1970s Watercolor Bouquets

Each time I encounter this dress it’s such an entirely sweet surprise. It’s one of my most treasured articles of clothing–vintage or otherwise–because it was a gift from a dear friend and pastor’s wife.

I’m always a bit overwhelmed by the splash of color this seemingly understated dress brings to the table. Its perfectly faint blending of flowers in salmon, teal, periwinkle, white, and egg yolk yellow are a welcome visit from spring any time of the year.

This dress was folded up so neatly when I first saw it after service one Sunday that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what it was. My friend took it out of the paper bag she’d brought it to church in and, knowing I loved and collected vintage, told me she’d hung onto it. She told me she didn’t know if I’d like it or not and that I could do with it whatever I pleased. She had bought it, in I believe the early 1970s, when she and her husband moved to Texas where he began his career as a pastor. I was overcome with gratitude, and it’s safe to say that this lovely lady gave me something I only continue to love more and more.

The dress has so many little nuances to itself, from top to bottom. (I’ve not been able to locate any information on the Melissa Lane label, but there is enough about this dress to prove exciting without.) The dramatic pointed collar is a sharp contrast to the softness of the dress, both aesthetically and in its soft polyester material. (On that note, the dress’s fabric is quite comfortable in its slight stretch and both warm enough and cool enough in its light yet supple weight.) The pintucking just below the shoulder add to the texture of the dress, which, though the pattern might suggest otherwise, is a very smooth piece.

The patterns and colors overlap each other in way that reminds me of watercolors–or even stained glass or colored lenses–in that they create new colors rather than simply being an opaque layering. The splotches of pink are easily the most eye-catching of the colors, as they are the most prominent.

Five near-translucent pink buttons make up the closure of the bodice, and, unlike many pieces where a top button is optional and typically uncomfortable, this one is really more stylistically mandatory and with plenty of neck room.

The skirt of the dress has a unique center seam, where, at about two-thirds of the way up the dress, begins a hidden zipper. The delicate pink zipper pull ends just below the waist, and above it sits a small metal closure. The waist ties come together to create a polished little bow that masks all the little mechanics. The ties could simply be knotted, but don’t seem to present quite as nicely as the feminine bow.

For a mid-spring writers’ festival on my college campus (yet another connection she and I have in that both we and our husbands  attended the school), I chose to wear none other than this lovely piece. I had the surreal opportunity to read a poem I’d written and won a contest with, and this dress was the perfect choice for the semi-formal event. I felt dressed up, but in the most playful, stand-out way. I felt like my own sort of poetry. The following Sunday I was elated to show my friend a picture my husband had taken of me at the event.

I feel that each time I remember the sweet history of this dress or share another photo with her, another lovely line is written in the dress’s latest stanza. Winter or spring, it’s a treasure for the ages.

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