How I Came To Own a Ginger Rogers Gown

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The time has come for me to spill a secret that I have held near and dear to my heart for the past two years, and I am choosing to do so on the anniversary to the very day. On March 3, 2017, I became the proud owner of a personal gown worn by Ginger Rogers. You might be thinking, "Why have you kept this to yourself? That's a marvelous achievement!" Well, the simple answer is this: because it is so special that I was just not quite ready to boast about my precious acquirement. Keeping it to myself for so long has made it even more meaningful.

Of course at the time and since, I have told friends about it and brought it to many family functions to excited relatives who had heard the tale, but I was not ready to make it public. I just could not bring myself to immediately share such a personal accomplishment. It was a surreal and magical experience, but now that two years have passed, I am ready to share my story.

I have mentioned this several times here, but I have been a Ginger fan since high school. Before early 2017, however, I was far too deep into devoting my time to Marilyn Monroe, another inspiration of mine, to do the same for Ginger. I was happy as a clam running my Marilyn fan Instagram at the time (back when Instagram was still a little bit fun for me) but with no real direction. I was always feeling like something was missing. And that weekend in 2017 held the answers that I was looking for.

How I stumbled upon the dress was a happy coincidence, but everything that has happened since then seems more like fate. I learned through an Instagram post that a vintage clothing shop called The Way We Wore in Los Angeles held a few of her gowns. My mom and I already had plans to be in the area the coming weekend so I decided that we should make that shop one of our stops. The store is owned by internationally known vintage treasure hunter Doris Raymond, and is also the setting for her show "L.A. Frock Stars." You can read more about Doris on the store site's bio here.

My only intention with visiting the shop was simply to view what they had. They brought out three personal gowns owned by Ginger for me, and even a coat that once belonged to Loretta Young. These were all of their celebrity pieces at the time. Doris had told me that Ginger's secretary, Roberta, had sold them to the boutique. Any Ginger fan knows who Roberta is, and with Roberta comes authenticity. This was the real deal. After learning what a big fan I was, Doris showed me her phone and scrolled through her email correspondence with Roberta which included photos of the dresses. She let me touch them, take pictures of them and with them, and she even came out and asked if I would like to try one on, which I respectfully declined. You might think I'm crazy for refusing such an opportunity, but I just couldn't. Ginger and I are the same height, and we're even in the same weight range. But even I wouldn't be able to, or want to try to, squeeze myself into it. It was just too tiny and fragile.

What a waist!
We were in the store for a long time, and that's when I made what I thought was a grave mistake at the time, but little did I know it would work in my favor. I became attached to one of the dresses. Attached!  I couldn't leave the shop, it felt like it was calling me. It just blew me away. It was this tiny but heavy little number with an embroidered floral design. A pink, clearly aged but still glorious bow was sewed to the back. It was not off the rack, this was clearly handmade. By who, I don't know. I would love to find out. I could not stop starring at it. I could not help but to keep thinking, "Ginger Rogers wore that. And now it's right in front of me."

My mom, who was with me, quickly noticed my quiet, growing attachment to the gown. It was starting to get late and we had to be somewhere shortly. She kept asking me if I wanted it. To which I said of course, but I'm not sure what you're getting at. My mom provides the world for me and has done more for me than I can ever truly thank her for. I fantasized about having that dress, but I was not going to have my mom do what I thought she was going to do, and what ended up being just what she did. She straight up bought it for me.

Everything after that was kind of a blur. I cried. It was over 90 degrees outside. I had blisters. I had to carry my low heeled boots back to the car as we walked several blocks in the heat down La Brea because we forgot where we parked. This kind of thing just doesn't happen to someone like me. This is something I could only dream about. We don't have the money to shell out for things like this, but my mom made it happen because she knew how important it would be to me.

A close-up of the fabric

Surprisingly, the dress moment was not our only adventure from that weekend. Others included attending the opening of the Jean Harlow exhibit at the Hollywood Museum, eating french fries at a sketchy hookah lounge on Hollywood Boulevard at midnight, and having brunch with Emma Caulfield and her adorable baby girl to name a few. We even got lost at Hollywood Forever while searching for Judy Garland's new resting place. This was back when it was still unmarked and under construction. After driving around for a while, we came across a few people on the side of one of the roads who seemed to be having car trouble. A man who worked at the cemetery was clearly trying to help them. My mom pulled over and offered to use her car to help jump start theirs. She looked at the man and jokingly said, "But only if you can help us find Judy Garland." That was when he gave us a look like he wasn't going to tell us, which was kind of odd. He hesitated a few moments, clearly considering our request before finally agreeing.  It was an odd weekend. But I digress.

Since obtaining the dress, a mutual friend in the Ginger field hooked me up personally with Roberta. I have endless thank yous and appreciation for Roberta for taking the time to reach out to me via email. She confirmed the dress's authenticity, as it was still difficult for me to wrap my head around the idea that I now owned something that Ginger once did. She was very sweet about my avid interest and passion.

But it didn't stop there. Several months after getting used to owning the gown, I came across an online listing for a bunch of Ginger scrapbooks being sold at an auction house in the United Kingdom. I didn't have a lot to spend, but I felt such a pull to at least try for them. I figured that all those rare photos and articles would undoubtedly be incredibly valuable to my research, but what I felt was more powerful than that. I absolutely had to get them, for whatever reason. So I did. And I won by the skin of my teeth.

It took several days to fully take in all the pictures when I got them. The pages seemed never ending. I would light up every time I flipped through these scrapbooks. But it was one day soon after I received them that I turned the page and realized just what I was looking at. Upon taking a closer inspection at one of the clippings, my heart jumped to my throat:

This undated photo of Ginger with Robert Wagner is mostly likely from 1956. The caption states that it was taken while filming a television show. The only time I was able to think of Ginger and Robert Wagner working together in that time period, or really at all, would have been in Alaska during the taping of Bob Hope's show in December of 1956. The fabric on her coat is the exact same as the print on the dress I have. Being that this dress was not off the rack, as mentioned before, this was huge. I was ecstatic, a lead! But even more reassuring than that was what occurred that night. I had the dress laid out and was inspecting it some more. On the inside at the top of the breast holds an extra button sewn into it a small piece of cloth. I always thought that was odd, being the dress doesn't have any buttons. So I was sitting there and by coincidence playing with the extra cloth with the button in it and just thinking about the photo, when suddenly it hit me to take another look at it. Sure enough, if you look closer, the coat she is wearing in the photo appears to have buttons fastened onto it. Buttons that look to be the exact same size as the one sewn into my gown. With this information, I now firmly believe that I own the piece that goes with that coat. She very well could be wearing it in that exact photo!

To this day, I still have not found concrete, photographic evidence of Ginger wearing the gown I have. This isn't very surprising, as she was a clothes hound and owned countless personal apparel and we can't expect her to have been photographed wearing everything she owned. But I now have leads in my own little live game of Nancy Drew. If you have any other information or would like to help me in my search, keep me updated on my Twitter! And now that I've posted this story publicly, I will keep you all updated as well if I discover anything.

I am a believer in God, and I believe that He provides signs. No words could describe the impact of all the incidents that have happened ever since the dress arrived in my life. This experience was about more than simply buying a gown, it was an affirming adventure that made me rethink my entire path, and the past two years have contained a whirlwind of signs that I'm on the right one. By receiving the dress, it was as if I had finally found one of my purposes in life: to stick with Ginger and telling her story. I cannot exaggerate the overwhelming feeling of certainty and being called to do something. As someone who often felt very lost, this was major. I took a whole new direction. One that I know I'm meant to be on and am glad to have a public forum so that others may follow me as well.

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  1. I've really enjoyed following you since I first discovered you about a year ago- and this story is amazing! What a treasure! I first fell in love with classic movies with Fred and Ginger in Follow the Fleet. I remember watching and realizing I'd never seen anything like it and I've never looked back. She has held a special place in my heart ever since. Thanks for bringing a little Ginger into my life each day 😊

  2. What an amazing story! I'm happy for you!


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