Thursday, October 2, 2008

How A Cup(s) Saved the Junior Prom

Cowboy up, kids! One more comment to move on...

Ah, the days of trying too hard and stil not getting it right.

I don't miss them.

Last night was the So You Think You Can Dance show in L.A. (great show, by the way). And man, was it ripe for people-watching. Kenny and I decided to go casual because we have eighty thousand things to do this week and if we tried to dress up for every single one of them, I would probably lose the will to live. Or at least ever leave the house in anything besides sweats again. So we showed up in nice jeans and dressy shirts. So did most of the crowd, but the outfits ran the gamut to cocktail dresses and designer sheaths.

One girl caught my eye. She was tall, flat-chested, with non-descript hair and features, maybe seventeen years old. She was wearing a light blue formal with rhinestone spaghetti straps and a wonky bubble hem. Her height made the whole thing seem too small. And her shoes...all wrong. They were a black strappy pair, probably bought for another number but drafted into service for her recycled prom dress. This was clearly a big night for her. She had the hot ticket to a fancy LA theater and there she was, completely out of her element, dressed in an ill-fitting outfit and looking distinctly uncomfortable . It made me smile.

Not a mean smile. More of a smile that said, "I invented awkward when I was your age", remembering back to my own formal dress disaster when I was an unformed seventeen-year-old at my first prom.

Eric White had asked me to go, and he was the captain of the water polo team. Cute, in a brainy, glasses-wearing kind of way. I hadn't been on many dates yet, so I was excited to go out with him. We'd gotten to know each other through our school's mock trial team.

That was a tough year financially for my parents, so to save money (and have a shot at getting something modest), my mom and I decided she would make my dress. We haunted several fabric stores until I found a deep purple velvet I just had to have. She tried to tell me that velvet doesn't work in May and that it's too hard to sew, but I insisted and she finally gave in because the price was right and I can be really annoying when I want something. She worked on it when she got a chance for the next couple of weeks, sometimes muttering dark curses under her breath about the slippery fabric. I just said, "Keep it up!" and scraped together borrowed shoes, a handbag, and rhinestone jewelry so I had something like an outfit. Getting a professional hairstyle and makeover was totally out of the question because our money-growing trees were in a serious drought, so my friend Amy agreed to come over and help me get ready since my mom and I were both hopeless with makeup. Left on my own, I bet I could have pulled of a very nice Cyndi Lauper tribute, which is always a bad idea but even more jarring during the grunge era.

I was excited, looking forward to the limo ride and dancing with friends. Then the night before the prom, my younger sister came to me and quietly told me that my mom, after accidentally burning a big iron mark into the velvet while pressing a hem, had uncharacteristically thrown the whole dress in the garbage in a fit of frustration and didn't know how to tell me that my dress was at the city dump and she felt really bad.

Now, mind you, I don't blame my mom. She'd never had a reaction that extreme to anything before, so I know she must have hated that velvet. And she tried to tell me. And ultimately she saved me from the disastrous faux-pas of velvet in the springtime.

But I had no dress.

I went in to talk to my parents that night after they got home from work. I didn't freak out, but I did need a dress. I couldn't cancel on Eric at the last minute. I mean, he's already ordered my corsage and a stylish purple cummerbund and all. My dad said I could have $200 and the car to try to find something the next day. The money was a huge sacrifice, but he didn't try to make either my mom or I feel bad.

My friend Amy and I spent the next day, (which fortunately was a teacher planning day so there was no school), tearing through three different malls in search of either a black or purple dress that fit my budget and my body, both modestly.

I finally found a purple number on a clearance rack in a juniors store. It wasn't ideal. It had sparkles (not a fan at the time) and poofy sleeves (still not a fan) and it was a little short. But I was stuck. I put it on hold and waited anxiously to drag my dad over to the mall to pay for it as soon as he got home.

I was pushing my timeline because my date was picking me up in less than an hour and I still had to do hair and makeup, so I hustled my dad through the parking garage and up to the store's register. He eyed the dress skeptically but couldn't really veto it at that point, so he handed over his charge card without a word. Now, the dress was supposed to be worn off the shoulder and needed a strapless bra. But #1, NO WAY was I asking my dad to take me last minute bra-shopping because we didn't have that kind of relationship and #2, I had every intention of wearing it with the sleeves up, anyway. I solved the bra problem by putting on one of my regular bras, pulling the dress's poofed sleeves up on top of my shoulders, and tucking the bra straps underneath the poofs.

We did our little picture song and dance at his parents' house, at our friends' houses, and I swear to you this is not a lie, each snap of the camera made my bra straps fall down. Deciding to MacGyver it, I snuck into a bathroom and just tucked the bra straps inside the band of the bra, off my shoulders so there would be no more slipping.

Well, ha!

By the time we got to our pre-prom dinner location, I had indeed foiled the bra straps. They definitely weren't slipping. No, by the time our meals arrived, my entire bra had slipped --all the way down around my waist.

I had no idea what to do. I wasn't close friends with the other girl on our double date and being on the shy side about stuff like having boobs, I didn't feel comfortable sharing my little problem with her. Finally, in an act of desperation, I excused myself to the restroom and took the stupid bra off and stuck it in my purse. The construction of the dress front and my own cursed A-cups conspired to make this actually work.

The rest of the night was fine. We danced, I was no longer stressed about my uncooperative support garments, and we had a great prom. My pictures are in storage or I'd you show the photographic evidence.

In fact, I decided it was a brilliant solution until my mom found my bra in my borrowed evening bag the next morning and nearly had a heart attack. But I reassured her my virtue was totally intact, I could still recite the pertinet sections of the church's "For the Strength of the Youth" pamphlet, and there was nothing more sinister at work than the fact that I was too flat chested to wear a makeshift strapless bra.

But the next year...I bagged prom all together and watched movies with my girlfriends. No evening bags or strapless bras required.


Annette Lyon said...

I had a pretty great prom, except for one thing. Let's just say that if I'd been blessed with A cups, it wouldn't have been problem.

From the time I tried on the dress to the day of prom, I swear the neckline dropped (or maybe I was just larger due to PMS expansion or something, I don't know), but I felt like I was spilling out all over the place and was horribly embarassed over it all night.

Be honored. YOU brought that out of me--a story I haven't told in fifteen years or so . . .

Kimberly said...

I went to ours with a bunch of gal pals in a dress my aunt made me and I hated. Another aunt did my hair and make up which I also hated. The boy I had a crush on was also there alone but I was too embarrassed to even say hi even though we were friends. One of the most miserable nights in my whole life - has made all the rest look good by comparison!

Your story made me giggle hugely though. I can just imagine your mum's reaction when she found that bra!

Alison Wonderland said...

My prom was pretty great, perfect dress and all that but sadly, I find now that I don't really have a story to tell about it because-- well, it was great just isn't interesting.

I love that your mom found your bra in your purse!

Heather of the EO said...

I can't believe you don't have photos with this post. Please pull them out of storage. Please. I want to study your size A's. Ha!

I hade a home-made dress one year too. the pictures are so hideous, I cannot share them. ever. the saggy dress looked ridiculous. ew.

charrette said...

Talk about wardrobe malfunction! What a hilarious story! Although I'm sure it was painful at the time.

My aunt picked out my first prom dress. (Remember Jessica McClintock?) I tried it on for my grandpa when he came for a visit and he took one look at the neckline (despite my A cups)and said, "Your heart's not in it." That one went back to the store, and, just like mom decided to make me one. Only it was perfect. I loved it.

Biggest problem that night was that my best friend went with the guy I was in love with...and I squirted water up my nose in the drinking fountain.

LisAway said...

Wow. Great story. Your poor mother with the dress! My mom had to make mine out of satin and organza, both impossible to work with (from what I hear, I certainly wouldn't know myself)! The whole bra fiasco with the finale of your mother finding it in your purse is priceless.

I started writing my prom story for SOS last week and realized that I need to do it over a few weeks. I don't think it'll be as interesting as yours, but I definitely need to have it written down to preserve for future generations,and I never even wrote about it in a journal or anything!!

Aubrey said...

Too funny :)

At my prom, I made the mistake of ordering something for dinner that came with garlic mashed potatoes. And not just any garlic; it was ATOMIC garlic. I mostly just pushed them around the plate, but even with the gum I chewed desperately in the car, there was still a lingering... odor. It's not like there was any chance that I was going to kiss the guy I went with, but I was afraid to even talk to him!

York and Cassie said...

Oh, Melanie. This was excellent. Thanks for sharing. My mom was still sewing my dress when my prom date arrived...but she did finish.

Nancy said...

Ohmigosh - In Canada they were called Formals. I remember my mom taking me to some strange foreign woman's place upstairs that had "inexpensive" dresses. I ended up with an orange one...the next year we altered it to a straight skirt, with sort of a bustle at the back. I did have long slinky white kid gloves - but I don't even look good in orange - never mind orange taffeta. I do have a picture...somewhere. The venue was great at a place called Casa Loma - a fairytale kind of castley place in Toronto. Orange is Martha's signature color or colour...however
Great story!