A younger Mike and Rose-Ann Lynch (in FiFi) helped fill out the MIT Team at the 2009 MAC, their very first USA Dance competition.

I Love My Old Dress

By Rose-Ann Lynch
Managing Editor
Photos courtesy of Rose-Ann Lynch
Love, Regret, Neglect...Stop the Madness!

My dear friend, Renee, was over not that long ago and was telling me about her new dresses.  She went overseas and came home with a new closet.  I enjoyed the pictures as she pointed out the colors and features.  It is always exciting to see what they are wearing in Europe and then there is the thought of having something new…so much fun.  That New-Dress Glow!!!!

Renee contemplated the nips and tucks required to make each dress perfect, and then announced that she was not sure where she was going to store these.  I suggested it was time to sell the old ones, and the conversation came to a dead halt…Silence…Shock! 

I get it.  I really do!  But I hadn’t suggested the sale of her incredibly adorable new grandchild.  Or had I? 

We dancers all put so much thought and effort into our new dresses.  They must be the right color, accentuate the right things on our bodies, cover the other things that aren’t perfect, stand out the right way, and dance beautifully.  Considering the cost of these dresses, one should last forever, and we girls should be happy the rest of our lives.  Our husbands and partners would be thrilled.  Well, it doesn’t quite work that way.  Dance styles change, how we dance changes (usually for the better), and we change physically (not always for the better).  So, the dress should change too.

Then what happens to the old dress?  The obvious choice is to sell it.  WHAT???  I can’t sell my dress.  I love my dress.  It was designed for me.  I danced my first competition in my dress.  I won my first competition in my dress.  My teacher chose it.  I met so-and-so in my dress.  I won Nationals in my dress.  There are a hundred reasons not to sell it. 

However, there are a hundred reasons also to sell it:  You aren’t wearing it anymore.  It is taking up room in your closet.  It doesn’t fit you as well as it used to.  It doesn’t look as good on you as it used to.  It doesn’t move well enough for your new level.  It is not the best color.  It looks a little tired.  Your coach is bothering you to get a new one.  You can use the money as a down payment for the next one…OOOOOOOhhhhhhh, there’s a thought.

FiFi was gorgeous. It was love at first sight. She gave Mike and Rose-Ann many happy dances.

Let me say that I’ve been there.  I specifically remember my first beautiful teal Standard dress; my friend named her FiFi. I bought the dress on Ebay from a woman in Australia.  She was a classic beauty: teal panne velvet with a matching feather boa, beautiful stoning, and a lovely silver decoration leading to a scarfy float in the back.  FiFi fit perfectly and came with long gorgeous gloves.  The scarf had a little feather boa of its own and my friend said it looked like a little poodle following behind me…thus the name FiFi.  The dress and I experienced love at first sight straight out of the box, and I wore her for years.  However, the time finally came when I realized that FiFi was no longer leaving my closet. Other, newer dresses were being chosen for my competitions, ahead of her.  I remember taking her to Encore Ballroom Couture and feeling terrible.  Julie Wilson, the consignment shop owner, looked at me patiently and understandingly said, “Are we going to have a moment?”  It was funny, but so true, and yes, I had a moment. 

A few months later, right before a New Year’s competition, Julie called me.  She asked if I was going to the local competition and told me that I would see FiFi on the floor.  Someone bought her and was planning to wear her.  At the competition, I looked and looked…no FiFi.  Perhaps they had cancelled last minute.  Then came the evening Gala and there was a little lady, almost 80 years old, in FiFi.  I watched her dancing during the evening.  She was so happy and regal, and danced with many young handsome guys.  My husband, Mike, even asked her for a Waltz and told her she looked beautiful.  She just beamed.  Or should I say that she and FiFi beamed.  Both were happy, both were charming, and both danced wonderfully. 

In hindsight, I knew that FiFi deserved better than my closet.  I loved watching her on the ballroom floor.  I also appreciated the nice check I got in the mail from Encore Ballroom Couture a few days later. 

It’s a good and true story, but what if you just aren’t ready to part with that dress yet?  The first thought is to keep it until you are ready to part with it.  Many of us have considered…can I change the old dress?  Perhaps a few more panels to cover older legs.  Perhaps a little mesh to cover the back…perhaps more mesh…well ok…still some more.  Perhaps add sleeves.  Perhaps change the stoning. 

Stop the madness!  Unless you are a master seamstress, this is all going to cost money.  It is also going to change the original design of the dress.  After you change it, you can’t say it is an original “anything”.  Plus, it never looks like it used to on you…it can’t.  Every now and then I will meet someone who has successfully taken their old dress, changed it, and is still wearing it.  This is rare! 

Most of the time, the girls, change their old dress, hate the changes, don’t wear the dress anyway, and then have a heck of a time trying to sell the dress.  This is how donations come about — Julie can help with that too. 

A real test to see if you should sell the dress is to have someone else, preferably someone younger than you, put it on.  If it looks great on them and not as good on you, it is not the dress, it is you.  Now you have a choice – go to the gym or admit that it is time to move on. 

Lucky for all of us, there are options for an old dress:

  • Consignment shops. There are many of them here in the United States.
  • Facebook sales. Post a picture and try to sell the dress. 
  • Online Amateur Chats. A lot of girls post their dresses here.
  • At a competition, put a sign on it and hang it in a visible spot. You might be surprised.
  • Remember who tells you they like it and get their card.
  • Many USA Dance competitions, including Nationals, have a consignment booth.
  • College teams love donated dress.
  • Dance for the Cure and other charities accept dress donations; write it off in your taxes.
  • Hold a “Dress Try On” party and invite friends and studio mates. It is also a lot of fun.
  • Call someone who will look great in your dress and let them know you are selling it.

 

I have seen many of my dresses leave the closet over the years.  Many of them were hugged on the way out and I definitely shed a few tears.  But I have also enjoyed watching them dance on new, gorgeous, and vibrant dancers, all wearing the New-Dress Glow with beautiful smiles on their faces. 

My dresses deserved to be danced. 

Rose-Ann and Mike Lynch dance Championship Smooth and Standard.  Rose-Ann considers herself a bit of a ballroom dress connoisseur, supporting not only a separate dress closet, but a separate dress room in their home.  Having recently counted, to date, 54 dresses have joined Mike and Rose-Ann on the dance floor.  

And yes…here’s one more photo in FiFi.

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