The Virus Chronicles: The Red Dress

The red dress at the back of my wardrobe provided some much needed writing inspiration

Working on an old story I started months ago, I was writing a scene where one of my characters was wearing a red dress. I tried to picture the character in my mind, done up for a fancy dinner at an upmarket Docklands restaurant, and then I remembered the red dress in the back of my wardrobe.

Thinking it might help me get a bit of sensory detail, I got it out and hung it on the hook behind the door of the spare room, the place where I do all my writing.  I had bought the dress a couple of years ago from a catalog. I used to work in the call center of the catalogue company many years ago and continue my association as a customer. I am familiar with all their clothing lines and can tell if something is going to fit me or not, just by looking at the picture and reading the description.

The red dress would be just the thing to attend the cocktail party we go to for Motorclassica in October each year. My sister in law and her partner, who is a mechanic by trade, enter a car every year on behalf of their clients. They drive the cars down from Adelaide to Melbourne in a special trailer. These cars are not meant to be driven on the road like ordinary cars, these cars are strictly for show.

I have enjoyed hosting a succession of these pedigree motors at my home, and the excitement it causes as the neighbors gather round to stare. One year, it was a beautiful old Hudson, with lustrous caramel duco and a golden handle at the front to crank it up. Another year, it was a cute little rally car, stripped down to a roll cage and netting, its gaudy paint job attracting spectators at the supermarket. And then, there was the Corvette. The most glamourous of all. Long and sleek, it was the clear sky blue of a perfect summer day.

I am not a motoring buff by any means, but every year, I love to go to this event.  I wander around the Carlton Exhibition Buildings, whose elegant, art deco decor is the perfect backdrop to showcase this event. I don’t bother with the modern cars outside in the glaring sun, I stay indoors with the vintage cars.

Mesmerised, I wander through the crowded aisles, agog at the elegance and beauty all around me. There are boxy Vauxhalls with wide running boards, regal Rolls Royces with walnut dashboards and folding tray tables, but my favourite, created in the year of my birth, is the midnight blue Maserati with the creamy interior. They are more than just cars; they are relics of a time gone by, they are works of art.

When I see the dress in the catalogue, I fall in love with the floaty skirt and the flattering, cross over bodice. And of course, it’s red, my favourite color. I must have it to wear to the cocktail party.

We had attended the cocktail party previous year, and there had been a live jazz quartet with a double bass, champagne and cocktails carried on silver trays and delightful hors d’oeuvres, including miniature burgers, sushi served in folded origami and airy macaroons that dissolved on your tongue.

I bought the dress to wear that year but the cocktail party was booked out and we couldn’t get tickets. Never mind. I could wear it to the Christmas party for my husband’s work. But my husband changed jobs and partners weren’t invited to the end of year festivities. The following year, events worked against me again and there was no cocktail party and no formal Christmas event to attend.

And so the dress remained in the wardrobe. Until today when I need it for my story.

As I hang the dress on the hook, I see that the tag is still on it. I think about posting the photo in Instagram “Writing Inspiration”, will be the caption. But times are getting tough and I might need to sell it, and I will have a lot better chance if the tag’s still there. But who’s going to buy a red cocktail dress in a time like this?

I cut off the tags and post the dress on social media. Though I must admit, it looks a bit sad hanging there on the hanger with no one to fill it out.

And then I remember, there was a story on the news this morning about people getting dressed up on Fridays. It’s a reversal of Casual Friday, the office tradition where workers exchange their business attire for more casual gear.

 It was a funny story, featuring women taking out the bins and doing the vacuuming in evening dresses. Even the kids joined in, getting done up in their Sunday best. Now that everyone’s working from home, by the end of the week they’re fed up with trackies and PJs and want a bit of glam. Hence, all the #Formal Friday posts. It’s a thing, as they say

So maybe I have an excuse to wear the red dress after all. I’ll see you next week at #Formal Friday.

#amwriting #writingcommunity #writersinquarantine #writerslife #formalfriday

Red Dress

Posted by naomilisashippen

6 comments

Emily Wrayburn

Perhaps I’ll see you there, Naomi! I have a sweet red dress in the back of my cupboard that I wore once or twice (picked it up at Vinnie’s for $7 with the Jacqui E tags till attached!).

I love your descriptions of the motor shows – I also just wander admiring the old cars. No interest or idea in what’s under the bonnet but love to look at them.

naomilisashippen

Ha ha, Emily. Sounds like we are two peas in a pod. See you on #Formal Friday!

I am so glad the dress finally had a chance to shine, even if, so far, only on the page:).

naomilisashippen

Thank you so much, Lisa. There’s a lot to be said for impulse buying. : )

I was hoping for a picture of you IN the dress at the end of the post!

naomilisashippen

Ha, ha! It’s coming!

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