The Little Black Dress

“We’re not related by blood. But I’m damn sure we’re connected by heart…and this little black dress.”

Last summer, I read Marie Kondo’s pocket-sized book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s less a how-to book for cleaning or leading a clutter-free life, but more a philosophy for how to see your possessions.

I thought of the book when I saw my little black dress. It’s been hanging in my closet since 1996. It hasn’t fit in a long time. But I regularly recommit to my decision to not give it away. I visit it about once a year, and when I do, it delivers a positive memory and message. And for me, that’s worth the price of real estate in my tiny San Francisco bedroom closet.

But this time, I heard the dress speak a new message. It’s talents weren’t being maximized. It could do so much more than giving me the occasional feel-good reminder. It could play on a bigger stage.

I took the dress out of my closet, hung it on the door, and snapped a front and back photo of it. “Jamie would look AMAZING in this dress,” I thought. I called my 19 year-old niece.

We caught up on our latest life initiatives. Then I brought up what I really wanted to talk to her about– the dress. I told her the story of how in December of 1996 my boyfriend & I lived in New York and received our year-end bonuses. Although I was super focused on saving money, he suggested I extend my business trip to Boston and that he would fly up and meet me for the weekend. He suggested we meet at The Ritz Carleton bar at 7pm.

“But all I have with me are business suits,” I protested.

“Go buy yourself something. You can afford it.”

He convinced me. For once, I should treat myself. I went shopping, and I bought the little black dress.

I only wore the dress twice– that Friday night in Boston, and at a black tie event in New York several months later. I shared with Jamie how I loved the dress because it was classy, timeless and sexy, but also because of the memories it evoked. And so I nervously posed the question– might she be interested in my sending her the dress?

I had already scoured my 1990s photo albums. I told her I would send her old photos along with the ones I had just taken of the dress hanging on my closet door. But I didn’t want her to feel forced to accept it. I would understand if it wasn’t her style. Jamie quickly interrupted me– “Aunt Jodi, are you kidding me? I’d be honored to wear a dress you wore!”

The dress was getting its wish. It would have a new life, on a vibrant young woman who would wear it knowing it was more than a garment but something that carried a story.

Her story. My story. Our connected story.

My one ask was that she send me a photo when she wore it. I wanted to see her looking and feeling amazing wearing it.

It was many months later that I received my reciprocal gifts. First, I saw Jamie featured in the new recruitment video for her business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi. She wore a black suit. She looked powerful, poised, and in one scene where she twirled around in black suit and heels on the football field of the university she loves so much she looked simply joyous.

“Did you like my dress?” she asked. I had no idea that my strappy black dress lay under her tailored black jacket.

Two weeks later, I received a text from Jamie. It was a warning. “Get ready for some AWESOME pictures. You have to be ready because I am super proud of these.”

It was a Saturday night and her business fraternity was ending their leadership conference with a formal dinner. She was debuting the little black dress. And I would see my niece looking and feeling amazing in it.

But she didn’t send just a photo. She galvanized some friends and re-enacted my 1990s photos. She played the role of me. Wearing the little black dress. And posted a beautiful post with the full story on Instagram. The first line:

“We’re not related by blood. But I’m damn sure we’re connected by heart…and this little black dress.”

That post was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

Through our social media posts, we found the story resonated. Everyone had a little black dress story. One friend had written a song about her little black dress (see below)*; another wanted to use the idea in a movie. A male friend told me of his cigar box– a completely different item, but an eerily similar story.

Here’s the thing. Material possessions shouldn’t drive us. That said, physical objects can deepen strong connections. They can pass on a memory. They can pass on a message. And a legacy.

I am a forever proud admirer of my talented, achieving, always-surprising-me niece. I hope the little black dress is the continued symbol for our mutual belief in the power of generosity and sharing with the world.

We’re only on chapter two of this book. I can’t wait to keep reading.

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

—Benjamin Franklin

Listen to “Little Black Dress” by Lauren Coberly

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Jodi Morris Written by:

Venture Guide to High-Achieving Seekers. Success Coach. Venture Travel Curator. Impact Investor. Traveler. Writer. Global Connector. When we connect to others' stories it changes our own. Let's Venture!