I’ve realized in the past few days that I misspoke.
On my “Who's That Girl” page, I say that Michael, Michael Kors, that is, was my first.
I was wrong.
Betsey was my first. She was my first self-purchased designer ensemble.
I remember like it was yesterday. Of course.
I was living in a group house in Takoma Park, MD, with 3 other Terps. I was working for a non-profit, doing reasonably well, financially, but not that well. A dear Australian friend came to visit me on one of her long trips to the States.
I couldn’t tell you why we went to Pentagon City mall. Maybe just ‘cause. Maybe one of us was on the hunt for something. Maybe to show her a True American Shopping Experience.
I also couldn’t tell you why we stopped in Betsey Johnson. It was probably me. Nim just isn’t the Betsey type. Nor was I, really, at the time. I’m much more prone to pattern and sequins now than I was at 23 or 24. Back then, I was a jeans girl, through and through.
Somehow, though, I was drawn to the coat. It was - still is, as it still hangs in my closet - a deep red crushed velvet. Faux fur, in a sort of distressed, matted, 90s grungy way. As grunge as Betsey gets, that is. I’m guessing it appealed to my dramatic, Romantic side, the side that still pines over romance novels that disguise themselves as historical fiction, the side that has a soft spot for anything vampire, anything gothic.
Next to it hung a sleek black jersey gown. Much less dramatic, the gown has pretty little appliqué flowers on the straps, making spaghetti straps not spaghetti. The gown is still easy to wear, even though I now have to don a strapless bra. I didn’t have to at 24.
I hemmed and hawed. I wasn’t yet 25, had a 25-year-old type salary, and no real reason to own this ensemble. It was somewhere around $700, even back then. It was, I fully admit, the beginning of the end of a bad financial stage in my life, a stage in which I used an American Express card irresponsibly. At 38, I’m finally clear of the mess I made.
But that ensemble was, I think, well worth the $700. I wore it to death, every time I could. I wore the dress under a turtleneck sweater when I wanted to “dress it down.” I wore it with black knee high boots I sought for ages, finally finding them in Cambridge, UK. I took it to Bremen, Germany, with me for the year.
I wore it on our second date. That would be the second date I had with H. I hadn’t yet fallen for him - but apparently he had for me. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going, just that I needed to dress “cool.” Out came the Betsey.
I also kinda figured it out. I don’t remember what else he told me that tipped me off, but I figured out that we were going to Blues Alley. We saw The Roy Hargrove Quintet. We went back to Blues Alley so many times I can’t count. That first time we went, it was chilly. The Betsey was perfect. But when he surprised me again, 6 years later, with a Carribean Jazz Project show and a pretty little box, it was summer. I wasn’t wearing the Betsey. In fact, the coat had been relegated to the back of my closet. It didn’t fit. 6 years of my 20s+ dating + world travels without enough exercise meant that my beloved Betsey was just waiting.
Until 3 weeks ago, when I pushed my own style limits and held a little personal fashion show, trying on all sorts of stuff for the week that was All About H. On a whim, I pulled on the coat over a cami and jeans that now fit again.
I’m still in love.
I then tried on the dress.
It fit. With a bra, of course, but it fit.
I didn’t end up wearing it to the WW Club we attended that week, but it’s back out of the back of my closet.
The sad part is, of course, that just as I’m able to wear Betsey again, she’s shuttering her doors. I don’t know the whole story. There’s not much in the press. There’s speculation about who will fill the retail gap (Michael Kors, MSN Money? Really? The same consumer? I. Don’t. Think. So.) Betsey’s all that we hope a designer to be - especially an American designer. She’s vibrant, she’s eccentric.
She’s a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kinda gal. She’s a cancer survivor. She is, in some ways, the Amercian Dream. I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping, wishing, and dreaming, that this Chapter 11 is just a temporary restructuring strategy. Businesses do that, you know.
Because I can’t wait to wear more Betsey.