When I was in preschool, my mother would dress me up in a rotation of dresses as if I were a tiny little doll. I have a vivid memory of running over a hill at that age while wearing a dress. It was floral and incredibly stuffy, full of frills and floof. I hated it, so I tucked the skirt portion into my tights and it ballooned around me like I was a galloping mushroom.
That moment dictated how I would dress for the rest of my life: in pants. Typically, I’ve only worn dresses when society requires it: for a job interview, a funeral or a wedding, or for a religious holiday. I spent years working at a religious school and camp where I had to abide by a dress or skirt past-the-knees dress code. I avoided skirts at Vogue for years, but eventually shimmied myself into a shin-skimming black slip skirt for a test-drive occasion. But a dress? Forget it! Every time I’ve worn one, I’ve felt naked, more naked than when wearing something that actually shows my skin. It’s not unusual that I will come to our office in body-hugging pants and a crop top (a walking HR violation if I was employed somewhere more aesthetically corporate.) But a dress? A fluttery piece of fabric, showing the outline of my waist and my butt? That feels intimate, even invasive.
My aversion became an issue during this summer’s heatwave. (Don’t ask me about shorts: I won’t wear them either unless I’m working out.) Soaring temperatures make it impossible for me to wear my traditional pants. In years before, I’d withstand the heat in a tank top and a pair of black Wrangler Wranchers, which I’ve described as “100% woven polyester but feels more like indestructible Kevlar.” I wore them on a date one particularly hot day; by the time I got to our meeting place, I was coated in sweat.
I couldn’t take these scorchers anymore. One day, while browsing Shop Real Life As Liv by Olivia Haroutounian, I saw two slip dresses. One was a green and lace-trimmed, and the other was a yellow-cream silk version that has patchwork embroidery at the bust. Each hit below the knee. Haroutounian modeled both of them and looked plucked from some pre-Raphaelite painting. I messaged her about them and within a week, they were mine.