I was at the Avanti Salon getting my hair done and flipping through Bride’s magazine. The gal on the cover was wearing a dress very similar to the dress my daughter Maggie wore at her wedding many years ago. Funny how styles come back again.
It was 1984. I was in my 40’s and Maggie, my oldest child, was in her mid-20’s. She was engaged to marry that summer. Alfred and I didn’t have a lot of money back then, so we had budgeted $200 dollars for a dress that hopefully we could find on sale at Kline’s Bridal House in Houston. Kline’s was a fancy place that Maggie and I were obsessed with. It required an appointment and one of my neighbors told me we would be served champagne and cookies while we shopped.
Our Kline bridal dress shopping day finally came, and we gussied it up in our Sunday’s best, smiled and opened the doors to this institution of Houston bridal bliss. We were greeted by a stick-thin ballerina looking woman in a perfectly tailored hunter green pantsuit, coordinating jade and pearl brooch and sophisticated hairdo. She nodded her head as she made eye contact with you as if she was the First Lady of the White House or a foreign dignitary. She was the epitome of style and grace. Her name was Iris Kline. She began by asking Maggie to describe the kind of dress she wanted. We felt so lucky to have Iris at the helm of this important dress decision.
Maggie knew exactly what she wanted; she had been clipping bridal magazine since 8th grade! Her dream gown was a fluffy floor length bright white long laced sleeved dress with a princess waistline. A V-neck would be preferable, but she was open to a round or boat neck.
Before we could say anything else, Iris directed Maggie into a dressing room, correctly guessed her bra and dress size, and handed me a champagne flute and a plate full of shortbread cookies cut into wedding dress shapes on Royal Daulton’s Rose Pattern china! Classical music could be heard in the background.
Iris soon returned with an armful of long hanging bags containing dresses. She hung them in the dressing room where Maggie was and then took a seat next to me on the sofa and instructed Maggie to try the one in the red bag, first.
Iris and I clinked our drinks. I felt like we were old friends. Boy, this place was top-notch indeed. I hoped my $200 would be enough as I sipped the bubbly.
Maggie exited the dressing room. She sort of forced a smile as the doors swung back and forth behind her.
The dress was nothing like she wanted. It was strapless, a mermaid shape and came with long gloves.
Maggie and I looked at each other. I forced a smile and instructed Maggie to try another one. Iris interrupted,
“You think you know what you want, but let’s be honest I know what you really want. I’m in the wedding dress business. You two are just passing through,” Iris chuckled as she threw back the whole flute of champagne as if it was water.
What? I wasn’t sure what to say or do. Did I mishear Iris? She couldn’t actually be consciously taking Maggie and I in a different dress direction, could she? Maybe the next dress would be better—more in line with what we were thinking.
Each dress, however, was worse. And Iris’ drinking was getting worse too. At this point she was drinking straight from the champagne bottle and muttering about her own recently failed marriage.
Maggie was about to cry and I was about to punch Iris when she started flipping the cookies into the air and maneuvering her mouth under them in attempts to catch them like a dog catching scraps.
“Time’s up! Therapy is over!” Iris slobbered as she hustled the dresses out of the dressing room and drunkenly serpentined towards the back room.
Maggie was crying so I took her to the restroom to clean up. Mascara was staining her peach skinned cheeks. My dear girl. Kline’s was such a disappointment. I washed hands and was drying them when suddenly, we heard a cacophony of small farting sounds coming from the last stall. It was like a funny musical symphony. Maggie and I looked at each other in the mirror and couldn’t help but smile. We covered our mouths to suppress our giggles.
“FLUSH!”—and out came a Cindy Lauper looking obese salesgirl in a long, puffy pink tulle skirt, yellow tube top and turquoise high-top sneakers. She was a whirl of color with her crimped dyed green hair, red cat eye glasses and a big orange scarf in her hair. She was an elixir—the opposite of Iris Kline. I liked this rainbow-colored gal already.
As she washed her hands and straightened her head scarf in the mirror she smiled the biggest smile and winked at me.
“Meet me in Dressing Room 5. I have the dress you are going to buy for your daughter,” she said as she walked out of the room.
Maggie and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders at each other.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” I said.
“Oh, Mom!” Maggie started laughing—the kind of laughing that hurts your belly you’re laughing so hard.
“Let’s do this!” I said.
And we did. We both went into Dressing Room #5. It was different from the other rooms. First off, it was much bigger, and it had a door that opened to the backroom as well as the showroom, where we had been greeted and seated before.
The backroom door slid sideways and opened.
“I’m Mimi. Mimi Kline. Iris’s niece,” she said as she burst into Dressing Room 5 and hung a long hanging bag on the fancy hook on the wall. Quickly, she began unzipping the bag.
“Princess waist, full skirt with long lace sleeves in a flattering V-neck.”
Maggie’s eyes went wide with delight as she shimmied into the dress and Mimi zipped it up.
Maggie and I looked at each other in the mirror and beamed. We were smiling so hard our teeth hurt. The dress looked radiant and fit like a glove.
“The only problem is…” Mimi interrupted.
Maggie and my smiles dropped.
“What? What is it?” I said quickly.
Mimi proceeded to explain it was a sample dress they had recently used in a local bridal show and it was a bit dirty on the bottom.
“I’ll get it cleaned,” I smiled at Maggie.
“How much?” Maggie said her hands clasped in prayer it wasn’t too expensive.
“Normally $400, but with it being used and stained and all I’d take $200 for it,” said Mimi.
And that’s how Maggie got the dress of her dreams and why she named her first dog “Tootie Mimi”.