I still vividly remember how I felt in my first formal dress. It was 1999, and I was an androgynous, 15-year old junior with a pixie cut and very little patience for anything beyond my everyday all-black ensemble and Doc Martens. I was going to prom with my friends; I didn’t have a date. The reality was actually that I never had had a real date—I didn’t even have a driver’s license. But I did have a loving and patient mom who drove me from home in central Vermont to nearly the Canadian border in pursuit of a dress.
We went to the largest bridal shop at the time, as I was a hard fit—already over 6’2” tall with the build of a three-season athlete. I don’t remember how many dresses I tried on, but I do remember the process was frustrating. I felt squeezed, hemlines were too short, and I couldn’t even visualize in my head what I wanted to look like or what I should look like—largely because the selection was limited to a handful of samples (the dresses that were abandoned with extra length tacked on). The dress I took home was the last one I tried, and the only one that came remotely close to fitting—a bias-cut, butter yellow satin gown with iridescent bodice flocking; spaghetti straps so thin they were almost nonexistent; and enough extra length to almost touch the floor as I stood barefoot. The important point was that in it, I looked like a girl—at the time, not an insignificant accomplishment. And I did feel pretty, though not entirely myself—and also not decidedly comfortable.
Fifteen years later, age and the inevitability of body changes have made me much more confident in experimenting with looks that toe an androgynous line—I like a bit of mussing, a bit of toughness, and a bit more masculinity in my outfits. I have a renewed appreciation for black, Doc Martens, and pixie cuts. And if I could write a letter to my 15 year old self, I would advise her to wear exactly what made her feel most authentically Kacy to the prom. And also let her know that when she hit 30 and required eveningwear, she’d have a surplus of options by way of Long Tall Sally.
I chose Long Tall Sally’s Metallic Maxi Dress in Rose Gold ($135! with an additional 25% off now through the 15th) from the Taller Than Your Average (TTYA) diffusion line because the bias cut, teensy straps, deep scoop back, and milky pink satin fabrication reminded me of the best of formalwear in my late high school years—the dresses that wouldn’t have fit me at the time, but might have looked great if they had. The best part is that I chose the dress—it didn’t choose me. And this time around, there was no need to wear it in any manner besides that in which I felt good. Translated: a bit disheveled, a bit roughed up, and absolutely comfortable.
It was a 32 degree morning as I donned the dress for a shoot in Cambridge’s North Point Park—and cold as I was, I felt fearless with the silky satin breaking over my 3” heels and almost trailing the ground; the diagonal seams swirling around my figure; the straps light enough to feel feathery yet substantial enough to hold up to my shoulders (and the expanse of fabric below); the way that that peachy pink—a shade I hadn’t worn for years—brightened my cheeks and eyes.
Suddenly, where fit wasn’t an issue, confidence became possible.
And I actually didn’t just feel pretty in the dress. I felt really, really happy.