Meyer Bros, Paterson NJ

I cannot remember the occasion – maybe it was for my confirmation. I was about 10 years old and my mother had asked me what I wanted for a gift. There was one thing that would make me happier than heaven – a store-bought dress!

Since we were born only eleven months apart, my grandmother had been sewing identical clothes for me and my sister. I guess she thought it was cute and it probably used a bit less fabric, but I hated always looking like half of a twin set. Even back then, I needed to have my own identity.

I was at the age where fitting in with the other girls was more important than considering my grandmother’s feelings. I began feeling less and less appreciative of the time and effort my grandmother put into creating whatever arrived in the brown paper wrapped package from Florida. Much to my surprise, my mother agreed to take me to downtown Paterson to buy a dress.

Having an afternoon with my mother all to myself was as exciting as going Meyer Brothers Department Store! I followed her through the revolving doors, past the perfume counters to an elevator where the operator took us to the floor with girls’ dresses. He pulled back the lever to open the gate and there before me was the most exquisite selection of dresses I’d ever imagined. Back then, girls mostly wore dresses, even on cold winter days when we survived the walk to school with the addition of wool leggings.

My Dad doubts that we actually bought the dress at Meyer Brothers since it was so expensive. “You probably bought it in Quakenbush’s,” he told me when I recounted this memory to him today. I’m certain it was Meyer Brothers, so there may have been a little fibbing involved in that extravagant purchase of the most wonderful dress in the entire world. I can still see it, different shades of purple patches, with big puffy sleeves. It had a ruffled shirtwaist and a zipper on the side. The sales clerk folded it into tissue paper in a box that she secured with string she pulled from somewhere hidden behind the counter. She expertly entwined a handle into the string on the side, so my mother could carry it like a suitcase.

Afterward, we crossed Main Street and went to Grants 5 & 10 for lunch, just my Mom and me. I felt so grown-up and important. I do not remember what I ordered, but it was probably something we never ate at home. We sat at the counter with other strangers, my legs dangling from the stool with a red vinyl seat that you could twist and turn. I did not think it was possible to be happier, and maybe I was right. I remember it all so clearly, even though I cannot remember what I ate for breakfast today.

I wore that purple store-bought dress until I had grown so that I could no longer get it over my head and past my chest, which was transforming in mysterious ways. When my mother told me I had to hand the dress down to my sister I was appalled. The thought had never occurred to me that I could not keep that dress forever and I threw a tantrum about it. I guess I didn’t win. I seldom did. As with many of my friends, the arrival of my teenage years would put a serious strain on my relationship with my mother. Times were changing. And so the memory of my first store-bought dress ends with it hanging in my sister’s closet.

Talk about times changing! What a different world kids are growing up in today. With the coronavirus pandemic now part of their experience, I hope they are still making memories that they will cherish fifty years from now. Perhaps, like mine, they will be about a time when their choice mattered. While they need to feel like they belong, kids still want to have and be something that sets them apart from others. And more than anything, they need to know that they are valued.

Can a facemask make a memory?

We have made our Youth and Children’s facemasks into a separate product line with over a dozen different fabrics just for kids of different ages. They are all 100% cotton broadcloth or flannel with the same quality and features as the adult masks, because we want everyone to be safe.  Every mask comes with the same double-layered raw silk insert – sized to fit in a kid-sized mask.

Because we value all kids, we are offering the same Name Your Price Option as the adult Chrysalis Masks. In fact, we have lowered the minimum price to $7 for kids.

I believe every child deserves to feel safe as they head back into the world of school and play. If you are in a situation where even the $7 minimum is more than you can afford, please go to the website, let your child pick out the mask they want, and reply to this email with their choice and where we should send it. Someone else will pay a little extra to cover our costs and we will all get through this together!

2 Thoughts on “The Store-Bought Dress”

  • Jeeni, I have wonderful memories of shopping trips with my mother during the same time period. The red counter seats that turned, the box wrapped with string and the added handle. I also remember hydraulic tubing systems that were used to get approval on lay aways (?). A receipt was folded into a plastic tube that was placed into a clear tube system that sucked the plastic tube to some secret place up in the ceiling with a woosh! Lunch with my mother in the 5&10 was special. Eating out was a luxury and my family never went to a restaurant, except for a yearly trip to Big Boys for a burger and milk shake.
    What a wonderful little essay about a dress and much more than a dress.

    • Thanks Anna! A shared memory is so much sweeter! I don’t remember the approval tube, I guess we didn’t do layaway. Were you on the East Coast?

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