The Story of the Rosemary Dress
My Dad’s mother, Betty Jane AKA Nana, died when I was a freshman in college. My priorities and style were different then and looking back, I regret not keeping more of her clothes. At the time, I could never imagine myself wearing them. When Grandma Mary, my Mom’s Mother passed away a few years ago, there was part of me that wanted to keep any and everything I could find of hers that would help me remember her, and the first place I looked was her closet. I found so many things in there I remembered her wearing and also quite a few things I hadn’t seen before. We must all have those hidden gems in our closets that we keep but never wear. I found a few polyester dresses that looked shapeless and unflattering, but I saw the potential. I knew that sometimes polyester meant “run away” and sometimes it meant “lean in…big time”. I probably took ten items of clothing from her closet and three of these dresses were a similar cut. At first, I let them hang out and represent her presence, but one day, I chose to put the floral one on. It captured me immediately with it’s versatility and the tie in the back made it fit perfectly. With the right accessories, it became a common go-to dress. I didn’t feel dressed up in it but still felt “put together” and stylish.
About a year later, I was planning to adventure cross country with my boyfriend. Packing for such an epic trip was a fun challenge and I knew I had to bring only the most versatile pieces of my wardrobe. Whenever I travel, I prefer dresses because I can layer leggings underneath (warm, ugly long johns, or sleek, cute ones depending on the weather). They don’t cut into my belly if I’m bloated from road food, and I can sit cross legged in the front seat comfortably. I chose to bring my Grandmother’s dress and though, I knew it wasn’t my boyfriend’s first choice (his sense of style sucked anyway), I brought it because I loved it so much and knew it would be perfect. First off…it didn’t wrinkle…secondly, it could be modest (with the ties closed) or pretty sexy (with them open). I could layer a shirt over top and leggings underneath if I was cold, or I could wear it solo with my cowgirl boots for a night out. Also…it had pockets. Need I say more?
After 3 weeks, we arrived at Horseshoe Bend in Arizona and as we got out of the car to check out this incredible canyon, the boyfriend said, “you know you are the only person here in a dress?” It wasn’t a compliment. It was true there were hundreds of people there and, yes, I was the only one in a dress. I knew two things at that moment. 1-our relationship wasn’t going to last and 2-I needed to pattern this dress that had been so versatile on my trip. It took 2 years, but I finally did it. I had my grandmother, Rosemary’s dress, patterned and graded (made into different sizes) and then I made it long sleeve and out of merino wool for winter and the original ¾ sleeve design out of a floral jersey for Spring. It warms my heart to think that my grandmothers dress will now be in other women’s closets, ready to make memories.