A fellow came up behind me, someone I didn’t know, and said, “ I like your outfit.”
I had on Capri pants and a short-sleeved top made out of vintage drapery material. The kind called barkcloth, which I have used to make cushion covers and futon covers. Brightly coloured, bold flowers and broad sweeping lines. You’d recognize it if you saw it.
“It’s like 50’s drapery material,” I replied, looking down on the large, lush hibiscus and lilies painted in vibrant colours while I continued to keep an eye out for my friend.
“My mom had one like it,” he said, grinning. His face was open and friendly with a squint in one eye making it slightly eschew. He too seemed to be waiting for someone.
It was a boiling hot day so I added, “Well, I am glad it is an Indonesian knock-off because that thick drapery material would be much too hot today.”
“My mom really liked hers. She died recently” he said, somewhat sadly. "She used to say, Scarlet!”, he exclaimed laughing, throwing one arm out at the side. “You probably know that skit.” He demonstrated again, throwing one arm out at right angles to his body, “Scarlet!”
I looked down at the material. Not much scarlet in it. I smiled at him and said thank you, not at all sure what he meant. But it is not that often that someone you don’t know comes up and tells you they like your outfit. Such happenings can make your day.
Just then my friend walked over with someone in tow and a request that we drive him home as well, so we engaged in making arrangements and introductions. My new friend had slipped away, probably spotting who he was waiting for and I didn’t think about the exchange until later that evening.
Still wearing the Capri pant outfit, I was explaining the interaction to a friend as a typical kind of connection created here on the Sunshine Coast.
She laughed, “He meant Scarlet O’Hara!”
Then she went on to explain, “When Scarlet was destitute and hungry and wanted to seduce Rhett Butler, she decided to go to him to plead for food but she had no dress to wear so she tore down the green satin curtains and made a dress out of them.”
Something stirred in the deeper recesses of my mind.
“Then”, my friend went on, “Carol Burnett used to do this funny skit when she pretended she was Scarlet O’Hara but had left the rod in the curtains so whenever she turned from side to side, she would hit people with the curtain rod. It was hilarious!”
For me it was a glimpse into someone else's very special family stories. We all have them. They are how we make meaning and embrace ritual in our lives. For my new acquaintance, a chance encounter with an outfit sewn from vintage drapery material invoked his mother and her enjoyment of her drapery outfit, as well as Scarlet's and Carol Burnett's take on it. He got me to thinking about my own family stories and the need to savour them.
Photos: vintage barkcloth drapery