My Everyday Christmas Dress
ME AND MY CLOTHES 2 A red and white dress that just made me feel so happy
2020 has almost ended and 2021 is about to begin. Christmas celebrations in 2020 were extremely low key. Restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic meant no social gatherings and events at Christmas or to ring in the New year either. And so the joy (however superfluous and trivial it may appear to some) of buying or making new clothes especially for Christmas for yourself or to gift someone was also cancelled for Xmas 2020. But then, Christmas joy is not meant to last just a day or a week or twelve days. It's supposed to linger well into the new year.
And sometimes it's unexpected or insignificant little things or everyday situations that make you feel surprisingly happy. Somewhere around the age of eight, I had a dress that looked as if it were tailor-made for Christmas. It was a maroony-red dress with a single white piping trim along its scooped round neck, around the edges of its short sleeves, along the waistline, and along the hem of its circular skirt. But if I remember correctly it was not made especially for Christmas, because the fabric was a sturdy cotton fabric. It was an everyday dress, worn in ordinary situations. Then one day I wore it when my family visited my grandparents' home for our extended family Sunday lunches. “ Oh what a lovely dress you’re wearing,’’ my grandmother said. I didn't think it was an outstanding dress. But she did. The next time I wore it on a visit to my grandmother’s house possibly carrying some home-baked goodies made by my mom, my grandma thanked me and exclaimed “ You are my little Red Riding Hood!’’
It didn't matter that it was just a dress and it did not have a cape with a hood (like in the popular images of the fairy tale). Whenever I wore that dress and visited my grandmother she affectionately called me her ‘ Little Red Riding Hood’.
I had a similar and more sophisticated ensemble of separates -a long-sleeved blouse in red with small white dots, paired with a four panelled skirt highlighted with 3 fine rows of white edging and a matching broad waist-cinching belt- when I was maybe sixteen going on seventeen. I guess I do love red. And as an adult, I have a lot of red in my wardrobe, whether it's everyday shirts and kurtis or Indian style clothes for parties and evening wear. But I have to say that, that little Red Riding hood dress had a ‘joie de vivre’ about it that none of my other red clothes could match.
Why? Well maybe because my mom had chosen a simple and fuss-free dress pattern for me, and the tailor had stitched it well. Or maybe because the circular skirt part of the dress swung gently about me creating a floaty feeling as I walked or skipped or ran. But mostly it was because I knew that my Grandma absolutely loved me in that dress. And when you're eight years old this matters a great deal.
Instagram was unheard of in those days. But with her keen eye for fashion and flair, and her fondness for parties and ballroom dancing, were my grandmother alive today, she would have loved the idea of being able to record both everyday and special sartorial moments, as effortlessly as we do nowadays.
And so with no Xmas 2020 or New Year 2021 party to dress up for, I turned to my shelf of Christmas themed books, collected over the years, to feel a little Christmas joy. Sitting on that shelf is an illustrated children's book on ‘ The Life of Jesus’, presented to me by my grandparents many many Christmases ago. And I opened it to find…. still taped on carefully to the introductory page…. a Christmas card … in my grandmother’s unique handwriting (not cursive handwriting, but each letter separate from the other, looking as if it were printed in a fancy font) .. addressed to “ Dear Francesca, Little Red Riding Hood! I’m sure you will like this book.”