For those if you not old enough to know or remember this, a tent dress is an A-line garment with the capital letter “A” shape being the narrowest at the neckline and the widest at the hem. It is shaped like a typical A-frame tent, hence the name. The tent dress was first made popular in the 1960s when women’s dresses became much less structured in style than the cinch-waist, much more tailored dresses of the 1950s.
What does that have to do with Nancy Drew books? I realize there is no real similarity, yet both items co-habitated for many years in my childhood bedroom closet.
My mother was never a ‘fashionista’, but she bought good clothing with classic lines that stood the test of time. She always took very good care of her clothing, so it stayed around. My mother was also a school teacher and started her children early on appreciating books. Birthdays and Christmas always included Nancy Drew (and the occasional Bobbsey Twin) books for me, and Hardy Boy books for my brothers. I credit her for developing my love of reading and Nancy Drew for developing my enjoyment of mystery stores, which remains my favorite genre.
My mother had a philosophy that, if you didn’t use something for six months, you probably could do without it. Old toys, games and books were passed on into the hands of children who would use them once we outgrew them. And thus, when I was just hitting my teens, those Nancy Drew books (I’d developed quite a collection) made it into the hands of younger children to enjoy. But, the tent dresses stayed tucked away in my the back of my closet. They’d gone “out of style” in less than 10 years, but my mother was certain that they would come back in style again. (Out of respect, I will say that her belief was correct, as they did make a very short reprieve in 2007.)
Meanwhile, only as an adult did I understand that, while she denied us the right to hoard things, she didn’t apply this rule to herself. There was sheet music that was tattered and yellowed with age kept tucked away; there were rows and rows of shelves my dad put up in our basement family room so she could store all of her books, there were big fat photo albums that held photos numbering in the thousands that she carefully put on those old sticky pages and stacked on a lower shelf of her bookshelf, and there were those tent dresses, covered in plastic bags from the dry cleaners and nestled in that corner of my closet.
When my dad finally retired and my parents made the decision to move to Florida, I was already grown and out of the house. Though I didn’t help with packing for their move, I suspect those dresses finally made their way to the Goodwill store, along with many other things from the household. After years of hand-me-down and ‘functional’ furniture, they were taking only their bed – which would be put in the second bedroom as an homage to Pennsylvania – and everything else would be new. Even the books, or most of them, didn’t make the cut when it came to packing to move.
By the time the short reprieve of the tent dress happened in 2007, my mother had passed away. I think, were she still living, she’d have been unhappy with making the choice to let them go. I never really understood her commitment to this style of dress, because she didn’t have a figure that needed to be hidden (mom was 5’0″ tall and, when she hit 120 on the scale, she dieted).
Or maybe I would have understood. Even though my reading has matured to a level that is beyond the storyline of Nancy Drew books, I still wish I had them. There purpose and significance in my life hold a full childhood of memories, and I know just looking at them all lined up would bring back those memories in more vivid detail. Perhaps there was a significance in my mom’s life that coincided with the trend of tent dresses, and that’s the reason she held on to them for so long?
I’ll never know and wish she were still here so I could ask her. Meanwhile, I still miss my Nancy Drew books…..