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Shop-bought dress
Pauline Griffiths (University of Canberra)



I was 18 when I paid for my first shop-bought dress
With precious earnings from an enveloped packet of cash.

Aunt Betty, a dressmaker who made wedding gowns for each of her five sisters
(but stayed unmarried herself) was disgusted
Nearly throwing her button box and ribbon tin at me
So was Aunt Jill, a prize-winning quilter.

‘What a waste of good money’ they both scowled
‘And look at the terrible work in this frock!’

But I thought it was gorgeous: a blue flouncy floral thing
Swishing beckoningly on a silver mannequin
In a boutique shop in the main street of Wagga Wagga.
Then, it was swinging on me
Floating… swirling …
My delightful shop-bought dress.

I dressed it up with costume diamonds
And down with flat heels
For night events, I wore it under a cardi or a coat
In winter, it carefully hid a singlet and spencer
And in summer, it splashed over me
Like a waterfall in a national park.

In my gorgeous blue flouncy I felt noticed –
Walking to the bus stop on Saturday nights with friends
Worshipping at church
Picnicing on Bank Holiday
And commemorating on Anzac Day

I was in love – we were an item
My swishy blue floral and me.



Pauline Griffiths wrote this poem while enrolled in the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research at the University of Canberra during a PhD in creative writing. She has a PhD in music from the University of Melbourne (2004) and is an advocate of arts-based programs that enrich connections and reduce social isolation. Her poem was inspired by a discussion in a small community writing group about clothing and fast fashion.

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