When I was very young, my favorite thing about Christmas was the costume I knew would be under the tree every year, wrapped in the gold paper with silver ribbon that was my grandmother’s trademark. She spoiled me rotten. One year I got a merry go round – a real one with four painted horses big enough for my friends and I to ride. I got stuffed ponies the size of real ones, motorized Stuz Bearcats I drove up and down the driveway, a three-story log house filled with tiny Steiff animals. But the costumes were the thing. I opened them up first so I could put them on and wear them for the rest of the day and to the Christmas Night bash my parents always threw for the neighbors.
Over the course of many Christmases I was: a cowgirl with a short skirt and boots a la a junior Dale Evans; an Indian chief with a buckskin suit and full-blown headdress, a ballerina with a pink tulle skirt and toe shoes. I have a vague recollection of some Heidi-esque Alpine get-up, and then there was my favorite, a gypsy outfit with white organza puffed sleeves, a black velvet bodice embroidered in gold sequins, and a multi-colored striped satin skirt. Looking back on it now, it was the stuff of a John Galliano fever dream.
By the time I was around eleven, she started buying me real clothes that my mother sorely wished were still costumes. She gave me a floor-length plaid wool hostess skirt that matched my mother’s so that we could both wear them on Christmas night. But then I insisted on wearing mine to 6th grade with the ruffled poet’s blouse that was also under the tree. The year my mother was most horrified was the year I got the pair of fluffy powder blue angora pants with a matching tunic top that was shot through with silver lurex threads and turned me into a holiday version of Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver (or my father’s secretary who memorably wore a lame pantsuit to the Reed-Joseph Christmas party). Not yet being in possession of evening shoes, I took a tip from Glamour magazine and spray-painted a pair of old clogs silver. I wore that outfit to school too, as well as to every party we were invited to.
The effect of the regrettable blue ensemble was the same as my beloved gypsy dress, which is the same as what really fabulous, extravagant clothes can do even now. It allowed me to be somebody else – in that particular case, a grown-up. My most fervent wish in those days was to somehow wake up and be 25, or maybe even 30, and my grandmother’s wildly indulgent and altogether inappropriate gifts allowed me to be transported there for at least a little while.
I was thinking about all this when I looked at the clothes in “Bright Young Things” in Fetch this week. I would bet money that if Juney Bloom’s sequined gold apron had existed in my grandmother’s time, it would have been wrapped and under our tree, and she would have loved Bonnie Young every bit as much as I would have loved being in Bonnie’s ruffled gold Zazni dress. One of my favorite photographs of the two of us was taken at our house in Mississippi on Christmas morning and contains much the same palette. I was in my sequined gypsy dress and she was in an Oriental gold brocade dressing gown with frog closures. Like most of us, we both adored to dress up and be transported.