Anne’s final draft for SST9 “Dressing Up”

5 Jul

When I was a kid I used to play dressing-up.

Swirling skirt pulled over jeans, legs rolled up.

We had this big box, well a cardboard suitcase,

full of clothes and hats and pieces of fabric.

Once I pulled out a raggedy brown thing

my mum said


That raggedy thing is why I keep this box of clothes,

for you to play-out who you are.

That raggedy thing used to be a two-piece suit, straight skirt, peplum jacket,

three quarter length sleeve with tiny button detail at the cuff.

That shabby paint-water rag used to be red wool-silk-mix with a slight boucle,

sewed from a Butterick pattern when I was 19.

When your grandad saw it, he made me take it off,

said I had to dye it brown.

So I did.

It’s a certain kind of girl wears red, after all.


Red is so obvious.

Maybe obvious is the look I should go for.

I’m an open book in every way but dress.

I suppress myself to avoid the stares when it’s stares that fuel me.

What kind of girl does that make me?

Once I saw swans flying over the motorway huge as gliding jets.

Magnified, and out of scale with us below.

A reminder that nature belongs more than we do,

with our outlandish modes of transportation.

Them flying ‘as the crow’ and us having to follow roads.

I’m sick of following roads

and paths trodden by other people, in sensible shoes.

Somehow I was plain and brown

and maybe a little bit raggedy too.

But I can glide as good as any swan

all grace and power above the surface

hiding all the mechanics down below.

Although white was never really my colour.

And swans mate for life, don’t they?

The less said about that the better.

So do lobsters. Mate for life I mean.

I think I prefer their natural hue,

you know, before they get boiled?

That speckledy blue.

Pink is less becoming for a lobster,

or a woman, let’s be honest.

Pink is for all those prissy girls.

I never wanted to be one of them.

Being me, has taken many guises

fitting in and then rebelling turn by turn,

leaving me unsure of which is costume which is casual.

And it’s taken me till now

a bunch of tawdry queens to point the way,

envying their attempts at indulging their alter-egos and neglecting mine.

Watching as they pass for women, better than I ever could.

Here’s to my mum and her dressing-up box.

Here’s to all the boys, and girls who’ve been told

you can’t go out dressed like that

and do it anyway.

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