For little girls growing up in the ‘Fifties, nothing said Party! better than diaphanous organza, in pink, pastel blue, or yellow. Here I am at Munder’s Restaurant, at Aunt Sara Jane’s wedding reception. In my family children were usually excluded from such events, but Aunt Sara wouldn’t hear of that, so the cousins were there in full regalia. My cousin Mary Jane, appropriately enough, wears her best Mary Janes and white socks, a jumper and white blouse, and Mother is all-Dior in her black New Look off-the-shoulder cocktail dress. Bud, the groom, in white shirtsleeves and tie, stands in the background to her left. My dress was the only one of its kind at my favorite shop, Jean’s Juveniles, where Miss Elva and Miss Edith would descend on us as we walked through the door, tending to our every want and need and steering my mother towards the nicest, most expensive dresses. For the wedding, I wore a stiff crinoline petticoat to make the skirt stand out–very Lady Gagaesque. The horizontal stripes are tan, pink and white—the dress looked like a piece of that ribbon candy we used to see around Christmastime.
In descending order of height next to me are my sister Anne and my cousin Paul in the short pants. The nun in full pre-Vatican II drag is Aunt Mary Alice, who was sprung from her convent for the afternoon.
I kept that dress for years, and handed it down to my little sister. I reprised it briefly in fifth grade—when I had clearly outgrown it, the hem by then a good six inches above my knee. It was the perfect costume when I played the role of a little girl excitedly awaiting Christmas. That was my thespian debut, in the Drama Club skit at the Hamilton Rec.