Reflections: the bad juju gown

I found lots of discussion online about jinxed garments – especially unlucky pants.

Tea Gown (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE; PHOTOGRAPH IN LES MODES)
Tea Gown
(photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE; PHOTOGRAPH IN LES MODES)
 Broken engagements were mysteries to me until my son broke his. Now I had a front seat to the process. The technical stuff – canceling the hall, the photographer and the musician, even retracting the invitations – was surprisingly easy, and many of the people involved were extremely kind. The caterer sent a partial refund. The musician waived his fee. The painful part was watching my son as he agonized through the toughest decision in his young life. 
Several months have passed and now another son is getting married. We’re all thrilled there’s a question dancing around the cracks of my mind. I splashed out on a gown for son #1’s canceled nuptials. Would it be wrong to wear that gown to the wedding of son #2? 
 
It’s a great gown: silver lace, a color that compliments my aging skin, long-waisted with a mermaid skirt that flatters my pear-shaped body stuffed into Spanx, and best of all, I already own it. No need to waste precious hours schlepping to stores or trolling the Internet. 
 
I’m not superstitious. I decide to wear it. “Why not?” I ask myself. Then my friend Hanna toppled my proverbial apple cart. 

“Don’t.” She said. “When my son broke off his engagement, I got rid of the dress I had bought for his wedding. It seemed jinxed.”

“Jinxed?” Until now I had considered Hanna one of my more rational friends, but if she believed in jinxed mother-of-the-groom gowns, then maybe I should, too!

That thought fed into my greediest self. If I wasn’t going to wear the silver gown, I deserved to buy myself something better. I had studied the subject of mother-of-the-groom attire enough to locate the dress of my dreams: the Carolina Herrera Trench Gown. Herrera, an octogenarian Venezuelan fashion designer, is famous for dressing socialites and wives of oligarchs. 

The trench gown. What a weird name. Was Carolina thinking about trench coats? Trench warfare? I had no clue. What mattered to me was that the gown, a white menswear-influenced button-down blouse top over a flowing black taffeta skirt, was magnificent, and
Neiman Marcus was selling it for a mere $4,500. (I could sell 90 essays to pay for it.) 

I located a reasonable copy for a mere $600, but with wedding costs already spiraling out of control, I still couldn’t justify what seemed like a frivolous expense 

Once again Hanna chimed in. “Go to Reichman.” Reichman is the Reichman gemach, an acronym for the Hebrew phrase gemilut hessed (good works), a Jerusalem charity that loans out evening gowns at no cost. Kind of amazing, right? At the Reichman, every woman can be queen for a day for free. Maybe there I’d find the Carolina Herrera. 

And so, one rainy winter Thursday, I drove across town to the Reichman. It’s a lovely place, elegantly laid-out, well-staffed, well organized and above all, friendly. 

I spent an hour sifting through dozens of gowns, beautiful chiffons and organzas and silks, most of them either new or nearly new but none even vaguely resembling my beloved Trench Gown. I left empty-handed. 

Back at home I took another look at the silver gown. I still liked it a lot, but could I wear it? Was there any legitimacy to the notion of a bad juju gown? I found lots of discussion online about jinxed garments – especially unlucky pants, which seems to be a thing. 
As far as I’m concerned, the Torah is the only yardstick for truth, so I asked a learned rabbi. “No problem,” he said. “Go ahead and wear it.” Great, I was off the hook, my mind at last at ease. 

My son got married last week, thank God a million times. I’d like to report that I danced the night away in the silver gown. I didn’t. Four days before the ceremony I happened to be nearby and I stopped in at the Reichman, on the off chance. To my amazed delight I found another gown, a pseudo-skirt-and-blouse number, not quite a trench but as close as I was going to get.

Back at home I tried on both gowns. They both looked great but the brocade gown had room for an undershirt; I had come down with the flu and didn’t want to freeze under the outdoor huppa (wedding canopy), and the brocade gown didn’t require Spanx. No fiddling with those strategically placed hooks and eyes. 

And the silver gown? I donated it to a gemach. Hopefully some other mother of a bride or groom will dance the night away in it. I hope she’s skinnier than me.