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Alice Carey Reflects on Her Mother's Vintage Dress

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Each time I get together with Alice Carey, she pulls out the most marvelous pieces of clothing from her wardrobe. Alice has a way with clothes-- she can swiftly turn an old men's suit jacket into the most elegant coat, just by adding a few bakelite buttons and a brooch. This past weekend Alice was dying to show me a dress of her mother's that she brought back from Ireland. Check out her story below and for more of  her writings you can find her book HERE.

 I’ve wanted Ari to photograph me in this dress for a long time.  You see it was my Mother’s, and it’s the only thing of hers that I own.  So a few weeks ago I brought it to New York from Ireland, where she was born.

The buttery yellow Irish linen, made even more buttery from the sun as I examine it here on the bed, hasn’t faded.  The Deco styling echoes the 1920s and made me think of the Empire State Building.  And on closer inspection, it appears to be handmade with the exception of the help of a sewing machine for belt hooks, two snazzy ‘V’ darts running from bust to waist and repeated down from the shoulders.  Also two similar lines from waist to just above the hem that must have given kick room to show off shoes – perhaps brown and white spectators.  Everything else seems to be hand sewn.

It’s just a dress. Yes.  Worth several hundred dollars in a Vintage store today.  Yet, I’m left with thinking, who was that young woman (younger than I am now) who made this dress?  I don’t know.  My Mother died when I was barely out of my teens.  When I was a child, one didn’t ask about the past.  It would have been rude.  So the young woman who made that dress, wasn’t the mother I knew who worked as a maid for the rich.  And so the memories I’m left with are those of her clothes, always bought at the great New York department stores – Bonwits, Bergdorfs, Altmans, Tailored Women.  On sale of course.  Then again, wearing a Hattie Carnegie to Mass no one knew the difference but she and I.