I stood in my minuscule dressing room in Nordstrom’s Marshall’s, looking at the dress I’d put on thinking, Not bad for $49.99.

I ventured out to find the large three-way mirror located all the way at the other end of the long hall of individual stalls.

I know the psychology behind communal mirrors.

Stores want shoppers to come out because they are hoping you will get a compliment from a stranger.

According to an article in Real Simple Magazine,

Such praise doesn’t just make you feel good about yourself; it also helps forge an attachment to the product. Once someone gushes over the top you’re wearing, you’re more likely to “become emotionally invested in the item and have more trouble leaving it behind.” 1

As I twirled and inspected myself from all angles, a woman standing outside the changing rooms decided to give me her unsolicited opinion.

“That dress makes your ass look fat,” she said.

I felt like I had been zapped by a taser.

I stared at the woman but, for the life of me, I can’t provide you with one descriptive characteristic about her.

I tried to imagine how devastating an unsolicited comment like that could be to someone in a fragile place. I thought about all the young women suffering with eating disorders or low self-esteem who could’ve come in contact with this woman. I thought about how a woman who’d just had a new baby might have received her words. Or someone battling depression.

I decided to say something.

“You know, I feel good about myself these days,” I said. “And I’m pretty sure there were ten ways you could have told me that you don’t like this dress rather than criticize my body.”

I expected the woman to apologize profusely.

I expected her to be embarrassed.

I expected her to look down at the white-tiled Marshall’s floor in shame.

That’s not the way it went down.

“I drank a lot of coffee today,” she said. “I was trying to help you from making a expensive fashion faux-pas.”

I know all about toxic people.

I can usually hold my tongue, but I chose not to.

“I hope you don’t have daughters,” I said as I slipped into my dressing room to change.

I never saw the woman or her friend again. They disappeared.

But another woman in an adjacent stall knocked on my dressing room door. I peeked my head out.

“I heard that whole exchange,” she said. “Are you okay?” Her brows arched with concern.

I assured her I was fine.

“You are really brave,” she said.

“Not really,” I said suddenly feeling guilty. Because I’ve never really struggled with my weight. Or my self-esteem. I was channeling someone else. “Thank you for checking on me.”

The woman smiled.

I thought about The Golden Rule.

You know: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I know I have my own personal rules regarding etiquette in dressing rooms.

I’d love to hear yours.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I bought the dress.

And my ass looks fine.

I think.

1 Durante, Kristina qtd. in “Communal Mirrors.” Real Simple: 151. April 2012. Print.

What do you think about communal mirrors? What are your rules regarding giving advice in the dressing room? Is buying new clothes fun? Or is it torture for you?

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