The dress that means the most to me is my first Holy Communion dress. I got this dress when I was in third grade. It was the prettiest dress in the world – white with sequins, long and kind of poofy. I loved my dress, if only it fit me now!
I love this dress so much because it was something that helped me get closer to God. God is a really important part of my life. My dress made me feel so pure and special. To my family a first Holy Communion is very important. My parents were very happy and proud of me.
A first Holy Communion is where you receive the body and blood of Christ in the Catholic Church for the first time. Every Sunday at church you can receive communion but only if you have a first Holy Communion. You have to be at least seven years old to be able to make your communion. Before you make your communion you have to practice walking in the church and how slow you have to walk. It takes a lot of time.
When the day arrived on April 20, 2002, I was very nervous. It took almost 3 hours to comb my hair that day. My hair was up and curled all pretty. I had 251 bobby-pins in my hair. I went to the church and waited for my name to be called. When they called my name I received the body and blood of Christ. That day was one of my favorite days in my life.
Felicia Candelaria, Bloomfield, New Mexico.
To talk about the dresses I have had the pleasure of wearing is inherently to talk about my mother, her sense of style and her influence in my life. The most beautiful dresses I have worn have all been made by my mother’s talented hands. No boning or design has ever been too challenging for her to tackle.
Other special dresses that were bought have always been chosen with my mother’s help. I remember trying on a floor-length blue strapless dress and my mother sending me out of the dressing room into the main section of the store to see what the “wow” factor was. Based on the responses people gave, she bought me that dress!
Once, when I was living in Paris and received an invitation to a dinner party through the Canadian Embassy, a carefully packaged black wool fitted dress arrived from across the Atlantic so that I would have something lovely to wear. My mother has often said that it’s important to have a good dress hanging in the closet for when an invitation arrives.
I can hardly think of a time when she has not been involved in helping me to get ready for a special occasion. Although at times I have been a typical, rebellious daughter, in truth I have learned much from my mother about the art of dress. I have been honoured by her advice and loving guidance.
There is one particular dress that stands out to me: a fuchsia taffeta floor-length gown with a diagonal bodice that was gathered and ended in a bow at one shoulder and another at the opposite waist. My mother made this dress for me when she lived in Washington, D.C., and sent it to me in Montreal where I wore it to my undergraduate formal in my final year at McGill.
I have a group photograph from that night and I look quite confident striking a pose in that stunning dress! Eighteen years later, I still have the dress. It is one of many that I keep as I could not imagine parting with the creations that my mother has made with such love, expressed through the time she took to sew each of them and the stamina she has always shown as my guide in all things feminine.
Dr. Alison J. McQueen, Hamilton, Ontario
Thinking about my favorite dress has provided lots of conversations and prompted quite a few journeys into the past. Most of the dresses I remember were associated with special occasions and milestone events: a cousin’s wedding, my first major clothing purchase as a teacher, and a number of “party” dresses from the time we dressed up and went to dances.
The dress I have chosen was the one I wore to my high school graduation. I purchased it in Toronto when I was living with my Aunt Helen while attending Teachers’ College. The dress was three-quarter length, strapless, black and teal shot taffeta with a white net insert at the bust. The inset had rhinestones on it and the taffeta was cut in peaks around the net. I remember feeling very swish with my black, strappy, high-heeled sandals. In the photo, my dress is the only dark one in a sea of pastels. It was probably the best I ever looked at Fergus High!
Catharine Murray, Guelph, Ontario
I considered sending you an old black-and-white shot of my white lace wedding dress (a 20-year-old bride), and the two-piece maternity dress (red and white checks) my beloved mother-in-law made for me when I was pregnant (age 23) with my first son.
And, I considered the smart gray business suit I wore as I went off in my late 30s to the working worlds of bank and hospital; also a strapless black evening dress that carried me through several capitals of the world travelling with Bill as he lectured and we were feted in some marvelous places.
But I settled on this one. I am 50 years old in the picture, newly divorced and madly in love with Bob Berberich. I have a new master’s degree and my third novel is about to be published. I AM WOMAN … SEE ME ROAR!!
Here I am in my short red leather skirt and black boots, the sexiest time in my life and the most vivid in all my memories. I’m happy … so happy, as I enjoy touring in downtown Washington, D.C., with my daughter Fran, and Bob, who is taking the picture.
Carey Roberts, Leesburg, Virginia
My Aunt Emma was a lady who received “the bale” from churches in Toronto. Church people in the city collected clothes to send to needy people in the north. Our family was not too needy but some things found their way to our house. It was the Great Depression and we did not have many luxuries.
I can remember a white voile dress with red embroidery around the neck that hung loosely from the shoulder. My six-year-old sister had long dark ringlets framing her rosy pink cheeks. I can see why my aunt selected that little dress for her.
I am now 84 years old, have four daughters and have seen many dresses come and go, but when asked what dress I remembered, it was that little white voile with red Norwegian embroidery floating softly from the shoulder of my pretty little sister on Manitoulin Island.
Jean Brodie, Melbourne, Ontario.
(Jean is the mother of Gwen Hopkins, and grandmother to Jean Hopkins, the authors of previous posts.)
My favorite dress wasn’t mine. It wasn’t even that pretty. In fact, it was a little gaudy.
Picture a bodice of electric lime green, dotted with big black stars, a full gored skirt of black with green trim, accessorized by green tights and a black vest. This dress represents independence, anticipation and the sheer joy of facing a new experience.
My four-year-old daughter Jean selected this dress for her first day of kindergarten. Nothing could persuade her to choose a tamer dress for her debut. What I remember most was the walk to school that first morning. She ran, jumped, skipped and twirled all the way. She was a blur of fluorescent lime green and black. The sun shone from under her feet as she flew to school, so ready to start something new.
I, however, had a lump in my throat as I watched my baby grow.
Gwen Hopkins, Toronto, Ont.
I have spent the past hour procrastinating from writing a paper by looking through your website. I am a fourth year women’s studies major living in Montreal, and when thinking about dresses that have stayed in my memory and made an impact on me, I don’t think of my favorite dress, rather the one that was the most disappointing to my young mind.
I am the daughter of Gwen and Tom Hopkins, who married in 1973 at the age of 22, the same age as I am now. They met while working as servers at the Old Spaghetti Factory, and needless to say had very little money. My father proposed to my mother – to which she replied “maybe” – after about 5 months of knowing one another. They had a small ceremony on the farm that my mother grew up on.
When I was about 6 years old, after hearing this story, I asked my mother to show me her wedding dress. I was expecting a crisp white dress with sequins and puffy sleeves (this was the early 90s). Instead, my mother pulled out an off-white cotton hippy dress with flared sleeves, with what looked like burlap around the cuffs. I think my mother could sense my disbelief and said something along the lines of “I knew you would be disappointed.”
In retrospect, I think this was the first time that I saw my mother as someone other than simply just my mother. Someone who had a life long before I came along.
Your dresses are stunning and your message is inspiring. Thank you so much for doing this.
Jean Hopkins, Montreal, Quebec
I have always had a penchant for designer clothes, but many years ago I was in a situation of a champagne taste on a beer budget, so I used to sew my clothes. This way, I was able to have lovely designer fabrics and by using Vogue patterns I felt as if I was wearing haute couture.
When I wanted a new dress, I would have a vision in my mind of what the outfit should look like. I would then find the fabric and now my problems started. I wanted the dress to have a particular look and I could not find a pattern. I had no training in dress designing so I would make the dress to my needs by buying many patterns and by using the sleeves from one, the body from another, the neck line from another. I would create my own design. That’s how “The Little Green Dress” was created.
I was invited to go to a dinner and theatre. I wanted to look lovely, so, I needed a new dress. I found a wonderful celadon green wool crepe fabric and Emilo Pucci (like) silk for the lining with the same celadon green in the print. I was off and running.
I have always loved the Elizabethan style and decided I wanted that beautiful sleeve on my dress – long, draped wide at the wrist and coming to a point so my gorgeous fabric would show when I moved my arms and my hands as I talked and ate dinner.
The neck was square and low on the bust line. The body of the dress was A-line which was very flattering. This was in the 70s so it was a respectable length mini. I thought I was so sexy.
I remember receiving many compliments on my beautiful dress, and of course I would never let anyone know it was home made, that would have defeated the whole purpose. I was proud of this dress. The color and design was wonderful. I wore “The Little Green Dress” many times and always felt like a queen.
Eileen Ebin, Florence, Italy
The dress I have in mind is a dress in dreams and for the future. Over the last few weeks I’ve been constructing this dress with someone who lives overseas. This dress is kind of a personal fantasy but I wanted to share it.
Because he is far away we sometimes create these fantastical settings where we meet. So far, Venice is a favorite. Here are some of his words: “I saw you in your blue dress, simple, sometimes to just above the knee, sometimes the neck gathered, swooping and low. Sometimes the dress is long, the back open and asymmetrical with a weight of fabric emphasizing movement towards your hips. In both cases you are turning – slow and again and again toward me, the weight of your hair echoing that of the fabric. Sometimes in bright sunlight, as if the blue has replaced the floral dress of your Venetian dream. And then in darkness, a faint silver thread catching my attention as it runs through the length of the dress.”
“My mind is drifting to that red/brown room we haven’t visited in a while. Standing close together, hands by our sides but fingers entwined; our lips are just brushing, feeling the breath pass between and into us. Your black dress is blue, its neck slung low in folds of a fabric that is almost liquid. There’s a diamond-sharp glint in your eyes and a peach-soft smile on your lips.
“Our eyes close and all the world falls away.”
Sarah Cullen, Toronto, Ont.
During my teens, in the war years, I spent two summers working in the Niagara Peninsula as a “Farmerette” which was part of the Ontario Farm Service Force. Students picked strawberries and swayed on 20-foot ladders up in the cherry, plum and peach trees, thinning and picking. We were paid 25 cents an hour and had to pay $4.50 a week for room and board. It was hard work but we had a lot of fun! There were 12 camps in the Peninsula with 20-40 girls in each.
We swam in Lake Ontario and hitchhiked everywhere. Most drivers recognized our OFSF badges. Going to Buffalo was always special and on one trip I spied a spiffy red and white dress that I just had to have. You weren’t supposed to take such things across the border, so I wore it under my outfit and had no problem.
I thought I wouldn’t have a chance to wear the new dress until I got home to Toronto but, much to my surprise, the camp director told me that they were having a Miss Farmerette contest in St. Catharines and I had been picked to represent our camp. My first thought was, “Great, I have my new red and white dress.”
The pageant was held in a bandstand in a park and the farmers brought truckloads of Farmerettes from the area to cheer the 24 contestants. It was such an exciting evening. The judges eliminated half and then reduced the number to five and then to three.
I thought, “Is this still me, parading around in my red and white dress?” I wasn’t at all disappointed when I came second. I was just so overwhelmed by the event.
Of course, there was much excitement when I got back at the camp. One of my friends asked, “Massey, how did you do it?’ I simply said, “It was the dress that did it.” And with that I pulled out wads of toilet paper from my bra amid gales of laughter and shouts of “cheater” but, for me, that dress and that evening were the highlight of my young life.
Carol Barrett, Toronto, Ont.