Saturday, June 18, 2011

Change of A Dress

One recent Friday, Mary Katherine wore Emma’s favorite dress from last summer to her out-of-uniform day at school. The next day, Angie wore Mary’s new black-and-white dress to her graduation and all-night party. Also that night, Mary Katherine’s friend Sulia wore Angie’s dress from homecoming to her prom. The next day, Emma wore Mary Katherine’s new flowered dress to a graduation party, then drove home by 6:15 so Mary Katherine could change immediately into the dress for a party she was attending that evening. Emma changed clothes, handed over the frock, and went back to her party, having dropped by home just for the garment hand-off.

This sort of activity is a fairly regular occurrence here in the People’s Republic of Womenswear, a classless and stateless society with free access to all articles of wearable consumption. Marx would be so proud, although he would probably disapprove of the amount of leg these girls display as somehow not in keeping with proletarian standards.

Perhaps Marx would observe that it’s because these girls have ready access to cheap goods (thanks to Everyday People and Savers), but it’s certainly true that they don’t engage in a capitalistic insistence upon private ownership. Clothes, accessories and shoes are freely offered up to siblings and visitors; and I often come upon a guest preparing to leave our house in an entirely different ensemble than the one in which she arrived. Olivia, who is frequently the recipient of largesse from the Mary Katherine Lending Library of Fashion Finds, will often show up for a visit with a large sack of previously borrowed items that she’s returning. Mary Katherine loves this, since she’s usually forgotten about the stuff by then, and says it feels just like Christmas.

My children's friends, I find, have a much better working knowledge of their possessions than I do. I was recently working at home when I received a phone call from Olivia, on her way to school.  “I need a bowler hat and a silver glove for a Michael Jackson skit at the talent show today,” she informed me. “They’re in Mary Katherine’s closet, top shelf, left side. Leave them in a bag on the front porch.”  (The make it snappy was implied, not actually spoken). Doubtful, I rummaged around where she’d told me to look, and sure enough, there was the stuff. I would have sworn an oath that we didn’t own any silver gloves, so it’s a good thing that the People’s Republic of Minneapolis doesn’t require inventory-related oaths from citizens, especially where matters of costuming are concerned.

Angela is departing for Rome in just a few weeks. Emma will be spending next year studying in Beijing. I wonder what next year will bring, when the pool of borrowables shrinks dramatically. When I find Mary Katherine schlepping around the house in my oft-mended and way-too-big-for-her yoga pants, I’ll know she’s truly desperate to wear something, anything, that doesn’t belong to her. Power to the people, Comrade Mary Katherine.

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