The year was 1991. The color in mind was purple. Bright electric purple with sequins, a sweetheart neckline, cap sleeves and a twirling satin skirt that landed at the knee. The dyed pumps to match were a no-brainer. The fact that I didn’t have a date lined up did not deter me from designing my own dream prom dress in my head several months before the big event even approached the horizon. I knew that anyone who was going to make any kind of statement at prom was not going to be buying her dress at the Broadway or Contempo. Hells no. If you wanted a drop-dead belle of the ball confection, you were going to employee the help of the local seamstress, Carmella. She’d cornered the couture prom dress business for Granada Hills High School for years, and having my 17-year-old finger on the pulse, I knew my creation was going to be made right by Mrs. Carmella.
My zest for fashion has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. In Kindergarten, there was the time I ripped off the bow on the neckline of a hideous starchy dress my mother made me wear to school. I ran into class hysterically crying because, of course, I hated what I was wearing. After all, I didn’t pick it out! When I was 9, I spent a summer vacation at my dad’s office sketching designs for my make believe clothing line “Arje” (fancy for R. J., my initials). I still have a penciled drawing of a v-neck dress with a trumpet skirt somewhere in an old scrapbook.
Carmella made the whole design process pretty simple, and being a gal who’s always known what she wants, I quickly handed over my sketch and picked out the fabrics I envisioned for my gown. While having your dress designed my Carmella was a tad pricier than your average mall fare, my mother agreed to splurge on this special purchase since I would, after all, be wearing it to my brother’s Bar Mitzvah just a month later.
After a handful of fittings, my dreamy creation came into reality and I was in purple heaven. A date even surfaced which turned into a “boyfriend” who then took me to his prom a month later. Woo wee! Another dress to shop for! I was ecstatic (more about that dress later this week).
The evening at the Biltmore hotel in downtown Los Angeles was fantastic and I can honestly say no one had a delicious purple number like mine. Despite the trail of purple sequins that followed me from the limo to the dance floor, I loved my prom dress mostly for what it symbolized; it was vibrant, shiny and well, one-of-a-kind…kind of how I like to think of myself!