The red dress was a gift from my husband, bought at the Pike Place Market years ago. Its vibrant tie-died color stretches down its ankle length fabric. I loved it but it was not an everyday kind of dress. Its boldness called out for special occasions.
It was in the pile of clothes to leave in Seattle as we began our new life on the road. Living in 21-foot travel trailer meant every item had to earn a place in our new home. Qualifiers were beauty and utility; ideally both in the same item.
The beauty of the red dress was clear. The utility of it, however, was a stretch. We’d be in campgrounds and RV parks most of the time.
Then, I redefined utility. It’s so easy to let others decide what is useful for us in our lives. Starting this new chapter in our lives was an act of resistance to those voices of ageism and scarcity that would encourage us to value safety over living a meaningful life.
I decided the red dress was what I would wear as we left Seattle to begin our adventure.
Our first stop was just over the mountains to Ellensburg to see a friend who was visiting there from Florida. It can be helpful to have your first step of a big life change be a small step. As we parked at the campground, I helped Bill set up while wearing my red dress.
Early the next morning I went outside our trailer to journal and Karen stopped by to introduce herself. Karen was one of a group of people who were camped around us. They had all attended Central Washington University and gathered yearly to celebrate their continuing friendship.
“I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed seeing you in your red dress yesterday,” she said. “Every woman should have a red dress like that. I am going to buy myself one.” We talked of the roles women are given and how easily it is to lose oneself. We agreed that a red dress could be a helpful reminder that, first of all, we belong to ourselves.
The red dress, it turns out, is both beautiful and utilitarian.