St. Martin’s Press
MITCHELL KRIEGMAN has been published in The New Yorker, The National Lampoon, New York Press, Glamour, and Harper’s Bazaar. A winner of four Emmy Awards and a Directors Guild Award, he was also a writer for Saturday Night Live. Kriegman was the creator of the classic groundbreaking television series Clarissa Explains It All, as well as the executive head writer on Ren and Stimpy, Rugrats, and Doug.
. . .
It all started with that little black dress.
Yeah, I mean the little black dress—the wickedly fabulous, classic, fashion perfection Givenchy that Audrey Hepburn wore to brilliance in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Right in front of me was the dress dreams were made of.
“Let me try it on, please, please, please,” I begged Jess.
“No way,” she said. “I’ll get fired.”
Jess was already the special projects assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, otherwise known as the Met. It was kind of a glorified grunt and gofer position but a real foot in the door at the museum, and like me she was only nineteen. That was just one of her jobs. Jess attended fashion-design school all day, worked the Met at night, and waited tables with me at “the Hole” on weekends.
Determined to design her own line of clothing before she turned twenty-five, she’d always known what she wanted to do—like the way she “came out” in tenth grade and never looked back. Considering she was an absolute genius with fabric, scissors, and a sewing machine and the most responsible, goal-oriented person on the planet, let alone anywhere near where we lived in South End Montclair, New Jersey, I had no doubt she’d pull it off.
“You won’t get fired,” I pleaded and gave her my saddest, most pathetic, BFF,puh-leese let me try on the most spectacular dress in existence face.
“Nobody’s here but you and me. It’s the least you can do for dragging me out on a sweaty Friday night in July to sort a bunch of broken pottery fragments from the ancient Nile while all the Park Avenue princesses and baby moguls whoop it up downstairs.” We could hear the party from the main galleries below: popping corks and clinking champagne glasses, the opulent uppity classes murmuring obscene nothings to one another in their preppy Manhattan tones at another over-the-top celebutante gala.
Jess was the only person in the world besides my Nan who had any idea what a big deal that dress was to me. Breakfast at Tiffany’s wasn’t just my favorite movie ever, it was my jam, my mantra, my addiction, the one thing that got me through all the crap at home.
Unless you live in a cave, I know you’ve seen it. I don’t know if anything more perfect has ever existed on film. The pearls! The tiara! That dress! Really, what would you give to live for one day in a world where it would be perfectly normal to wear a little tiny tiara without looking like a runner-up in the Miss Hackensack pageant?
To think that this scrawny girl who came from nothing could become a fabulous socialite with mobsters and writers and photographers and millionaires falling all over themselves for her. New York City in 1961 was cooler and more wonderful than it is today, so full of possibilities. All the men Holly knew turned out to be rats, of course. Or super-rats. Holly was so right. There are so many super-rats out there.
“Please,” I whined. “You know how much I love that movie.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Jess. “That’s why I’m letting you see the dress.”
I gently lifted the dress out of its archival wrapping and held it up. I knew for a fact that Audrey Hepburn and I were almost exactly the same size, 34-20-35, although she always appeared elegant and gamine, where I tended to be more, well … scrawny and boyish. My boobs were smaller—I could maybe hit 32-20-33 if I held my breath and thought Katy Perry.
The black satin was rougher than I expected. It had a hip-length slit on the left side and was accompanied by a pair of elbow-length gloves in a tinted plastic bag pinned to the satin padded hanger inside the box.
This was the mystery dress that everybody swore existed, but almost nobody had ever seen or touched, Givenchy’s hand-stitched original design. I wondered if the delicate smell of the fabric was something from the preservation, though I secretly hoped it was a tiny bit of leftover Audrey Hepburn perfume.
“You’re such a stalker,” Jess whispered. “Be supercareful. That’s like a million-dollar dress.”
“Actually, 923,187 dollars. The highest auction price ever received for a dress made for a film at the time. And this one might be worth even more.” I sighed and held the dream dress up to my body.
She took a deep breath and looked me in the eye.
“Okay,” she said. “Try it on. But just for a minute.”
Copyright © 2014 by Mitchell Kriegman