At 22 years old, I was the gawkiest, tallest, skinniest, girl in quite a while to have graduated from Sweet Briar College and move to New York City with three suitcases.
My first job was as a receptionist/order taker/dress model for the designer, Mr. Adolfo, at his couture salon on 57th Street. When Mr. Adolfo had me fitted for my first little black dress, I had no idea what this dress would do for my confidence and come to mean to me in my life and the many years ahead.
This knee length formal dress had a beautiful black velvet torso with a black tulle ballerina skirt, matching tulle straps and sash, all the tulle demurely dotted with rhinestones like little bright stars in an ethereal night sky.
Three months later, I was whisked away in a limousine in my new dress to work my first company gala event at Saks Fifth Avenue complete with photographers and a Red Carpet. Oh my! I walked this carpet, but did not really know what it was at the time. It was, after all, 1984. No one clicked my picture and I had never heard of a "Page 6". But no matter. I had on my favorite first formal couture dress.
Christmastime arrived with an invitation to the company Christmas dinner dance at Doubles. I had to scrape up a date, but not a dress! Adolfo chose me for the honor of the first dance. My Mother was so proud.
At 23, it was time to meet my first boyfriend's entire family. We played touch football just like a Pepsi commercial, although in catching the football, I was bumped into a tree and got a black eye from the football which ended up next to my face. A Black-tie event followed that evening at the Country Club in Tuxedo Park. Nervous and with a black eye, but dressed in my Adolfo dress, I at least, had the confidence I was always appropriately dressed.
June arrived with the Belmont Ball. Arranged by Mr. Adolfo, my hostess, C Z. Guest, accompanied my date and me into the Jockey Club for the dance the night before the Belmont Stakes. No worries. Again, always appropriately attired.
Many charity and social events followed over the years: The Junior League Ball at The Plaza with Peter Duchin, easy. The Intrepid Ball, no problem. The Circle Line "booze cruise," always appropriate. The Colony Club, The University Club, The Williams, Harvard and Yale Clubs. No worries. The Limelight opening and Andy Warhol. Not a care in the world with my best Adolfo dress. Stumbling into the Tumble Inn at 2 a.m, Tunnel, Elaine's, and The 21 Club, always right. Swells, The Surf Club, and Mick Jager showed up! Never an issue.
Soon followed many weddings of good friends. A Dallas wedding, a South Carolina wedding. A wedding at the New York Saint Ignatius Church and Reception at the St. Regis. The Graycliff in the Bahamas for my 30th birthday, still wearing and able to fit into my beloved dress. This dress was my passport to many years and all types of social soirees without ever feeling out of place.
At age 26, my Haute Couture dress accompanied me home to Richmond to take care of my ailing father. For the next nine years, it served me well as a "singleton." If the dress became too tight, I quit eating dessert and bread for a while. My bellwether dress.
As a 35 year old workaholic, I phoned a friend and asked to sit with her and her husband at The Deep Run Hunt Club Hunt Ball. The "horsey set." They sat me next to a man I had seen once before at a club event.
Traditionally, at any Hunt Ball, a black and white dress is required for women who did hunt that day, and a black dress is required for women who did not hunt that day, so the ladies do not clash with the gentlemen who wear those red "Evening Scarlett" coats. Being that I did not hunt that day, my black Adolfo dress was the perfect Black Tie attire, once again.
Seven years later, I married the man I was seated next to on that magical, horsey, Haute Couture evening.
Soon afterwards, I gave this still wonderful and favorite dress away to a young friend I worked with, hoping it would bring her the confidence, comfort, and happiness it brought me for many, many years.