Love, Loss and What I Wore

Posted by Jill Chivers in My Story

Hello from our last day in beautiful Seattle!  What is that I see out my window — is that sunshine?  Yes, Seattle does have rain – no news flash there.  It also has plenty of other beautiful weather patterns as well as we discovered yesterday in the Pike Place Market.

We are up to blog #85 – I feel my goal of 100 blog posts during the 12 months of my challenge may just be achieveable – I can almost make out that #100 post ahead in the blurry distance.

Yesterday morning I had the enormous pleasure of being Margaret Larson’s guest on New Day NW.  Margaret is a respected journalist (Wiki says a “veteran of 25 years”) who has worked as a foreign correspondent, a Today Show anchor and a 20/20 reporter.  New Day NW is indeed new – only been on air for a few months — and Margaret brings such grace and intelligence to her interviews.  She is what I would call one switched on, smart lady.  Very funny, too.  And friendly.  And she was wearing turquoise.  All my favourite things in a person!

It was such a pleasure and an honour to be interviewed by her, and we’ve also been given an “open invitation” to visit again.  Very nice.  A small matter of that 16 hour plane journey from Australia to get back here to Seattle, but it’s great to know we were appreciated and wanted.

You can check out the New Day NW page or our Media page to see/read more of the interview.

Ok, so remember last time when I mentioned that I would be talking to you about Love, Loss and What I Wore?  The off-Broadway show that I saw in New York City last week?  Sure you do – who could forget that post from just a few days ago!

Love, Loss and What I Wore started its life as a journal of sorts.  Ilene Beckerman wrote the story of the significant events in her life, and what she was wearing when she experienced those things, and she wrote it mainly for herself and her granddaughter. 

She shared the manuscript with some friends, one of which sent it into a publisher.  This sounds all very easy and straightforward, doesn’t it?  Well, I’ve attended a few writing workshops in the last 18 months, and let me quietly share with you – getting a book published is considered to be hard work.  Stupendously difficult. Next to impossible. Gut wrenchingly, heart achingly challenging.

So to hear that one of Ilene’s friends just “sent the book off to a publisher” who then …. whammo … published it, seems… incredible.  Magical.  I’m sure there are a few steps (and possibly a few years) missing from that synopsis of how the book came into being.  I guess Love, Loss, What I Wore and what a Pain in the Proverbial it Was to Get This Published doesn’t really work so well as a title, right?

Good for her, of course.  It’s a great story and has morphed beautifully onto the stage, brought to life by the deft hands and defter minds of Nora and Delia Ephron.  Nora has brought us such classics as When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and most recently Julie & Julia.  She has a feel for writing stories about and for women.  Well, duh.

The cast of the show is rotating.  We had the Oct 6 – 31 cast.  A good cast to have.  A cast that will be talked about for years to come, for sure.

Here’s the cast poster to the left.  I only knew two of the 5 cast members from my own television and movie viewing (I used to watch a lot of “Law & Order” which Tovah Feldshuh featured regularly on).  But, instant recognition aside, they were all excellent.

Agent 99 (known in real life as Barbara Feldon) played the narrator, acting as the author of the story and keeping the story anchored.  Her performance was supported by a non-speaking crew member, who took giant cardboard etchings of outfits, drawn in colour and hanging from coat hangers, from a hanging rack on the side and brought them to the front as each story was told.

This is the first dress I ever chose for myself.  A pink cotton with a round white collar and peplum waist.  My father took me to Bloomingdales to buy it.  We were surrounded by sales women who wanted to help this tall, handsome man and this skinny gangly awkward kid.  That was me, the year after my mother died

or

Here is the dress I wore when I met my first husband at the Brooklyn USO dance.  Blue silk in an empire cut with a white bow right at the front.  How it moved when I walked – I felt like a princess in that dress! If only the marriage had lasted as long as that dress“. 

Or 

Here is the dress I wore when I was pregnant with my first child.  And my second.  And my third, fourth and fifth.  A blue jersey cross-over dress with orange decorative trim. It covered a lot of sick-up, that dress“.

Ok, I’m recalling those stories from memory so they may not be strictly accurate.  But you get the picture.   The stories were drawn from real life and the drawings were drawn by someone who probaby didn’t go to design school.   They were basic, like this one here to the left.   The drawings of the clothes weren’t the main point, the stories were, even though they take up most of the words in the title.

The stories were truly about love and loss.  Men featured in almost all of the stories.  Husbands (sometimes their own, sometimes someone else’s) featured, as did boyfriends and lovers.  Fathers of all variety (absent, grieving, not paying attention, re-marrying, handsome) came into many stories.  We never heard much about what they were wearing, with the exception of the black cowboy boots story. 

Naturally, women featured in the stories.  Mothers, grandmothers, sisters, friends and lovers. Madonna, who received a section all of her own.  We got to hear what they were wearing a lot of the time.

The four remaining cast members acted out, from a seated position, the stories of other women in a series of scenes.  So we heard Holly’s story, and Annie’s story, and Geralyn’s story.  Stories of love and loss.  Just like the title promised.

Stories of boyfriends who wouldn’t commit, even through a shared love of black cowboy boots and being followed halfway across the country. 

 Stories of wedding dresses the earth was scoured to find. 

Stories of 36C white lace bras, sent as a beautifully wrapped gift the night before a painful and terrifying mastectomy and reconstruction.

Stories of lost love, lost breasts, lost minds.  It was dramedy at its best.

In between the stories, themes organised around particular items of clothing were played out.  These were called the Clothesline.  These were universal themes:

  • the bra.  We heard about the ‘first one’ which amazingly, most women seem to remember the purchase thereof.  Nobody seems to have had a positive experience, either.  Mothers yelling across whole department floors “she needs a AAA” seem to feature in the telling of “first bra” stories.  We heard about fathers taking beet-red 13 year olds for their first fitting.  Then there were the analogies to two small triangles made out of handkerchief cotton tied together with string.  We also heard about mastectomy bras, and bras that produced mono-boobs.  All very fascinating and hilariously told.
  • the dressing room.  These stories had a focus on the distorting effects of the mirror and its capacity to render its occupant as impossibly short and stout.  No idea what they’re talking about there.
  • the closet.  Shouts of “I have nothing to wear!” were retold in surprisingly various ways.  Now this time, seriously – this is not something I can relate to.  Sure I laughed like everyone else – that nervous laughter of the unbelonged.  This is a tribe to which I do not belong. But many women do.  Most, it would seem. Universally, around the globe (or at least in Manhattan where the Ms’ Beckerman and Ephrons reside) women are looking into their wardrobes and lamenting the lack of options they seem to have.  How is this possible?  Well, I gots me a theory on that one, folks. 

Some women simply do not know how to shop — in proper stores, let alone their own wardrobes.  Yes, I fear it’s true!  How else can it be that they have wardrobes stuffed to the gills with clothing, yet nothing to wear?  Either our imaginations have failed us or our shopping habits have.  Stay with me for a minute longer here, ok?  We’re off-script (we’ll get back to the Clothesline in a sec) but there’s something important worth exploring here.

You can’t find whisky in a wine bottle, and you won’t find great outfits in a poorly stocked or misunderstood wardrobe.  I recently worked with a woman who had a great wardrobe and a rockin’ body, but she didn’t know how to make the most of either.  She constantly felt like she had nothing to wear, yet she had 4 full racks of hanging clothing and twice as much again in folding gear.  Great jackets – some never worn with tags still hanging off them.  I gave her three tips — that’s all.  Just three.  3 tips on how to work with her body and her colouring and on how to mix and match to access the hidden magic in her wardrobe.  Those 3 tips turned a wardrobe of nothing-to-wear’s into one that she’s now using 90% of and getting excited about.  She was amazed, floored, flabergasted.  My work there was done.

Back to the Clothesline.

  • black.  Ok, here’s the news here friends.  There is no “new” anything – black is and always will be … black.  Brown is not the new black, salmon is not the new black, zebra print is not the new black.  Slimming, sophisticated, capable of rendering you look as though you are in need of an urgent blood tranfusion due to its unique capacity to draw colour from certain faces — black stands alone.  Apart.  Aloof.  No wonder panthers favour it as opposed to those silly spots, rosettes and stripes that other big cats wear.

So, if you’re going to New York City and are looking for a fabulous off-Broadway experience, go see this play.

Sure, Billy Elliot and The Lion King have bigger theatres, bigger casts and bigger costumes. 

But this one has stories of shoes and sisters and Madonna.  Now, that’s an unbeatable combination.  Right?

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