The Red Dress and Its Siren Song

You might know the story. You might not.

Sometimes things happen inside the blogosphere that stay there…and sometimes they break free of their Internet chains and spread across globe in other forms from newspapers held with your hands, to tv news to even a story your Mom told your Aunt who told your Cousin and didn’t you know?

The Red Dress is one of those stories. You may have read about from the woman who started it all, my friend Jenny, otherwise known as the Bloggess. You may have seen it on Forbes this week. You may have heard rumors about it from your friend’s mom’s hairdresser’s nail girl who heard it from her aunt.

I can tell you the Red Dress is real. The Red Dress is powerful. But most importantly…

…the Red Dress is sitting in a box in my bedroom taunting me. 

Yes. I have it. The original Red Dress. It just left the hands of my friend Kelly, otherwise known as MochaMomma. The box has Jenny’s addy on and Kelly’s addy on it and it looks like it’s been through many hands before it made it’s way to my house in California.

Everyone has looked fabulous in this dress and it has given them a feeling of …well…whatever it is they needed. Accomplishment, be it getting over their fear of dressing up so boldly, or showing the world their scars. Pride, after having gone through something challenging and conquered their mountain. Even love, having finally learned to accept who they are and who they want to become.

And now it sits here with me, and I can’t get myself to even put it on. My mind is so out of sorts, having heard my doctor fill out disability papers calling me incapable of so many things.

Unable to participate in cognitive thinking for long periods of time

Unable to travel by plane, train, boat, car, or bus

Unable to stand for more than one hour

Unable to sit for more than one hour




I know I’m having issues with my memory and mind. Every time I speak to my husband it’s clear the inflammation is high and it’s targeting my brain. I don’t remember things that are so simple, and it’s a wonder he doesn’t get more frustrated with me. I get so frustrated with myself I want to tear my hair out.

I’m not sure there is any worse torture than your brain not working right…except for maybe the damage done to my body by the disorder and the many medications and treatments used to keep it in check.

My mind is not my own. My body is not my own. I’m some absent-minded, fat, moon-faced stranger occupying the body of a woman who had the world in the palm of her hand, and feels all of it slipping away piece by piece. Now I’m squeezing everything so tight in that hand I’m suffocating what’s inside.

So the Red Dress has been sitting in the box taunting me since well before the holidays. I had a million excuses to not open it and leave it shut. Then I had a million more to just open it but not take the dress out. And tonight, dress in my hand, I ran my fingers over the gold stitching. I ran my fingers of its lavish poofs and strapless top. I wondered how I’d ever fit inside, and if being unable to close the clasps would destroy me even further.

I want to believe in this dress. I am a huge fan and freak of superstition and the power of the dress is right up my alley. Thus my request to Kelly and her permission from Jenny and now my big, fat, chickening out feelings as it sits here.

I’m not one to back down from a challenge. But my God there have been so many lately I didn’t expect one from a dress.

Yet there it sits.

If there is one thing I have learned in my many years of blogging, it’s that these women (and men) will not let me down. We might bicker over issues and we might disagree on which way our community should go and ebb and flow…but when push comes to shove we have each other’s backs. So I know that if they all say believe, I will believe. They wouldn’t lie to me.

Soon I will put on the original Red Dress. I will hire someone to make what is left of my hair look thick and I will hire someone else to paint my face and I will hire a photographer to do his or her best.

And I will stand proudly and feel the magic flow through me. If not from the dress, but from the women it represents, and their strength and power and passion.

You. You will help me do it. And for you I will do it. Not looking like myself and not feeling in my right mind and not the me I want you to see-but someone how, for you, the real me will hopefully shine through.


  1. Lucretia Pruitt says:

    I’d be so afraid of the dress. But you? You’re not that girl. Fearless. Bold. Daring. Good Sense of Humor. Those are phrases I think of when it’s you. Afraid? Nah.

    Wanting something to work so badly that it becomes terrifying is something that happens to us mere mortals, my friend.

    Who cares if the clasps don’t fasten… that’s what you laugh at and then jury-rig with some string. I’ve sewn your cleavage into a dress. I KNOW you can figure it out! 🙂

    Looking forward to seeing the dress on you! I’d be terrified, but you can rock this one, Erin!!!!

  2. You’re going to be so cool in it. 🙂

  3. when you put it on…can I be there to cheer? Seriously.

  4. Laura Iriarte says:

    Oh Erin, I have read about the red dress on Jenny’s blog and there is no doubt in my mind that you are the rightful owner right here and right now. We all can’t wait to see how ah-mazing it looks on you! Sending you prayers and love! When is the photo shoot?!?

  5. I can’t wait to see the pictures. You may not see yourself as the you who should be wearing the dress but that’s what makes it twice as important (if that makes any sense). After being told that you CAN’T, after feeling like you CAN’T… this dress says you CAN. The ‘real’ you is the person who wrote out her complex feelings about this experience and admitted being apprehensive. That takes a hell of a lot of courage. And you know what? You’re going to look amazing in that dress. You’d look amazing in penguin footie pajamas because YOU ARE AMAZING.
    Tell the lupus to suck it because you have a party to go to and it isn’t a pity party 😉

  6. Put it on. Feel the power. It is there, within you, lurking, waiting to be set free.

    You can do it. And we all want to see the photos.

    Forget the traveling pants. Strength emanates from that fanciful scarlet number.

  7. Even with your self-proclaimed diminished capacity, you still go to 11. You’re amazing and that blog post right there proves it.

  8. What Heather said. I want to be there to cheer you on because I already know its gonna happen.

  9. all you socal people are going to make me make an event out of this…aren’t you? Like bridesmaids at my wedding?

    Ok, fine. But I can’t do much…so you all are bringing the food.

  10. You ARE a traveling red dress. Put the damn thing on. 😉 I just wish I was there to shoot it. Love you!

    PS: tell the nurses, and they’ll have you doing this thing tomorrow. 😉

  11. 1. I love you.

    2. You’re beautiful.

    3. The inflammation, the steroids, the weight, the memory problems…I get that. It’s so hard and I’m sending you such love.

    4. Take your time. You’ll know when it’s right.

    5. Here’s a secret of the red dress. Women have worn it from since zero to size 24. The corset stands up by itself so if it doesn’t fit well you just make it work from the front. If it’s too big people use office binder clips to tighten it. If it’s too small they tuck it under their arms, have a seat and leave it undone in the back while they get their pictures made. I’ve taken pics in it twice and once it fit perfectly and the second time I had to leave it open in the back. With a titch of photoshop it looks lovely either way.

    6. Sometimes the magic of the red dress is less about wearing it and more about just feeling it. Sometimes just having it hang in your room for a week can do wonders to remind you how much you’re loved and how special you are.

    7. I love you again.

  12. You’ll do it soon, and I’ll cry happy tears that you did.

  13. Everything Jenny said. Everything.

    Also, prepare to do something awesome for yourself after it’s done. Like take a hot bath, book a massage, whatever makes your body/soul feel good. It was sort of exhausting for me to put it on…although it may be totally energizing for you. Just prepare something awesome to reward yourself right after you’ve done it.

    You can do it. Make it your very own.

    You rule.

  14. i’d hug you right now if i could. i’d hug you, and then i’d help you get into that dress.

  15. Fears like these are what make us human. And what strife us to believe so much in magic. It won’t fail you darling. Your beauty will shine in that dress like it does for everyone who’s worn it. And you will feel powerful and loved. Put it on. Put it on and go do something mundane. Something Ordinary. And when you conquer that task, do something amazing.

    If I was in California- I would take you to a bridge, or a busy sidewalk, maybe a highway overpass- and photograph you. And I’d do it for free.

    Since I don’t, the best I can offer is to edit the pictures you do take. Not that they’ll need them.

    While I know it’s scary, and illness can be damned hard on a person’s soul- rejoice in the little things. Like breathing. Eating. Keeping food down. Some times, it’s all about the little things.

    Put the dress on.

  16. You can do it!

  17. Find a hat from your wonderful collection that will suit the dress. Not match it, of course – but suit it. Wear that hat for a day or two to inspire you. Then put the dress on with the hat. Have a scarf on hand in case it doesn’t clasp. Wear some wild boots with it too. Make it *your* dress and wear it *your* way, and it will be magical for you no matter what.

  18. Beautiful. Strength. Power. Passion. It sounds as if the dress has already worked its magic.

  19. “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!

    (from the movie Independence day)

    you may not be “able” to do all of that

    but you damn sure are able to change other peoples lives and how ever briefly YOU have changed many of our lives today

    wear that red dress, and give it the shout YOU not IT deserves

  20. Sounds like your Red Dress is your FIGHTING SPIRIT. Don’t stop fighting……..

  21. Jenny is right. It sounds to me that you NEED this dress right now. Embrace it. Love it. Snuggle with it. You are amazing. You can do this. I am cheering for you in the front row!

  22. Curlygirlchic says:

    I don’t know you but you sound beautiful, much more beautiful than that red dress. You will make the red dress beautiful, so do the dress a favor and put it on instead of leaving it there in a box to wither away and feel lost.

    If the dress seems to mock you a little as it lays there in it’s little crumpled form, dance on it, be the BOSS (you have to say that a certain way – BAWSS) of it, smack it around a bit. Sometimes dresses (red one’s in particular) can cause a myriad of insecurities in our minds but it is only in our minds, no one elses.

    So put that dress on and shine! Who knows someone might notice it is red but everyone will notice you and the way you look – beautiful.

  23. Bloggess fan here and fellow “traitorous body” sufferer. You need to put the dress on!! I, too, would be afraid it wouldn’t fit but that’s more out of logic than anything else since I know my size, heh.

    Over a year ago I started a weight loss journey which I, as usual, abandoned after 7 hard months in which I succeeded at losing some weight but at the price of my sanity. I didn’t think I’d quit, but I did, and now I hate myself for quitting and for being unable to get back on that wagon. A friend of mine, in the beginning of that journey, had a red dress. This was before Jenny’s red dress, so the coincidence is grand. But I adored this beautiful dress I saw her wearing in a photo and she said that when I reached my goal she’d give it to me. I never reached my goal weight, of course. But I’m reminded now that maybe I need to try again, so that I can wear a red dress and not feel anything but good about myself in it.

  24. You will do it and you will be beautiful!!

  25. New here. Do it. Love the spirit and honesty and emotion of this post. I will be coming back and am anxiously awaiting your red dress portrait. The dress may be shiny and fabulous…but I can tell from my new perch here that you are going to make that dress look goooood!

    You’re gonna rock it!

  26. Fact: The Red Dress only lands in the hands of amazing women.

  27. You can do it. The red dress wants you to do it.

    I understand about UNABLE. It sucks. But papers can’t make you unable to put on a dress and just for a few minutes, rule your world.

    Be courageous.

    – Liz

  28. Erin,
    You’re beautiful. And though your hair may not be as thick as usual, you’ll always be that brilliant, loving, fiery redhead we all love. Screw up your courage, put on that dress, and SHINE.

  29. You are amazing and will light up the dress!

  30. I cried reading this. If I was there with you now, I’d be hugging you. Since I’m not, I’m sending love, hope, and virtual hugs.

    You are bold, courageous, and are going to ROCK that dress!

  31. Another total stranger here to say – you are beautiful. You are worthy. There is nothing you have to do to earn your place in this world. Wear the red dress or don’t wear the red dress, you are still a gift.

  32. I have never met you, and before today, I had never read your blog. But this morning, sitting in my bed in my pajamas, reading your blog because Jenny sent me here via twitter, I want nothing more for today than for you to put on that red dress and GLOW. And you will! The blogsphere is cheering you on!!

  33. Erin!!! You will look smashing in red!!! To even toy with the idea that you cant do this laughable to me… YOU do everything! YOU acheive things every day that I in my Ableness dont…. YOU are my hero! and my image of strength…

  34. Another newbie to your blog but you have another cheerleader in your corner. I cannot wait to see your pictures! You can do this!

  35. Erin…I love you and my heart breaks for you when I think about all that this disease is forcing you to deal with. But remember, this disease is not you. And there are things you are very able to do:
    1. You are able to be loved by one of the most amazing men in the world.
    2. You are able to be a loving mother to two of the most loving and brilliant children, I’ve ever not met.
    3. You are able to outwit almost any outspoken dimwitted tea-bagger on the internet. Just by breathing.
    4. You are able to reach MASSES of people and make them feel what you are feeling…no matter if it’s pain, frustration, fear, happiness, pride, joy and most of all love.
    5. You can even do that in 140 characters or less.

    You belong in that red dress and someday soon, you’ll know it.

  36. You are one of the most inspiring women that social media has presented us with. Thank you for your spirit, your laughter, your tears, your insight, your power, your courage. Bless Jenny for beginning the journey of The Red Dress and you for shining in it. Sending love and light.

  37. My heart squeezed a bit when I read this.

    My stepmom passed away this past April from glioblastoma — brain cancer. Everything you described… it made me think of her and, as the cancer took over her brain, those rare clear moments when she would say, “I just don’t feel like myself.” The steroids changed her physically, the chemo took away her hair and the cancer took away her personality and thoughts. I can’t even begin to imagine what that’s like but your post touched me deeply.

    Fight and be strong.

    And when you’re ready to wear the Red Dress, and share the pictures, so many will be inspired by it, myself included. The Red Dress will be your warrior call and you will show the world that you are empowered.

  38. I clicked on the bloggesses twitter link thinking I’d see a picture of some woman wearing a red dress that would make me smile for a moment and then I’d go on with my day, forgetting about it. Instead I find you and your blog, and I read, and I cried, and then I cheered when you said you would put the dress on, and then I went on with my day knowing that I would be forever thinking of you.

    Good luck my friend.

  39. So cal bridesmaid party! Let me know the date! I’ll bring food! And wine!

  40. You’ll be amazing. You’ll feel powerful. You’ll feel in control–even if only for a moment.
    Enjoy it. Relish it. Savour it.

  41. The red dress is a symbol of the power of the Internet. What women banding together can achieve and how women can lift each other up in times of hardship. Lupus has done a number on you physically and mentally but you are still here, strong and resilient even though you may not feel that way. You are such an inspiration to so many people. The red dress is magic. Maybe for a few minutes you can put it on and feel empowered. Erin, you have to know how many people are rooting for you, standing behind you, pushing you on, praying for you, etc. You can do this and it will be amazing!

  42. Wear it to treatment, you can make Lupus your bitch.

  43. labgoddess says:

    I don’t even know you.
    This is the first time I have read your blog.
    But now, I’ve read it and have read some of the comments here. What wonderful words! Such encouragement! I can honestly say that I know deep down in my heart and I can feel it in my bones that you are wonderful and beautiful and magical and lovely and everything I could ever want to be! Put the dress on! Or not. Whatever you decide to do about the dress, feel the love you have obviously generated. To paraphrase an old song “…you are strong, you are invincible, you are woman…”

  44. Lori Fredericks says:

    I also came from Twitter, expecting to see a picture of another amazing woman looking beautiful in the red dress.

    But there is beauty in your uncertainty and feeling that you aren’t worthwhile of the red dress.

    Know that there is a whole herd of cheerleaders in your corner waiting for you to put that red dress on, to feel beautiful and powerful, and to love yourself for exactly who you are.

    That itself is the power of the red dress. Hang in there. <3

  45. Whenever you are ready, know that we are ready. And we will see the real you.

  46. OH! the stories you will have to tell about the Red Dress, and how you met the challenge. How it felt as you slipped it on, and felt its transformation, its promise.

    Put the dress on, for all of us. For the kids, for the husband, and yes, for you.

  47. You can do it…

    Let the magic happen!!

  48. What Adrienne said. Kind of like that movie- why I wore lipstick to my mastectomy. Wea that red dress to treatment. It would be-the ultimate “fuck you” lupus.

  49. Hold on tight! Give that lupus hell!

    I’m so glad I came across this on Twitter. My mom, recently diagnosed, suffers from Lupus. I’m going to pass your blog along to her. Maybe it will help her feel less alone.

  50. I believe in you and I think you are even more magical than the most magical dress the world has ever known.

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