Yes, she's strange and different...but not THAT different.

05 November 2010

The Red Dress

At the end of May this year, Jenny the Bloggess initiated a project on her blog which she called The Traveling Red Dress. In that blog post, Jenny wrote
"… this week the red dress will begin a journey, traveling from city to city so that other people can wear it and love it and feel as special and vivid and dynamic as they already are. Because sometimes we all need a little red dress to remind us of that.”
(You can read Jenny's whole post here). And I knew that I had to be one of the women who wore that dress and had the pictures to prove it. I’m not sure why I knew that but I know it was related to all the changes that were taking place in my life.

Sometime back in the spring, about three months before the Red Dress came to be, I realized that it was time for me to move on and finish the transition to womanhood that I had started ten years ago. I won’t go into details here about how that happened or what transpired or what it meant because while it’s an amazing ongoing story, it’s not this story. The only reason I mention it at all is because a number of profound and enlightening things occurred in my life between that moment of realization and my reading about Jenny’s Red Dress, things that made me realize that the Universe speaks to us all if we will only listen. I was (and still am) learning to listen, and one of the things that I “heard” was that I should wear the dress.

So I wrote to Jenny and gave her a rough idea of why I wanted to wear the Red Dress. I said:
“I feel like I'm putting on my own red dress a little at a time now as I move forward with finally finishing my transition to womanhood over the next year or so. I finally figured out that I AM worth the effort of no longer lying about who I am, and I AM worth the effort of having a skin that fits the me on the inside. No, I didn't feel guilty about deciding to move forward with my true life - and I'd made that decision months and months ago - but your post somehow has given substance to the whole rightness of what I'm doing to finally achieve the life I have wanted for so long and that I believe that I deserve. In the end, I think it's all about self-confidence and self-worth: we need to have a very well developed sense of both of those things in order to be truly happy. And that it's OK to do things that make you happy.”
Her entire response was: “I love this! And I think we need to get you in that dress.” I've learned that Jenny doesn’t believe in wasting words in her emails.

And that’s where things sat for months. We both had other commitments and then it got too hot to be outside in a red formal gown taking pictures in the Texas summer and then she moved and I got hurt skating (again) and the Red Dress was still a concept for me and not yet a reality. However, my transition continued to move forward and some more amazing things happened. Again, that’s not this story and it’s only pertinent because one of the amazing things that happened during that time was that I stopped seeing a guy in my mirror. When I lost that last internal image of masculinity, other people noticed it, too. I was asked more than once if I’d cut my hair or was wearing my makeup different or had gotten a facelift or something because all those people saw me as looking better. And affairs concerning us getting together remained on hold until a couple of weeks ago, when Jenny and I finally managed to solidify plans as to a place and a date and a time for me to finally wear the Red Dress.

That’s why last Wednesday, October 27, shortly after 9:00 AM, Jenny and I met in Gruene (pronounced "Green", y'all), Texas a small touristy town on the outskirts of the Texas Hill Country. She brought the Red Dress and a rose from her garden; I brought eagerness. We ended up going to the general store to use their restroom because in addition to changing clothes, I also had to pee. Which I did. Then Jenny handed me the enormous airy mound of red fabric that was the dress, and I could almost feel the warmth and the special magic of it while simply holding it. I took the dress into the restroom, stripped off my jeans and blouse and I. Put. It. On. This was it! I felt my face light up in big smile as I pulled the dress up and managed to fasten the top hook in the back of its corset top. It was beautiful and it made me beautiful. I could feel it.

Jenny had to fasten up the rest of the hooks in back and when she was done, I was actually wearing THE Red Dress! It fit me as if it had been made specifically for me. It was perfect. It was magical. I gathered up my discarded jeans and blouse and with the long voluminous skirt of the dress draped over my arm, we proceeded to parade back through downtown Gruene to our cars. I put my clothes in my car, Jenny got her camera out of hers and we proceeded to take pictures of me wearing the Red Dress in several places in Gruene. One of them is above, and if you're interested, the rest of the pictures are online and in my Photos on Facebook and they’re great, but the important thing about them to my mind is the happiness I felt that shows through in each of them.

I cannot tell you how amazingly awesomely fantastic it was to wear that dress! It made me a powerful and beautiful woman, and it gave me something I'm not even sure I knew that I needed - a sense of my own personal femininity and the knowledge that I've joined the sorority of women. It's just another example of the Universe showing me that I need to trust in what is happening in my life. This was not a feeling of confidence, because that’s something I’ve never really lacked; this was a feeling of arrival and belonging. If I had worn the dress back in May, I don't think that sense of my belonging to womanhood would have happened because I still saw a vestige of the boy I was raised as in the mirror. But by last Wednesday, the boy had been gone for a while; there's no more "guy" in my mirror. And putting on the dress just helped to cement that actuality into place in my psyche. I don't know how many other women have worn the dress and had their pictures taken, but I'm pretty sure that for all of us it was magical to do so. I know Jenny tells everyone that they're beautiful in the dress, and I know that we all felt exactly that way - beautiful – when wearing that dress and hearing her say it. Because we were and we are.

Ultimately it had to end, and I sadly took off the dress. I actually changed clothes standing next to my car in the parking lot (HI, GRUENE!) but even after I got back into my jeans and blouse, I could still feel the dress on me. If I stop and feel for a moment, it’s still there now. Magic abides. We ended the morning having coffee and muffins and talking for a while afterward. I’ll admit that I did most of the talking (a bad habit that friends can attest to) and to her credit, Jenny looked like she was listening to most of what I said. I don’t think I saw her eyes glaze over or anything. We finally hugged good-bye and went our separate ways but the dress, the morning, the feeling and most especially, Jenny who made it all possible, will always be with me. Every experience we have changes us, sometimes subtly, sometimes greatly. This experience was a big one for me, and it will forever be a part of me because it served its purpose: it let me recall just how special a person, a woman, I am.

Thank you, Jenny.

UPDATE: The Traveling Red Dress is now a movement! It's a Flickr group and in Forbes and on Facebook. Women everywhere are sending other women their own Red Dress to wear and photograph and pass along. I've sent the only red formal gown I owned (and the first long formal I ever wore out in public) to a beautiful woman in Minnesota who will ultimately pass it along to someone else. You can read all about the continuing saga of the Red Dresses here.

  • On 11/08/2010 7:49 AM, Blogger Jenny, the Bloggess said…

    You're welcome, sweetness.

  • On 11/08/2010 10:34 AM, Anonymous Wendi said…

    How wonderful. I'm sure Gruene didn't know what hit it when you two arrived. :)

  • On 11/08/2010 12:43 PM, Blogger Jami said…

    But you know that "Being run out of Gruene" just doesn't have the impact of "Being run out of Deadwood" or "Being run out of Dodge" does.

  • On 11/16/2010 7:11 PM, Anonymous kris said…

    This is actually the first post of your that I read. But I didn't know you well, and I felt like an intruder a little bit. Unsure of my words on such a personal and triumphant post.

    As I said, I didn't know you at all.

    I didn't want to gush and have you think me a fool.

    And I didn't want to mock the concept of the red dress (as I have done elsewhere), because I could see how very very important it was to you.

    So I snuck away without commenting.

    I am all kinds of honored that you asked me to come and take another look at this post now.

    Because I know you a little bit now.

    A beautiful spirit. A beautiful woman.

    A brave woman.

    Braver than I am.

    No red dress for me.

    I have more fears where my femininity is concerned than you do, I believe.

    Thank you, babe.

    And congratulations.

    You are all kinds of awesome.

    And the happiness I see in those photos?

    That's just magic.

    Big love to you, babe.

    Big love.

  • On 11/16/2010 8:04 PM, Blogger Jami said…

    Thank you for coming back. For leaving some of yourself here. For your compliments. And for your love, of course.

    For what it's worth, I've never thought anyone was a fool for speaking honestly. And my sense of my own femininity is probably distilled from not being able to express it for 60 years and still not giving it up.

  • On 11/17/2010 12:27 AM, Blogger The Empress said…

    That dress is magical. How does it fit everyone and how does everyone look beautiful in it?

    It looks like it was made for you.

  • On 11/17/2010 9:08 AM, Blogger Jami said…

    @Empress - Thanks for stopping by and for your comment!

    As for a physical fit, the bodice of the dress is a corset with 2 rows of eyes and is slightly elastic, so that accommodates some differences. I know that the fit has also been tweaked in some other cases with tape, staples and bungee cords, depending upon the circumstances. For me (and I'm sure others) the dress was a perfect fit.

    Emotionally, the dress is a perfect fit for every woman who puts it on. It makes everyone look beautiful because they feel beautiful wearing it. The concept of the dress is to celebrate yourself. If you put this dress on with that in mind, for that reason, you can't help but be beautiful. And happy.

  • On 11/17/2010 12:11 PM, Anonymous Jaime said…

    This was a beautiful post. Every woman deserves to feel the way you feel in those photos. There are times I have my own little red dress moments and they are priceless.

  • On 11/19/2010 10:21 PM, Blogger tripleZmom said…

    That was a wonderful post and. . . oh wow, those photos are just phenomenal. Happiness shows.

  • On 11/23/2010 1:18 AM, Blogger laurenne said…

    Wow! This is great. You are truly inspiring and one beautiful woman!

  • On 11/01/2011 9:05 PM, Blogger Mocha said…

    Magic abides.

    That is just about the most lovely truth ever.

  • On 1/30/2012 3:34 PM, Anonymous Teri said…

    This is beautiful. I have a sister who is transitioning to womanhood and I hope someday we will don red dresses together and feel just as special. Thank you for posting!


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