The Dress

Her mother had sewn the dress. The ivory beading and lace aged it and the straps felt too loose, yet every detail about the gown seemed to represent Ruth exceedingly well, even its many faults and imperfections. Sharp pins sat between her focused lips as she bent down and performed the fruitless task of marking a hem on her own. Among the many regrets in her head, her failure to find a new tailor in time seemed to be the most relevant, for it was less than a week before the wedding and she was sporting an ill-fitting dress and dealing with the repercussions of her mother’s disapproval. Ruth always knew her mother to be confusing. Initially, Ruth perceived the dress as a representation of accepting a union that her mother had, for so many years, relentlessly rejected: a peace offering. Yet, the rolled eyes, tongue-in-cheek remarks, and familiar decrescendos of disappointed sighs remained, gradually clustering into a volatile ball of pent-up emotions to be unleashed at the perfect time: two weeks before the wedding.

Crooked pins constructed a shape that could barely constitute as a circle around the hem of the dress. The greatest loss that came with her mother’s abandonment was the sudden disappearance of a perfectly good and experienced seamstress. While the techniques were basic and easy to learn, the material of the gown was thick and coarse and to deal with it required knowledge beyond Ruth’s elementary school embroidery lessons. Ruth had hemmed a single pant leg by hand once in high school, so she foolishly concluded that this would be no different. A single glimpse at the dress in the mirror caused Ruth to resign and, with a huff, she put it back on a hanger with a roughness incompatible with the delicate nature of the gown. To Ruth, the dress was a symbol of her mother’s continued unreasonable grudge towards her soon-to-be husband, the expectations she could never meet or exceed, and the impossible choice between the man she loved and the mother who formed her. To Ruth’s mother, the dress was simply a symbol her tireless devotion to her daughter, a devotion she believed Ruth would never understand nor appreciate correctly. On its own, the dress was only a few alterations short of just right, but without the magic touch of its creator, would only serve to be an embarrassment at the wedding and a telltale sign that, as all of Ruth’s guests  suspected, that the family was just as dysfunctional as they had seen it be even in the early years of Ruth’s adolescence.

Ruth’s father stood dumb amidst the entire situation. For years, he had piled band-aids on top of this ever-growing tear in the family, failing to properly mediate between the mother and daughter pair. Sentiments such as: “it will fix itself”, or “it’ll blow over” were common sputterings of words that her father repeated so excessively, eventually causing each syllable to feel alien in Ruth’s ears. Unlike her dress, her father’s suit for the wedding fit perfectly, for her mother had sewn and fitted the outfits for each groomsman, bridesmaid, in-law, flower girl; perhaps even the priest’s vestments were immaculately fitted before Ruth’s mother even thought about fixing the final alterations on the wedding gown. The dress, instead of a peace offering, was a tool of rebellionthe outspoken “speak now” to the arbitrary “If anyone objects to this marriage…” statement one hears at a wedding. Her mother would not forever hold her peace; instead, her truest feelings were sewn into each stitch of this garment, finished and unfinished. Her father would unfairly be sporting an impeccable suit, arm-in-arm with the bride who, in turn, would be adorned in an unfortunate excuse for a wedding gown.

It was clear to Ruth that her mother was pointing fingers, placing blame on her daughter. Yet it all seemed too late and ill-timed, for the wedding was surely happening, and Ruth would most certainly marry this man, irregardless of her mother’s presence or lack thereof. This full manifestation of disapproval had many opportunities to make itself known, and Ruth had always wondered why it has remained hidden away: silent for years. Ruth had known her fiance going on eight years now, and had loved him unconditionally for five. Ruth’s mother had an adequate three years to communicate any gripes she hard regarding their relationship. Instead, Ruth’s mother chose a path of martyrdom and silence for those eight years, deciding that she’d let her daughter make her own mistakes, confident that, somewhere down the road, she would recognize that this man was a mistake, come back home, apologize to her mother, and live a better life. Ruth knew her mother was only doing what she thought was bestwhat she thought to be right. She could never be angry at her for her mindset, one Ruth knew could never be reformed or changed. Truly, the only thing that Ruth was angry at her mother for, was her timely departure before the wedding, and her refusal to complete the dress.

With unresolved thoughts, Ruth bent down to the hem of the dress and began to remove the pins, restoring the dress both to its original beauty and its original unbearable length and fit. With the same decrescendo of disappointment she had inherited from her mother, Ruth let out a great sigh and began marking the hem again, forcing thin metal pins through the fabric. Almost immediately, a doorbell chime interrupted her, causing her to stick her finger with a pin. Grudgingly, she went to answer the door, finding herself face to face with a crudely dressed delivery man, a package of the utmost fragility held in his rough hands. The box itself was in pristine condition; as the stranger plopped it into Ruth’s hands and continued on with his day, her eyes traveled, searching for any indication of a sender. A fruitless search: only furthering Ruth’s curiosity. Demonstrating a carefulness that the delivery man lacked, Ruth peeled open the coarse box, revealing a fresh, blindingly white wedding dress. Ruth’s thoughts immediately pinpointed one of her parents are the culprit, for she knew collaboration between the two was unlikely. If it was sent by her father, it was only another band-aid, temporarily holding the seams together. However, if the unknown sender were her mother, this new dress was her best effort at an apology-an attempt to stand firm by her beliefs but still, with gritted teeth as always, support her daughter. Her mother’s perfect knowledge of Ruth’s measurements was reflected in the perfect fit of the gown, yet the seams felt foreign and unfriendly on her body. The disappointment in the threads seeped into her skin and constricted her waist, creating a beautiful figure in the mirror, but keeping the bubbling up confusion and emotions tied down.

Yet, on her own, the new dress was the solution to a problem and the final piece needed to complete a ceremony which was the introduction to the rest of her life. Acknowledging she might never know and not seeking to find out, Ruth removed the new dress, placed it on a hanger, and left for lunch, deciding that she would let the problem fix itself.

Post written by Gabby Banniqued

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