A creative exercise, inspired by a woman who frequented the coffee shop where I'd often go to write. Each day she would wear another startlingly unique dress. After writing the piece, I ended up sharing it with her and learned that she designed and sewed her dresses herself.
She Dons a Different Dress Every Day of December
On the first day, she wears a dress modeled after the urns of Ancient Greece, depicting scenes of mythological repose.
On the second day, she wears a mantua embroidered with the map of an imaginary country, its fictional rivers flowing between the pleats of her skirt.
On the third day, she wears a white dress stained with a sprawling Rorschach blot, into which passersby invest their own inky interpretations.
On the fourth day, she wears widow's weeds as dark as coal and a veil of black crepe, but she refuses to reveal whose death she is mourning.
On the fifth day, she wears a Houdini dress that imprisons her in straitjacket sleeves and iron manacles, and to disrobe she must make a miraculous escape.
On the sixth day, she wears the very dress that Edith Head designed for Grace Kelly to wear in Rear Window – the one in her first scene, with the black bodice and white chiffon.
On the seventh day, she wears a kimono covered in calligraphy, inscribed by a Japanese master of the early Edo period whose name has long been forgotten.
On the eighth day, she wears a dress made from autumnal maple leaves, and every time the wind blows she rustles like a treetop.
On the ninth day, she wears a dress dyed ruby red with the blood of its seamstress, who sacrificed herself to perfect her magnum opus.
On the tenth day, she wears a cocktail dress cut from the canvas of a lost Caravaggio.
On the eleventh day, she wears a bulletproof dress woven from the spider silk of the Caerostris darwini.
On the twelfth day, she wears a dress sewn from a silver screen, upon which the silent film Sunrise is projected.
On the thirteenth day, she wears a floral dress whose roseate fabric exudes the fragrance of real flowers.
On the fourteenth day, she wears an aquarium: a plastic dress pumped full of seawater, with tropical fish swimming through its lining.
On the fifteenth day, she wears a clockwork frock, its Antikytheran couture calibrated to represent the positions of the planets and predict upcoming eclipses.
On the sixteenth day, she wears a clear gown crafted from curving glass which, through some trick of refraction, conceals her nakedness.
On the seventeenth day, she wears a dress with a mercurial motif: the amorphous movements of amoebas in a microscopic ecosystem.
On the eighteenth day, she wears a dress that implements experimental military technology to render her invisible to the human eye (although her heat signature remains vulnerable to thermal imaging).
On the nineteenth day, she wears a dress braided from the hair of a Vodou bokor's murdered lover, and while wearing it she speaks with the dead woman's voice.
On the twentieth day, she wears a dress fashioned from Phoenix feathers, and its flaming train leaves the ground smoldering in her wake.
On the twenty-first day, she wears a dress that induces amnesia in those who see it, so every time they look at her, they behold her dress for the first time.
On the twenty-second day, she wears a dress crystallized from the flow of her own frozen tears.
On the twenty-third day, she wears a dress forged from rumbling storm clouds, illuminated by the lightning flickering within its recesses.
On the twenty-fourth day, she wears a petticoat of pure plasma – a literal sundress – so blindingly bright you can only glimpse it from the corner of your eye.
On the twenty-fifth day, she wears the silhouette of a dress stolenfrom the denuded shadow that trails behind her.
On the twenty-sixth day, she wears a dress tailored from twilight, studded with twinkling stars, its constellations tracing her figure.
On the twenty-seventh day, she wears a dress composed of classical music: strains of Sibelius in her stride, a Tchaikovsky fanfare when she twirls.
On the twenty-eighth day, she wears a dress that she dreams as she sleepwalks through her routine.
On the twenty-ninth day, she wears the sepia memory of a dress – her grandmother's wedding dress, which was incinerated in a house fire before her birth, which she has only seen in fading photographs.
On the thirtieth day, she wears the Platonic ideal of a dress, a dress that manages to be every dress and no dress at all.
On the thirty-first day, she wears a plain white linen dress, and the dress becomes her.
A closing anecdote: about a month after sharing this piece with her, we were both in the coffee shop again, sitting across from each other at a communal table. She was wearing a dress with a songbird motif, in the style of an Audubon print. While writing, I kept hearing birdsong coming from her direction. This had me absolutely baffled because we were inside with no birds around, and for a few surreal minutes I began to believe that I could hear her dress singing. It was only after hearing it one more time and seeing her pick up her phone that I realized her text ringtone was set to birdsong. It was a miraculous moment, and it struck me as a wonderful variation on the dress from the thirteenth day.