Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Unbearable Beauty of Being Eighty

It arrived in an elegant brown paper package with no return address.
Question marks dotting my brain,
I opened it.

Luca came running in from the kitchen.
Piero heard me out by the pool and wondered what the wifey had gotten herself into this time.

The card inside revealed it was from dear Maryam of My Marrakesh.
(Photo via My Marrakesh)

My heart was racing.
I knew this dress.

It had been haunting my dreams for months,
ever since she had written so evocatively about it on her blog.

In Maryam's words...

"Simply the most beautiful dresses I have ever owned.
From Yemen.
Between 75-80 years old.
Every stitch made by a person with a needle and a needle alone.

Yemeni haute couture.

I have three, all purchased from the same dealer.
There were no others to be found.
Each different - each undoubtedly the only one exactly of its kind."

Below, you can see two of the dresses from Maryam's collection hanging in her home in Morocco.
(Photo via My Marrakesh)

Here she is wearing one of them.
I'll wait while you catch your breath.
(Photo courtesy of Maryam)

(I think even Anna Wintour would tremble upon seeing that photo, don't you? André Leon Talley would have to grab her before she collapsed in a dead faint.)

Its spirit reminded me of another special dress, one that exists only on faded celluloid, worn by celebrated author and romantic world traveller Lesley Blanch (1904-2007). These stills of her dancing on an Egyptian beach in the 1970's are embedded in my synapses.

Maryam photographed one of the dresses hanging from a star.
(Photo via My Marrakesh)

The one she sent me looks to be identical, don't you think?
(Dress in my dining room)

I held it carefully in my arms and tiptoed upstairs with it.
Would it fit?
I gently slipped it on.
Like a glove.
Immediately, I felt connected to 19th century Victorian adventuresses, to Yemeni tribeswomen, to fearless females from distant eras.
I was encased by delicate threads and stitches and patterns.
I was tattooed in textile.

What I love most about it is that it reveals its age.

Yes, there are frayed ends.
And slight discolorations.
(Just like most of us, right?)
I revel in these imperfections.
(As we all should in ours.)

It is a survivor.
It has a (take your pick): delicate strength/rebellious fragility/unshakeable daintiness that is unweakened by the passage of time.

Aside from carefully mending one or two loose seams,
I will wear it just as is.


Kerry said...

That is outstanding. Wear it with pride and panache.

Chedva @Rooms and Words said...

Somehow, it reminded me of your embroidery. I think you're the perfect person to possess such a garment.

mermaid gallery said...

I remember that post of Maryam's and her handsome husband asks her for a date after she models the dress for him. Definately the doorway to past lives.....wear it, and breath in their history, breath out the threads of time.....

froogal said...

I love aged is so much more interesting. How lucky you are to have such a generous friend that would give up such a treasure.

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

I knew that that dress was meant to be yours, Lisa. I was just the caretaker to give it to you:-)

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful ... :0)

Shirl x

Debra said...

I remember reading Maryam's posts about these gorgeous dresses! How fitting that you should have one. For some reason~ I see you wearing this to your exhibit.

Ivy Lane said...


Acanthus and Acorn said...

And I know you will wear it well. A beautiful exchange between two bloggers...two beautiful women.

Happy Mother's Day, Lisa!

Dandy said...

We want a picture of you in the dress! Wants aside, that is a lovely connection in the blogging world between two of my favorite and most inspiring bloggers.

happy Mother's Day!

jules @ The Diversion Project said...

absolutely gob smacked.
what an amazing treasure. it feels right that its with you. just right

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Kerry, Belly: I love it more than words can say.

Susan Erickson: Maryam's post resonated with so many people, I am finding... xx

Kathy G: "Aged beauty"... yes.

Maryam in Marrakesh: xxx

Shirl, Ivy Lane: I still can't believe she gave it to me.

Debra, Danday: When I wear it, I will take a photo, I promise...

Acanthus and Acorn: Thank you! xx

jules @the diversion project: It is a treasure, you are exactly right.

Lucindaville said...

We are dyed in the wool (or Yemeni dress) fans of Lesley Blanch. At Cookbook Of The Day, we have featured both of her cookbooks! We should all aspire to living twenty to thirty years past our oldest dress. We saw the pictures from your gallery lets see you in the dress.

Terra said...

This is a lovely story and dress, which is unique and oulde. I got the spelling of old from my dad :) I lived in Istanbul for a year and grew to love many aspects of that area of the world, although I haven't visited Marakesh.

materfamilias said...

So wonderful. thank you for sharing your beautiful gift with us.

L.P. said...

Oh, lucky you! Wear it in good health and happiness! It is amazing.

Helen Marie said...

Wow, what a wonderfully thoughtful and generous gift! I love things which proudly display the patina of life, and in fact some of my favorite things are as such. My Indonesian trunk (used as a coffee table of course) with beautiful inlaid shell patterns which, upon receiving it's first water ring stain caused tears and a little heartache, but now each ring and scratch remind me of the conversations and gatherings which sufficiently distracted us from coasters. My old leather cowboy boots which are molded perfectly to my feet, slouchy and scuffed from many kilometers of errands and evening strolls, outdoor music fests in the rain, and being stuffed into backpacks for travel. My favorite books with pages bent to certain passages, faded covers, footnotes, coffee stains and tape holding the spines together. You can see, feel, smell the history in these things, the stories they have lived through. I love that! I wonder what stories your dress could tell.....

24 Corners said...

What a special, thoughtful, beautiful and yes...breathtaking gift. It should be out in the open for you to see daily...maybe in your office, on a mannequin or the wall (must still be easily accessible for wearing!).

For you to have a dress that was "stiched" so beyond words! Happy Mum's Day!

Lynne Rutter said...

what a breathtaking piece of art! and how wonderful that it be given yet another chance to be worn and admired. what a treasure.

helen tilston said...

The dress is also very lucky to have found such a loving and welconing home. It is truly magnificent and may you wear it with good health

Anonymous said...

It just takes my breath away.

Karena said...

Lisa, not only gasping, this just takes my breath away. What an elegant work of art.


Art by Karena

Angie Muresan said...

So beautiful! Enjoy it, Lisa.

Rocio said...

Exquisite. What a thoughtful action. She obviously knew you would appreciate it and would care for it beautifully.
Now all we need to see is you in it, showing it in all its splendor.

skirmishofwit said...

What a gorgeous dress! How exciting to get such a parcel. I love to think of all the stories that dress could tell. I'm sure it looks stunning on you.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic, in all the meanings of the word. You are very fortunate to have received such a generous gift. Wear it often!

Emily said...

You are so deserving of this dress and how generous of Maryam to gift it to you. I love 24 Corners idea of displaying it on a mannequin in your home while you are not wearing it. Be sure to name her too!

Lee Nicholson said...

So perfectly stunning!

StylishBird said...

Oh my goodness! It is beyond divine. How truly, truly special.

Yoli said...

Oh you have THE DRESS! Congratulations! That is an outstanding piece of textile. I fell in love with it myself. I am glad it has found such a great home. Wear it with pride girl!

Maia said...

Oh, heaven! Lucky lucky you! So many of us have lusted after that gorgeous piece. A real work of art.

Simply Colette said...

What a timeless beauty! Just beautiful!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

You are one lucky duck!

Christine said...

I saw these dresses on the lovely Maryam's blog and swooned as well. It is stunning - wear it in health. Oh I do have one of her beautiful wedding blankets which has the same vibe - connecting to the past, imperfections and all.

rivka said... photos of YOU wearing the dress! Can you snap a shot and slip one in on your blog? I bet you look lovely in it!

Thank You For Asking said...

I love your blog.
I love Maryam.
I love the dress.
So happy they all ended up in one place! said...

I remember the dress as well from Maryams blog. I became enthralled by the dresses. You could hear their story in the descriptions and images.

Lisa you are blessed to be the keeper of such a gift. You and Lisa are now kindered spirits, for all the stories within its fibers are shared between you, and those to come.

How blessed you are, to be the new keeper of its soul.

Anonymous said...

Lovely! You should stitch up one of your amazing embroideries as a thank you.
She'd hang it in that amazing palace for her guests to enjoy. I can almost hear one of your poems...She traveled far from New York City...


Laura said...

I have to admit that Maryam looks like quite the fox in that dress!

Glenda said...

I was so excited when I came upon the article of your home in the LA Times.,0,5913531.photogallery

I've always loved your style and was happy to see it.



Unknown said...

What extraordinary dress and such wonderful way to get it....

W.E. said...

Have just discovered your wonderful blog and am now quite hooked. Thank you for sharing this beautiful textile piece...such amazing handwork and history.

Susan's Snippets said...


That said it all!

Wow! Wow! Wow!!

take a bow

Sarah - Passementerie and Natural HIstory said...

It's completely fantastic - I remember Maryam's post about it and wanted it so badly. I'm thrilled you have it and love it so much!

madeleine said...

Lovely and with different accessories, hair and makeup, timeless and edgy. Something J Peterman did so well.

Beautifully done.

Unknown said...

It's so fragile and beautiful. I can imagine you wearing it with such dignity and honor. But... beware, you know I love to stalk your closet.....

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