My freshman year of college was a downward spiral with my anorexia growing stronger each day. One dream that I thought of both to roll myself out of bed to face the day and to limit the food I consumed was treating myself to a red dress. The goal of losing enough weight to be worthy of this was constantly on my mind.
I hated clothing shopping until the age of 18. Even now, the process overwhelms as the store speakers blast music, clothing colors and textures make my head ache, and people jabbering frighten me. But as my freshmen year continued, I began to shop for clothing at Goodwill and other thrift stores by myself (no Mom involved) for the first time. This was some of the only free time that I had from homework. At first, buying new outfits was a necessity because of the changes in my body. However, I slowly began to like finding my own style and redoing my wardrobe. Despite the darkness in this time of my life, being able to blossom in this area and make my own fashion decisions was rather fun. Self-hate ate away at me as the anorexia intensified, but a new confidence in styling myself as a woman grew.
However, I never bought myself a red dress. For one thing, money is not something most college students have. Secondly, part of me wanted it to be a gift from someone else. Daydreams of my crush of five years bringing me the dress and begging me to take care of myself filled my mind. Thirdly, the weight that I lost never felt like enough to merit a this reward.
The biggest reason that I did not buy it was that I was not willing to settle. This dress needed to be perfect. It could not be too scandalous, but it must be alluring. I wanted to feel like a diva, a movie star, someone worth knowing when I walked into a room. It had to be the right color of red – not fire engine bright or darkened maroon but the color of love, excitement, passion, power, and confidence. In it, I would transform from the mousey, overweight girl who attempted to hide in the corner to a strong, beautiful woman who commanded the presence of those around her.
Writing this, I feel awfully silly and quite ashamed. Who am I to want such things? Is it prideful and wrong? These fears have haunted me for years when I dreamed about being someone else who was confident and gorgeous. So I have always remained silent for fear of judgement and ridicule.
Then, my friend chose me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. The dresses were to be red. I did not know if I should be overjoyed or miserable. This was the chance to make my dream come true or have it shattered as I realized that confident woman was not me.
At the dress shop, I tried on the first dress which was blue but could come in red. The minute I looked in the mirror, I knew; this was my dress. One of the few moments in my life that I have felt beautiful was right then. Although I tried other styles, the first dress stayed imprinted in my mind.
At the wedding, I felt similar. Eating was difficult, and I felt anxious throughout the weekend. But that dress gave me a new air of sophistication and boldness. Later, I wore it to see the second part of The Hobbit for the midnight premier with some friends. Once again, the strange feeling of confidence crept into me.
Last night, I went to a film festival at my school. At this fancy red-carpet event, everyone dresses up and looks lovely. So, I pulled out my red dress again. Wearing it felt so wonderful. School has been much better this past year, but low self-esteem still haunts me. However, having that dress on seems to almost transform me into a different person. Just for a little while, I feel worth having friends instead of being a complete failure. And perhaps I feel even (a little bit) beautiful.
Clothing does not make us who we are, but it can express elements of ourselves. Wearing my red dress taps into a part of me that terrifies me but also gives me great joy and hope. I look forward to the next time I get to wear it.