Requiem for a Beloved Purple Dress

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Kate in Railay

Four and a half years ago, I found myself shipwrecked and posession-less in Indonesia. After jumping off a boat and swimming for my life in the middle of the night, I ended up with only four pieces of clothing: my Vang Vieng tubing t-shirt, my black and blue hippie pants, my pink Beerlao tank top, and a pair of tiny red shorts.

I flew back to Thailand with a backpack so empty, it was comical.

I had bought a few items before leaving Indonesia, but the selection wasn’t great. Luckily, Bangkok is one of the best shopping cities in the world, if not the best. I quickly set out to the MBK shopping mall to see what I could find, soon ending up in a clothing boutique called Eve.

And there they were…two dresses, soft and stretchy with black lacework and ties in the back. One in royal blue. One in grape. Each cost 200 baht — roughly $6.

I bought both.

Over the next few years, those dresses became mainstays of my travel wardrobe. The blue dress in particular would become my calling card, worn on every trip and instantly recognizable. But the purple dress, not as much of a statement, was more versatile. It always remained soft and stayed the proper size, while the blue one got dry and shrank to the point of needing to pair it with leggings.

I wore the dress on a weekly basis, wherever I happened to be in the world. I thought about evaluating the “cost per wear,” the system that rewards buying a versatile $800 leather jacket over an ugly $20 dress, and thought that my purple dress’s cost per wear must be the lowest in my wardrobe, even lower than underwear.

For four years, my purple dress and I were the perfect team.

Then this summer, the day I was dreading arrived: I could no longer deny that the dress had worn out. The lace on the back had been tearing apart for quite some time, which was bad enough; it had now gotten to the point where the two sides were hanging down at different angles and I was nearly flashing people.

This wasn’t the kind of thing that could be fixed. It was time to say goodbye.

So I folded it neatly and left it on a shelf in my apartment in Montenegro. Partly because I could barely close my suitcase, partly because I felt it appropriate to leave a much-loved sacrifice to the apartment’s ghost, who had haunted me for the past five days. Either way, before I left, I held the dress to my face, breathed it in, and whispered, “You’ve served me so well.”

Thank you, purple dress.

Kate in Boracay

You were the perfect beach cover-up in the Philippines…

Kate and Alex on the Catamaran

And you covered up just as well in Nicaragua.

Kate in Golden Gai

You were formal enough for a tapas bar in Tokyo…

Kate and the Cinnamon Roll

Though you looked right at home in a casual diner in San Antonio.

Kate working in El Tunco

You were my office-wear in El Salvador…

Beth, Kate and Sarah at Big Gay Ice Cream

And you were so comfortable on overnight transit days.

Kate on Lake Bled

I threw you on during a scalding day in Slovenia…

Kate in Bergen Norway

Yet you also worked when paired with a blazer, leggings, and boots in chilly Norway.

Kate at Khao Sok

And when I needed to swim through a cave in Thailand, hey, you even worked for that!

Thank you, purple dress, for being a wonderful travel companion. Next time I’m in Bangkok, I’ll head back to Eve to check out their dresses, but I know there will never be another one like you.

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50 thoughts on “Requiem for a Beloved Purple Dress”

  1. Isn’t it funny that we can get so attached to certain clothes. I’ve been trying to clear out my wardrobe before I jet off again but some things I just can’t let go of. I’ve got no intention of wearing them again but can’t face throwing them out. Back to the wardrobe they go to sit and gather dust!

  2. LOVE IT. RIP, purple dress! I had a black sleeveless dress I wore underneath my college cap and gown that I then wore as a staple to backpack through W. Europe for 3 months. It was by New York and Co, purchased brand-new at a secondhand store for ~$10, and I was soooo bummed when it wore out (like a year after wearing it almost-daily whilst backpacking…impressive).

    Anyway, love this post – a lovely insight on such a minute detail of travel life. <3

  3. I have moved countries quite a few times in my life, and I have travelled to many places. Therefore, I too have had to throw away a lot of clothing over the years. There has been one item I’ve never quite been able to throwaway, my Converse flipflops I had bought when I was 15 years old. They came everywhere with me because they were my only pair of flipflops. I took them from South East Asia to many places in Europe and Central America. During my trip in Central America they were already quite run-down because I had owned them for 8 years at that point. I was kind of hoping they would get stolen during the Ladies Night parties and beach event. They always found their way back to me. Someone accidentally took one of them, and walked back to return them.

    Last year, after having them for 13 years, I threw them away. They were run-down but I could’ve still walked in them. Now I have four pairs of flip flops and I cannot a pair I love as much as my Converse ones.

    In short, I loved that you wrote an article about your dress! Many of us have an item that’s insignificant to some but invaluable to the owner. Great post!

  4. RIP PURPLE DRESS

    I said goodbye to my green hoodie in January. It was a bad break up, silly me left it on the ground when getting a bag out of the car and walked off. Only too realise we were not together when the train departed. A couple of phone calls were no help, gutted.

    I was reluctant to replace him so quick after a few years ago. Waking up to snow in Mongolia, I knew it was time to move on.

    Now all my photos are me and that blue hoodie.

  5. RIP purple dress 🙁 Nice post, it is very relatable! I miss an old pair of cargo pants which many people said was ugly and unfashionable, but to me it was always so comfy on flights or just a stroll in nature. It lasted for five years before my mom managed to convince me it was too torn and shabby to be worn in public lol.

  6. So relatable! I have a dress that’s black with little pink roses all over it. I’ve had it for 4 years, having bought it when I decided to wear more dresses. Now it has a bunch of holes in the skirt and parts have faded pretty badly. It’s too bad because it’s the most comfortable thing to fly/go on adventures in.

  7. Oh, I just love pieces like that, they become an extension of you. That dress rocked you all over the world. I hope you find another great dress that goes on a new chapter of adventures with you.

  8. It’s funny how certain items stick with you. I had a baggy black top with a zip up the back and i accidentally spilt bleach on it last month and i feel lost without it. Some items just can’t be replaced! xo

    PS) That dress looks incredible on you! xo

  9. Aww, farewell purple dress! That’s awesome that it survived as long as it did.

    I’m dreading the day when my black jersey Old Navy dress gives up the ghost. I have worn that thing EVERYwhere, and it still remains one of the most flattering dresses I own. I now wish I would have bought like 5 of them all those years ago!

  10. I love this post. That is all.

    Well, not really all. Hi. I also have two similar dresses–one in black and one in blue. With a scarf and a cardigan, they are really all I need, ever. I will be sad when they die.

    I hope your purple dress is still traveling on in that big trash bin in the sky.

  11. I have a LBD from H&M, well I actually have two of the same dress. They’ve been with me in my backpack on trips since the USA road trip in 2011 and I think the time has come for them to join your grape dress in clothing heaven. God bless my friend. You have been good to me.

  12. This happened with my favourite black lace dress. It had started to wear but I was in denial and then one day the zip just gave and I knew it was time to say goodbye.

    It’s so easy to get attached to particular items of clothes! I just bought a whole new wardrobe for Europe and I’ve put them safely in my pack, not to be touched until I leave.

  13. I can totally relate to this! I also had an experience of losing everything while I was traveling, for me it was a big fire in Laos. I still have the trousers I was wearing at the time. They got ripped when we were clambering through a cave in the dark, making our escape. Drama, drama! My mum sewed a patched on them when I got home, and they are still going years later. I think I will have them framed when they finally die, or just continue to sew patches on until they become one big patchwork extravaganza!

  14. Love it! RIP lovely dress and yes, I have noticed that the blue dress in particular is your calling card. I like that dress very much ‘cos it’s in my favourite shade LOL!

    We all have a favourite item of clothing. I used to have a pair of Levi’s jeans that I bought in the boys’ department decades ago as I didn’t like female jeans. I still don’t LOL! And I wore those jeans for more than 10 years. They faded really well with time and when I fell down the stairs and hurt my kneecap it was no problem as they became “ripped” jeans, and as time went on and they became worse for wear, they graduated into a pair of “shorts.” I can’t wear them any more as they are knackered and sadly, no longer fit. It was a gripe to finally have to hand them over to the what my son and I call ” the land of missing clothes!”

    1. Fun fact. I used to date a guy who wore women’s jeans. I told one of my female friends in confidence and she got drunk one night and yelled, “WOMEN’S JEANS!” at him in the middle of downtown Boston. Eek…

  15. I loved this post Kate! I have a pair of Timberland workbooks that I bought when I was pregnant in 1984. My mother hated them, but I explained that I wore them to be solidly on the ground when I was carrying my baby girl. I carried her all over the place, on my front, on my back and in my arms. We never slipped. I still have those boots 31 years later and now they have become gardening boots! I just can’t give them up, although I have replaced them with other, less worm out boots for outdoor use. Not sure if I will ever give them up – they represent so many good memories. Debbie

  16. Ahhh, RIP purple dress! I love finding pieces that works in every occasion, and that you never get tired of! Hope you’re able to find a new one at Eve – I’ll be sure to check it out when I’m going to Thailand in november 🙂 Happy weekend, Kate!

  17. I enjoyed this story about your connection to your clothing and how often you wore it. It’s wonderful you found a piece that’s versatile and has been meaningful to you for so long. I feel we should develop more relationships with clothing rather than always tossing them out. I hope you find a great replacement sometime soon!

  18. I still have a blue shirt I’ve taken on all major trips since I started travelling in 1999. Love that shirt. It’s been repaired a couple of times. My wife doesnt understand why i dont throw it out…

  19. Great post! Understand how do you feel…I have few favourite pieces I would never give up but I am sure you´ll find another ones!
    misstravelfairy.wordpress.com

  20. hahha love this post! I can totally relate because I live in dresses and wear them til the end – especially if it’s one I’m in love with. It’s just so easy to throw it on and not worry about matching or anything else. i remember i had this nasty green t-shirt i was in love with and my mom finally made me chuck it. but yes the purple dress has served you well 😉

  21. so great post i love, and i love your blog too, your purple dress look great on you, and i love the place you were in, hope to read from you soon, have nice travel posts 😉

  22. Don’t you love how many of our favorite travel go-tos are not specifically travel items at all? I had a couple of dresses from the street market in Hong Kong that were similar, and HATED throwing them away. Would love to hear more about your favorite items that are ‘everyday’ things that transition well into a travel lifestyle! It’s REALLY hard as a girl finding travel-friendly things that are cute and affordable 🙁

  23. I love your dress, it looks pretty and also looks comfy! I wouldn’t blame you for wearing it so much haha. you have such nice pictures of everywhere and you in that dress. dress been to more places than me! haha

    ~emily

  24. Hahaha, this is hilarious, and so true. I hate saying goodbye to clothing that you really love, especially when you have made so many memories with it! But at least you have tons of pictures!

  25. This is the first time I visit your blog and I stumbled upon this post about a purple dress. Well, you know, purple if my favorite color, so I got curious 😉

    This was so beautifully written, even poetic. I love the way you got to detach from the dress so gracefully, yet paying a tribute to its longtime usefulness. I wish we could act this way about everything in life: live your moments together while it’s possible, recognize when it’s over, say a proper goodbye and then move on with a heart full of warm good memories.

    Well, I guess it’s probably the kind of wisdom you acquire when you travel 🙂

    Thank you for your posts, Kate. Your blog is fantastic.

    Cheers from Brazil!

    1. Mostly in the States. It all depends — I try to buy more quality items that will be in style and last long-term, rather than more disposable stuff like H&M, so I tend to shop at ShopBop, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Express, Lucky for jeans, Victoria’s Secret for undies. But I occasionally shop while traveling — I found a TON of cool, cheap stuff in Albania!

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