May 11, 2021

WHEN YOU GO FORMAL

When I was a teenager, I enjoyed dressing up in a formal or semiformal dress.  There was some kind of “unwritten policy” change about the time I was a junior in high school.  Our strongly Southern Baptist community frowned on ballroom dancing in a big way—and the high school wouldn’t allow annual spring proms.  The closest thing was a “sock hop” in the gym.  We weren’t Baptist but my mother didn’t think dancing was a good idea either.

The mom of Van McAmish, one of my classmates, had a dance studio downtown.  She taught ballet and tap—and ballroom dancing.  So most of my friends were ready to party when the dancing ban was lifted. 

My only experience with the fancy dresses was wearing them for my spring piano recitals.  Usually Mother and I would go shopping in Chattanooga to pick out a pastel “ballerina length” dress—usually taffeta covered with layers of nylon net.  This light lavender one was a favorite!  I wore it for my “certificate piano recital” during high school.  My friends Barbara and Tina and I had completed all the years of lessons offered in Athens.  We were to give one final recital—just the three of us—and each had some fairly complicated pieces to memorize and play.  My big number (some 15 pages long!) was Rossini’s William Tell Overture!  It was quite a workout—and we all felt we’d earned our certificates.

When I was a student at Lipscomb, they too banned school dances, but did have occasions for wearing those fancy clothes—the Junior-senior banquet, and attendants in the annual Homecoming and May Day festivities. The second photo is of Fletcher Srygley and me when we were attendants in the Lipscomb Homecoming court our senior year. This vivid green taffeta and lace dress was my favorite one ever! Photos of the Homecoming Queen and her court were taken at an antebellum house near Franklin—and whenever I drive past it, I remember the fun of going there to pose for these photographs.

Years later, Mother used pieces from many of my taffeta dresses to make a Victorian crazy stitch Christmas tree skirt.  Each year when I pull it out for my tree, I look at the fragments of dresses I loved to wear!   

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