My son Ray, 9, enjoys the ambiance of the Bridal Boutique in Platteville, Wisc., while his cousin shops for prom dresses on March 28.

My son Ray, 9, enjoys the ambiance of the Bridal Boutique in Platteville, Wisc., while his cousin shops for prom dresses on March 28. (Pam Mellskog / For the Times-Call)

Before I knew it 4:20 p.m. rolled around and left me no time to clean up or even change clothes. So, I dusted off my jeans and plucked the tiny twigs and burs from my hair while walking to the minivan with my mom and youngest son, Ray.

Good spring weather tempts gardeners, farmers, landscapers, ranch hands and people like me to keep our gloves on longer than we should.

The kids and I had road tripped from Erie to spend spring break at my parents’ farm in northwestern Illinois last month. And there I worked for hours over several days on the steep hillside above the hog shed and calf barn to prune trees, clear brush and dig thorn bush roots.

Still, what long-distance auntie can pass up an invitation from a sweet 16 niece on another kind of mission?

Pam Mellskog Mommy Musings

Pam Mellskog Mommy Musings

We left the farm just in time that Thursday afternoon to cross the state line and meet her and my sister at the Bridal Boutique in Platteville, Wisc., 25 miles north.

With muted despair the hopeful prom goer claimed to be the only girl in her high school junior class still hunting for the perfect gown nine days out from the event.

So, we vetted dress after dress with her as she stood on a small platform in a mirrored fitting room large enough to seat our three-generation audience — my mom, my sister and me, and Ray, 9.

Every 10 minutes or so we trundled into the fitting room to take a seat when she modeled gowns sleek and silky with spaghetti straps and others glittering with sequins and flouncy with tulle.

Then, we trundled out when she stepped off the platform to change into the next dress.

It all felt very Disneyesque, like the sweet 16 niece could be the next Little Mermaid spin-off with a cake topper mass produced in her image some day.

Ray caught prom girl spirit watching this whirlwind of princess dresses. Suddenly, his inside out orange Broncos t-shirt, grey pants and baby blue rain boots seemed just so unacceptably Plain Jane.

So, he snatched a sleeveless white flower girl dress with a black waistband and big black bows on the hem.

We found him amid the racks in this forest of formal dresses in zippered plastic bags moments before he could strip down and slip into it. To distract him from disappointment we encouraged him to wander — however empty handed — from there into a vacant fitting room to do what the Bridal Boutique hopes all prospective customers will do. To look in the mirrors and see yourself in a different way, perhaps in a better light.

My sister and I understand the magic of a such a moment there first hand.

We visited the Bridal Boutique together with our mother and now late maternal grandmother in the mid 1990s to shop for her mutton-sleeved winter wedding dress and my purple velvet bridesmaid dress.

In 2003, a Bridal Boutique seamstress altered my mother’s 1961 wedding dress twice to fit me — the daughter 4 inches taller and a bit wider than she. Then, they dyed the new fabric with tea bags to match the antique white of the snow white wedding dress gone vintage.

We are fans of this little shop and its staff.

But before leaving I made a note to self: No more Saturday night Cinderellas, please.

Not in 2019.

I subscribe to the “look great, feel great” mindset.

But young Bridal Boutique customers face a fine line clarified by two questions. Am I buying this dress because it will fetch second looks or because it helps me express beauty from the inside out with flair?

Some may say both reasons are OK.

To me, though, nothing seems more stale in the fashion world than what happens every year on the red carpet as celebrities at the Academy Awards ceremony bask in a lightning storm of camera flash.

In spite of the timeless tidal wave of look-at-me energy — be it invested in fancy dresses or fast cars — I hope my niece and her generation continue to crack the glass slipper. That mentality that waits for someone else to fit you into their future, to recognize your beauty and make it real to you.

That is the fairy tale.

I hope the sweet 16 niece and her friends crush the glass slipper kicking up their heels. I hope they attend proms and participate in wedding ceremonies wearing what expresses their natural born beauty instead of settling for being eye candy.

With spring in the air and proms on the calendar, it is a fine time to wonder more about pulling weeds and nurturing growth. A fine time for young people and all of us to wonder who we are and what that looks like beyond mirror, mirror on the wall

Pam Mellskog can be reached at p.mellskog@gmail.com or at 303-746-0942. For more posts and photos, please visit http://www.timescall.com/mommy-musings-blog.


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