“Is it about the dress?”
The voice, emanating from the bunk bed below me, belonged to my friend Judy, with whom I was sharing a tiny one-room flat in London during our junior-year study-abroad program. It was the middle of the night, and I had hoped she wouldn’t hear me sniffling into my pillow.
Why was I crying? Well, I was homesick. I was hormonal. I was worried about final exams. But, yes, it was mostly about the dress.
Judy and I had spotted it at exactly the same time, fluttering on the end of an alfresco rail. It was black, subtly shiny, and sleeveless, with a slightly dropped waist above two tiers of gently flaring ruffles that ended just above the knee. We reached for it simultaneously; Judy’s hand touched it first. She held it up to her chest, taking its measure, and immediately pulled a crumpled 20-pound note out of her pocket to pay for it.
When we got home, I eyed it enviously, picturing myself in it. I’d be a Holly Golightly, capable of charming entire rooms. I would have a British boyfriend, go to grown-up parties, drink champagne. In my mind, the dress was the very embodiment of glamour, sophistication, mystery—all the things a 19-year old student subsisting primarily on microwaved potatoes did not have. It was a portal into a future I desperately wanted but couldn’t figure out how to access. And for some reason, it struck me that I might never again stumble across a garment with that kind of