Friday, March 25, 2011

Gladys Wears Liz Taylor

Little Gladys watched the movie intently on the 13” black and white Zenith portable television. She was home sick with the flu and Nurse Meme had moved her brother’s small television close to the bed so she could watch Captain Kangaroo. Gladys liked Captain Kangaroo but she liked the Mid-day Movie Matinee better.

She loved watching the old movies. She didn’t always understand the plots, the sub-plots, the twists, the conflicts or the protagonist and antagonist delineations but she always understood their clothes. She loved that beautiful Grace Kelly would dress down and be ugly with Bing Crosby in The Country Girl then turn right around and dress in haute couture in Rear Window.

Gladys would watch these movies and vow to herself that one day she would dress in just those fashions. She would watch as Elizabeth Taylor paraded around in gorgeous gowns and beautiful dresses with jewels dripping from her ears, fingers and neck. Gladys would wind pieces of wire and string around her fingers and fashion earrings from paper clips. She would make shiny silver chains from gum wrappers and wrap old curtains, blankets or sheets in toga style. She was a fashion maven. She would pile her hair high on her head, slip into an old pair of Nurse Meme’s heels and transform herself into Helen from The Last Time I Saw Paris

or Jean in The Girl Who Had Everything.

Gladys saw it from the door. She knew it had to be hers. She made her way past the faded bell bottom jeans and on past the racks of “Keep On Trucking” tee shirts. She carefully lifted it from the rack and ran the material between her fingers. It was gold and shiny with big dangling ornaments hanging from the belt. It was perfect. She looked around the little vintage clothing store and made eye contact with a beautifully coiffed woman. “Would you like to try it on” the woman asked.

Gladys fingered the cloth and nodded her head. The woman showed her to the dressing room and settled her in. “You know, I have it on good authority that this came from a sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s clothing.” Gladys’ heart stopped. The room dimmed and the dressed gleamed like the Holy Grail. Gladys in fact thought she might have heard angels sing.

She carefully lowered the zipper. She felt the silky lining of the heavy dress. She slid it gently over her head and pulled it into place. She smoothed the gold jacquard over her stomach and thighs and reached around to secure the zipper.

She turned to see herself in the mirror and gasped. It was gorgeous and fit like a glove, well almost. She fastened the belt and wiggled out into the store to see how she looked in the three way mirror. She turned left and then right and imagined herself at a big Hollywood premier standing on the red carpet waving to her adoring fans. She waves and the fans cheer then another limousine pulls to the curb and an embarrassed Liz steps out into the limelight. “Oh GLADYS! I am so sorry I have the same dress on as you. I will go change immediately” Liz humbly effuses. Gladys smiles and puts her arm around poor embarrassed Liz and replies “Oh, Liz! I don’t mind. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.”

Liz puts her hand on Gladys shoulder and says “how does it feel?” Gladys realized it wasn’t Liz but the sales clerk. Gladys blushed “it feels great! Was it really hers? I mean Ms. Taylor’s dress?” The clerk reached around and fastened a hook “that is what I was told when I purchased it. You see I purchase from many of the Hollywood elite. Sometimes I get called by their assistants and I will buy the whole lot for one price. This was a really good lot.”

Gladys turned and glanced at the back of the dress. “Do you think she wore it when she was married to Eddie Fisher?” The clerk reached over on a rack and produced a pair of big gold earrings, “here try these on. I think it would have been more the first Richard Burton era.” Gladys looked in the mirror once again and knew the dress had to be hers. “I’ll take it!” she shouted, then more softly “you do take Discover don’t you?”

The saleslady smiled “of course I do. I’ll meet you at the register.” She started to walk away then turned “you do realize of course I can’t authenticate that it belonged to Ms. Taylor.”

Gladys shook her head in acknowledgment then retreated to the dressing room. She took one more look at the dress in the mirror and then began to put on her regular boring clothes. She carefully hung the dress back on the padded hanger and grabbed her purse and stopped. “What if cost too much. What if she couldn’t afford it? What if her credit card didn’t work?” Panic had set in. She reached for the dress and began searching for a price tag. She checked all the usual places, under the arm and at the neck line. She checked the hem and around the zipper but to no avail. She swallowed hard and walked toward the counter.

“We like to keep our hangers so I’ll package it in a box for you” the sales lady said as she removed the dress and began to wrap it in tissue paper. Then she turned to the big brass cash register and began typing in numbers. Gladys opened her wallet and took out her card. She squeezed it tight and prayed it would cover the cost of the dress.

She watched as the card slid through the machine and waited like a gambler rolling the dice. She held her breath until she heard the machine start rumbling and whirling. The little machine spit out a receipt and the sales clerk tore it off and handed it to Gladys.

Her hand was shaking as she took the paper. She poised her pen over the signature line and slowly looked up the page to the total. She let out her breath and felt a wave of relief wash over her. She grabbed her box and headed out the door feeling a little guilty for her splurge when the sales lady added “you know if your hair were a little darker you would look just like Ms. Taylor in that dress.”

Gladys’ guilt instantly dissipated and she practically floated from the shop knowing that no one else at her 30 year high school reunion would be wearing Liz Taylor.

*Dear Jody over at Couture Allure and all other vintage experts please don't tell me it didn't belong to Ms. Taylor.  Because this is my story and I'm sticking to it."


LisaPie said...

Gorgeous! You should post a picture of you wearing your Liz Taylor dress.

Have you already started scanning through all the old magazines and such to see if you can find a picture of her wearing it?

Gladys said...

Lisa Pie, I bought this dress over 10 years ago. I have yet to athenticate it other than it just is in my mInd. :)

Anonymous said...

Yea I know I have seen that dress, I got the where now just the when, nice dress. I will look for it


Jaime said...

that's a great story to go along with a great dress.