Dirndl skirts were the rage the year I entered junior high school. Last night while watching an inane sitcom whose name I can’t even recall, I flashed on the grey wool dirndl with matching vest my mother made me that fall. I don’t know why this memory surfaced when it did. I’ve a sneaking hunch there’s more attached to it which will come to me in dribs and dabs, as most unwanted memories do.
I loved that outfit, that much I remember. Funny, I haven’t thought of it for decades. But now at the slightest memory I relive that first day of junior high, wearing my new outfit quite proudly, for my mother was an excellent seamstress. No one could guess it was homemade. I liked how the skirt flared out from the gathered waist, making me feel very feminine. My nylons (this was during the pre-pantyhose era!) swished ever so faintly against the lining of the skirt, and I walked through the halls of my school with the slightest bit of confidence, because I was wearing a trendy, brand-new outfit. The cotton blouse I’d picked for under the vest was of the palest pink. Maybe, just maybe, my new disguise would cover all the ugliness inside of me which I always tried so desperately to hide. Maybe just by wearing what all the cool girls were wearing my inner ugliness would be absorbed into the very material of the dirndl and vest, and I would actually become one of them. It’s not so much that I wanted to be a part of the cool clique. It’s more like I just didn’t want my odd-man-out status in society to be readily apparent to anyone glancing my way. For this one day, I roamed the halls of school ignoring the panic swelling within (how would I ever find all my classes or remember where to find my locker?), pretending a nonchalance lent me by the wearing of my new outfit.
The memory is bittersweet, for of course no outer covering could absorb or hide my deep rooted deformities. I was damaged goods and I knew it–but I didn’t know why I was so deeply flawed, or just how permeating the damage. That knowledge would take a lifetime, and I’m still learning.
Right now I’m taking a little moment to savor the memory of that outfit, and the pure pleasure in wearing nylons on my bare legs for the very first time.
(My skirt was shorter, as was the current fad, and minus the ruffle.)