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I saw an article in the paper today about a B.C. girl who had made a statement dress for her prom. It’s rather nice, I think, that proms, that most frivolous symbol of North American teenage life, sometimes serve to make political statements. I’d prefer that to the mindless throwing away of money on limos, expensive duds and fancy venues. I mean, what’s wrong with your boyfriend’s rust bucket Datsun, Mom’s madeover wedding gown(or Dad’s 20-year-old tux with the too-short sleeves) and the sweat-infused school gym? I’m not against the kids having fun, but it would be reassuring to think that they also have brains and are capable of critical thought.

This young woman had made a dress from her homework assignments — math assignments, no less, and had attached the paper to black satin straps. It was quite clever and fetching. Better yet, on her website she explained that she was making the point that she was a fortunate young woman in that she had been able to have a good education, one that would provide her with the tools for a fulfilling life. She was going to university on a full scholarship. She pointed out that many young girls around the world do not have this privilege. She also intended to donate money raised from the dress to the Malala fund for the education of women. Yea for her!

I told Gill about the dress. She, now the recipient of a PhD, was impressed. But she also remembered a time when her academic career was less than stellar. “Wow, Ma, if I’d had to make a dress with my math assignments, it would have been the world’s skimpiest dress. And there would have been a lot of red marks and zeros involved!”

This got us reminiscing about prom dresses. My particular favourite was Gill’s senior prom outfit. She had, in a stroke of brilliance, conned me into taking her shopping in Toronto to find a dress. You may not see this as remarkable, but Gill hated dresses. She wore them only under threat of death. So you can imagine my glee when she stepped up and VOLUNTEERED to wear one! And she said she might even have her hair done at a hair salon! I was apoplectic with glee. It’s not that I wanted her to be a Barbie, but the occasional attempt at femininity would be nice. (This worked in L’il Sis’ favour, however, since she figured out that she could very easily be ‘The Good Daughter’ by dolling herself up in feminine trappings all the time.)

Seeing this as an opening,  I took Gill shopping in Toronto. We found a stylish dress, (a designer one by Betsey Johnston) in bright fuchsia that Gill loved. It had a full, short skirt and straps. I, of course, was visualizing it with snappy accessories — heels, jewelry, perhaps a cute pashmina or wrap…

Gill had other ideas. In her own kind of political statement (I’m not sure if the statement was “I hate school and am glad I’m finished with its rules and stupid exams’ or ‘You think I’m going to conform to social norms? Think again’) she chose her own accessories. When she came waltzing down the stairs, she was a vision. She wore the fuchsia dress, a green army surplus jacket, green Doc Martens (steel-toed so she could kick her date if he tried anything funny), multicolored striped tights, and a corsage that she had made of radishes!

“Well, Ma, you didn’t expect me just to wear the dress as it is?” she asked. “I’m leaving high school with a bang!”  That she did. And I think I’m secretly glad that she danced to a different drummer. Perhaps the radish corsage was a tad over the top, but…at least her outfit showed creativity, thoughtfulness, and was the first step on her ‘road less travelled’.