Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Disco Inferno

I'm sort of a pro at this look.

With plans to go to a disco-themed party in a few weeks, I set out this afternoon seeking an appropriate dress for disco-ing in. My requirements were based on three criteria: had to be polyester, had to have the kind of skirt that moves when you dance and had to remind me of something I actually wore back then.

Just to be sure of the last one, I looked at some old pictures before setting out. Because, yes, I spent far too much time dancing in clubs back in the '70s and there's evidence to prove it.

My first stop was Halcyon Vintage, where I ran into a photographer I know making an impromptu purchase of a celery green polyester dress that wasn't too far off the era I was seeking. She guessed instantly what party I was shopping for, telling me that if nothing else, I could wear a tuxedo jacket and black pants a la Bianca Jagger.

Explaining that I don't do pants (then or now), she wished me well in my search.

When the saleswoman offered to help me look, I stipulated that it had to be polyester like everything we wore back then. Although why we thought a synthetic fiber was good for hours of dancing on a crowded dance floor is beyond me.

She agreed laughing, then found a dress that, while vaguely 70s-ish, was nothing I would have worn then or now. Promising they'd be getting in more '70s stuff, she suggested I check back.

But I was on a mission, albeit one with a very limited budget. It was on to the Clothes Rack where I met a woman who said she had a Western boot fetish and bought a pair she said she didn't need. I heard her telling the saleswoman about how she justifies her purchases to her husband with half-truths.

Me, I wasn't so lucky (or have a husband to answer to) and left with nothing.

My next stop was the Hall Tree which had scads more dresses than either of the other places. I began scanning the racks to see what they had in polyester that would work. As I looked, I kept in mind the stuff we'd worn back in the day.

After a few minutes, I realized I was smiling and it was because of the cheesy radio station they had on. The music was as much a throwback as the kind of dress I was looking for.

Heat Wave's "Always and Forever" from 1976. McCartney's "With a Little Luck" from 1978. Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb's "Guilty" from 1980, which I haven't heard in a million years.

Pulses racing, darling
How grand we are
Little by little we meet in the middle
There's danger in the dark

A Gibb brother serenading me? It was the soundtrack to go disco dress shopping to! A dozen dresses made it into the dressing room with me and three made the final cut. The eventual winner looks amazingly similar to the dress I wore New Year's Eve 1977, except it's not red and the V-neck is not cut all the way to my waist like that one had been.

Which brings up a funny story. When I'd worn that red, polyester dress out to dinner on the southwest D.C. waterfront that night before going to a club to dance in 1978, a woman had stopped me as we were led to our table for dinner.

Eyeing the waist-deep slit on the front of my dress, the older woman had pointed and sneered, saying, "Wear it now while you can, honey! You won't be able to wear that when you're my age." Maybe it was my youth, but it seemed like an incredibly rude thing to point out to a stranger, even if it was true.

So here I am three decades years later with plans to wear a remarkably similar dress - synthetic so it'll be hot as hell to dance in, but with a flared skirt that it'll look great when I do so - with the major difference being a respectable V-neck instead of full decolletage.

I'd say I hope she's happy now, except I'm pretty sure she's dead. Satisfaction came in a chain reaction, as the Trammps sang.

Who's still dancing now, old lady?


  1. I once had a woman grab a hand full of my long long thick auburn hair with her thin boney hand while I was waiting for a trim at a salon and say "I'd kill for hair like this." I think it was meant as a compliment - but it was dark with foreshadowing and "evil queen" overtones. I was 17 years old!