Worn Stories

March 12th, 2015

I will never forget The Dress That Made Me Feel Beautiful. Worn only once, to my second high school mixer, it hung in my closet from my junior year until my parents sold the family house some three decades later, at which time it apparently just disappeared. I have to describe this dress: with three quarter-length sleeves cuffed in white, and a demure white collar, it had two layers of navy blue crepe skirting, with a dropped waist and a sash. This was the first “dressy” dress I had ever picked out on my own. 

The thing about The Dress, first of all, was that it was not the pale pink tent that I had worn to my first mixer with Sheffield Academy and that I was convinced scared away my freckled red-haired date—not that I minded much after I saw him dance. The second thing about The Dress was the look in the eyes of the boy at the Gunnery, my second mixer, who was matched with me strictly by height. I don’t know why, but something clicked, and the first thing he said to me, to my huge relief, was “I hate dancing. Let’s go take a walk.” And with that, and my obvious assent, we linked arms and spent the evening strolling arm in arm around the dark grounds of the young man’s boarding school.
To say that nothing happened would seem almost hilarious these days, except that nothing did, besides our shared and passionate discussion of Plato and the books we’d read and other schoolish stuff. We spent the entire hours of the dance at this, and walking, and by the time the bells rang to call everyone back to the buses, I knew, because after all, I was a teenage girl who had read books, what would happen. I also knew, because I was an avid fan of the advice columnist Ann Landers, that no self-respecting young girl allows a kiss on her first date.…

So what to do? Well, just as I was saying good-bye with sincere regret, the young man attempted to peck at my lips, and I rebuffed him by turning my cheek. I did not mean to hurt his feelings, but I knew that Ann Landers was watching me and would be proud. I scurried onto the bus, waving farewell, but my date was nowhere to be seen. I took my seat, feelings mixed about whether my rebuff had been a success or a failure. 

Then someone behind me spoke. “Good for you, Pammy. You didn’t kiss the black boy!” What? I looked at her and my classmate was smiling grimly. “You didn’t kiss that ___” and she used the terrible word I had never heard anyone say to my face.

In that moment, I knew that if I could, I would have raced off the bus and grabbed that young man and kissed him on the lips, and to hell with Ann Landers and her crappy advice that had just ruined my life. But it was too late to change anything. Too late to let him know why I had not kissed him, too late to kiss him in spite of my classmates, and too late to spite Ann Landers and my proper upbringing. Too late, too late, too late. I never wore that dress again.

Pamela Spiro Wagner ’75
Comment from brownalumnimagazine.com




The article of clothing that I cannot part with is my Pembroke sweatshirt. I bought it when I was a freshman (1962-63) or a sophomore (1963-64) at the Pembroke Bookstore, which was in the basement of Pembroke Hall, near our mailboxes.

I distinctly remember that they cost five dollars, but this one had a small cigarette burn at the bottom, so I got it for half price. I wore it for years, and it got pretty worn out—frayed at the collar and sleeves, stained all over because it had become part of my go-to outfit when I was house painting. It is at least fifty-one years old, and I plan to keep it forever. It helps me keep the memory of Pembroke alive.

I have a much newer (1990-ish) red Brown sweatshirt that I love and still wear a lot, but it does not hold the place in my heart that the Pembroke sweatshirt does.

Meryl Smith Raskin ’66
Comment from brownalumnimagazine.com




My “worn story” goes back to my days as a Brown student. While I do not recall the exact circumstances of how I came to possess it, I have long had a brown-colored sport jacket with the Brown name stitched in white on the breast pocket. I do recall that the jacket was not new when I acquired it, but had been worn quite a bit prior to my receiving it some forty years ago.

It has now traveled back and forth across the country during my numerous relocations, and has survived many years of (not so gentle) suggestions by mothers, girlfriends, and wives to donate and/or otherwise relinquish my ownership of said jacket. The fact that I know nothing about its previous owners or anything about its history makes it all the more intriguing and ultimately impossible to part with. It is, quite simply, a talisman of a time I’d like not to forget.

David Shapiro ’75
Comment from brownalumnimagazine.com

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Related Issue
March/April 2015