Years ago (and by years I mean like over 20) we took a trip to Abilene, Kansas because I wanted to visit the Eisenhower library. We've since been back with Danny, and if you ever find yourself in Kansas looking for something interesting to do, I highly recommend a visit. Back when went the first time around the city wasn't as geared up for tourists as it is now, and the antique shops were more along the lines of junk shops with prices that reflected the quality of merchandise. The store where I found this dress was notable for being not dirty in a filth/grime sort of way, but undusted/tidied in a way that reflected generations of meaning to "get around to cleaning". I find that completely relatable now, but back then when I still had youthful ideas about housekeeping standards, I was horrified. I would have turned and left, but my husband found himself trapped in conversation with what I'd best describe as an, "Interesting elderly local." Accepting that we'd be there for a while I decided to have a look around whilst trying to avoid breathing more than absolutely necessary.
Ever been in a store where there's a hand painted sign with an arrow indicating "More Upstairs/Downstairs"? Sometimes that's great. Back when Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop was in Boston (since moved to New Hampshire I hear) they had a gloriously un-sorted upstairs where I found the most wonderful books I didn't know I needed. Sometimes, it was in the Basement like the old Watertown Books. This was Kansas, not Massachusetts, but having swung back around to check on Mr. ETB listening to the story of someone that stole the topper off a bottle thirty years prior and the woman sighing, "The Lord says we have to forgive..." I was resigned to not getting out of the place anytime soon. I went upstairs.
"Upstairs" wasn't another floor, but a dark, unfinished attic space where a ghost wouldn't have been the worst thing I might have seen. Before retreating, I spotted some clothes strewn over an old desk. Of course I found a gingham dress in Kansas, you couldn't get more Kansan. It was in good shape, just a little-okay, very dusty. There was another dress, a black brocade with a matching bolero and I took that one as well. They were unpriced, but I knew it couldn't be much, certainly not by Boston standards.
I can't remember how much they were, but it wasn't much and buying something did actually distract the woman at the till from Mr. ETB long enough to give us a reason to pay and escape. I sometimes wonder if I hadn't bought the dress how much longer we'd have been there. We might still be there!
The dresses both washed-up fine (that's cotton for you!) and are wardrobe favourites to this day.
I don't have great photos of the second dress I bought that day, but here's some from 2013.