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Not Just Any Dress

Narratives of Memory, Body, and Identity


Sandra Weber and Claudia Mitchell

If dresses could talk, what stories might they tell? This compelling collection of short stories, essays, and poems features dress as the structural grounding for autobiographical accounts from women’s lives in Western society. Often personal in nature, these «dress stories» point unfailingly to matters of social and cultural import. Some of the dresses described inhabit the popular imagination: the little girl dress, the communion dress, the school uniform, the prom dress, the wedding dress, the little black dress, and the burial dress. Beyond the semiotic, tactile, and visual aspects of the dresses themselves, the narratives delve into what dresses reveal about fundamental aspects of human experience: identity, embodiment, relationship, and mortality. Bought or made, then worn, forgotten, remembered, re-constructed, and re-interpreted, each dress offers a new glimpse into how we construct meaning in our daily lives, and how dresses serve to reinforce or resist social structures and cultural expectations.
Contents: Sandra Weber/Claudia Mitchell: «Dress Stories» – Lorri Neilson Glenn: That Saturday night all her clothes fell apart and broke into song – Carol Mavor: Collecting Loss: Photographs, Dresses, «Paperies» – Kathleen O’Reilly Scanlon: Communion Dress Violations – Catherine Derry: «I’ll Never Find a Dress»: Shopping for the Prom – Sandra Weber: No Red Shoes – Sandra Weber: Boxed-in by My School Uniform – Lyse Lemieux: Tunique Desires – Candis Steenbergen: In Front of the Closet: (Ad)dressing the Academic – Claudia Mitchell: Was It Something I Wore? – Madeleine R. Grumet: My Green Robe: Scholae Personae – Sandra Weber: Curse You Descartes! My Academic Gown – Lorri Neilson Glenn: Basic Black: A Wardrobe Primer for Seasoned Academic Women – Annette Kuhn: A Credit to Her Mother – Jennifer Musial: Fashioning Pregnancy: The Maternity Dress in Clothing Catalogues – Ardra L. Cole: The Christmas Doll – Gary Knowles: Constraining Mother: Corsetry, Control, and Comfort – Celeste Snowber: (Wo)man Time and M(other) Sins – Claudia Mitchell: Bridesmaid dress: Thick Description – Kathryn Church: Try This One On for Size: Poetic Notes from Wedding Dress Research – Jo Visser: Nailing It: My Wedding Dress – Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen: Made in China – Roksana Bahramitash: Revealing Veiling and Unveiling – Joan Reider: Scarf Signatures – Liz Ralfe: Love Affair with My Isishweshwe – Charlotte Hussey: Fashion Statement – Lorri Neilson Glenn: At the Ugly Ducklings Anonymous Meeting – Celeste Snowber: Writing Bare-breasted – Ilana Abramovitch: Not Just Any Little Black Dress – Claudia Mitchell: Dressing Death: Elsie Never Wore a Prom Dress – Kathy Sands: Fashion for the Soul – Sandra Weber/Claudia Mitchell: Theorizing Dress Stories.