The Red Dress

I’d seen pictures of the ladies in the magazines.  I’d seen women looking very glamorous wearing it. And, oh how I yearned to own one!

“You are too young. That’s just for grown-ups”, my mother said. “You’re already tall for your age and it will make people think you’re older.”

If I had a dime for every time I heard reference to what people would think, I’d have been rich! At the same time, I could appreciate what my mother said since I was 5 feet 8 inches at 11 years old and 5 feet 10 at 12 years old.

What did I desire so badly? A red dress.

My mother sewed. However, as I prepared to enter boarding school at 11 years old, I needed dresses for after-classes and on weekends, when we were out of uniform. From then on, my dresses were made by a seamstress who had ladies working with her and for her. She rivaled any of the top seamstresses in the capital of the island.

About a year or so later, while on vacation from school, my father took me fabric shopping. We found a beautiful fabric with a white background and tiny polka dots in red, green, and yellow, which we gave to the seamstress. I don’t remember asking her and I don’t remember her asking me or my mother about the style. We trusted her judgment and experience.

To my delight, when I went to pick up the dress, she had made a beautiful shift with a large, rectangular collar (I think they were called cape in the mid-’60s) that came down to mid-chest and same in the back – in brilliant RED!  That made me so very happy and it fitted perfectly.

I decided that if I could not have a complete red dress, this would become my red dress.

Wish I could say that was the end of my story and I enjoyed my red dress for as long as possible.   Unfortunately, I would give those same people – the matrons who looked down their noses at anyone who did not conform – and who my mother was concerned about, a reason to shake their heads at me and my red (caped) dress.

My mother’s cousin, Violet, who was a teacher, was much older and so Mama taught me to call her Aunt Vie. That was a common practice in Jamaica. I loved Aunt Vie. I still remember going to her home. In today’s world, she’d be called a Hoarder. She had things I later understood were genuine antiques. But her house was always crowded because she had so much furniture, books, maps, and other things in her living and dining rooms.

While I was away at school, Aunt Vie became ill and died. I was heartbroken. I loved her so much and she loved me. She always gave me an enveloping hug whenever we saw each other, and always words of encouragement to do my best in school.

I was only 12 years old and her funeral service would be held in the Methodist Church. In honor of my deep love for her, I wanted to wear my favorite dress to Aunt Vie’s funeral.  In 1966 it was unheard of in my conservative town for anyone to wear anything but black, and occasionally white, to a funeral. I begged my mother to let me wear my red caped dress. She pointed out that it was not appropriate and “what would people say?”

My father noted that I was doing this because I loved Aunt Vie and if I was willing to be stared at, I could go ahead.

That Sunday I walked into the church in my favorite dress, and as I walked to the casket to look at Aunt Vie for the last time, I could hear the whispers. One woman spoke loudly enough as I passed so that I heard her ask, “Whose daughter is that?”  I don’t know if the other lady knew me or my parents. I held my head high, walked down the aisle of the packed church to the casket, grateful that I was able to see my beloved cousin for the last time as she peacefully lay there.  As I slowly made my way to the back of the church, I smiled to myself. I had said goodbye to Aunt Vie wearing my favorite dress, my red-caped dress.


Yvonne A. Jones
Yvonne A. Jones
YVONNE is a Personal Business Coach | Relationship Marketing Strategist| Amazon Best-Selling Author| International Speaker. She is the Founder of the 50 and Wiser Community on Facebook – a Group of women who want to DO more, GIVE more, and BE more. As a certified Strategy and Accountability Coach, she helps Entrepreneurs, Coaches, Consultants, and Small Business Owners eliminate limiting beliefs, create a business they love, and have fun doing so. Her favorite client is a highly-motivated woman 50 and Wiser who has been in business for approximately one year and is ready to empower herself and move to the next level. Yvonne’s background is in banking, Human Resources, administration, and Customer Service. At 52 years she handed in her resignation and walked away from Corporate America to start her own business full-time. She has experienced the joys and challenges of owning multiple businesses. She was listed on as one of the “Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter” and on “One of the Top 15 Most Influential Customer Service Experts to Follow on Twitter.” Despite the recognition and promotions received while in corporate life in Jamaica and America, she now considers herself “unemployable” due to her love of being her own boss and inspiring others to pursue their passion and dreams. Yvonne’s mantra: “Focus on relationships; the money will follow.”

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  1. You don’t judge a book by its cover or a person by appearance. Actions must be judged.
    You were guided by an act of love, humbly exposing yourself to the judgment of a community that was based only on superstition and conservatism: how much is its judgment worth?

  2. Wow, what a heartfelt story, just love it Yvonne.
    What a beautiful share and tribute to your aunt Vie, I can feel the joy here, amazing.
    It’s so wonderful to read how your love for her became your courage, for the gracious last goodbye🌹
    No matter what the world would think

    I remember an old Indian saying, I have learned it from a song:
    “people will always have something to say, it is the work of people to say”

    • Ineke, thank you for that Indian quote. I shall borrow it and smile with delight as I think of you. Love does give courage and I look back now and wonder. It makes me think of how children ask a lot of questions when they’re young then they stop as they become older. For a while I gave up my courage but am happy to say I got it back. Support also makes for great reinforcement.

  3. Thank you for reading, Darlene, and your empowering comment. Until I wrote this memory, I did not realize or remember that playing to my own drum is some thing I started doing at a young age. At some point as I got older I began worrying too much about what other people would say. Then, it seems, I had to remember and re-learn that as long as I’m not violating God’s laws and normal decent behavior, I could not allow myself to be controlled by other people’s expectations…unless I wanted to go crazy. 😊