dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Legacy of the Traveling Red Dress - one year later

One year ago, I had an experience which was enlightening and empowering. My Traveling Red Dress moment was truly special. I can't believe a year has passed, and it has reminded me how much I am inspired by the project. I've decided to repost, with some minor editing, the blog post about my experience with the Traveling Red Dress. I know this piece has a lot of links to other web pages, but I promise that all of them are well-worth reading. I hope you will take the time to learn all about the project, enjoy the fantastic & courageous red dress photos, and I hope many of you will be similarly inspired to join in along with your sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, friends - and everyone else you know who needs a red dress moment!

Unveiling My ‘Traveling Red Dress’ Experience

What exactly is the Traveling Red Dress? It's a special project for women who going through a life-changing event, chronic health issue, or who need a boost of spirit in a sort of Sisterhood of Traveling Pants sort of way. Red dresses are worn and then sent on to next woman who asks for one and photographers donate their time to take photos to document our ‘Red Dress moments’. Like me, those involved have been dealing with major issues who just need to stop and acknowledge their struggles and realize that they are special, unique, and “worth it”. 

“...sometimes we all need a little red dress to remind us (that we are special and vivid and dynamic).. So today, think about what it is you need and were too embarrassed to ask for... 
Find your red dress. And wear the hell out of it.”  
~ Jenny Lawson

Red Dress’ers have included women recovering from cancer, young girls dealing with bullying, widows adjusting to a new life, daughters caring for elderly parents, those in financial peril, mothers with sick kids, and many more with all kinds of personal stories. The woman who started the Traveling Red Dress movement, Jenny Lawson, lives with severe depression and anxiety. Her two fantastic original blog posts (you absolutely have to read them: post #1 and post #2) blossomed into something far more than she expected. Said Jenny: “There’s something fairly magical about the whole project. It started as one simply un-simple dress and grew into a web of women sending other women shining red dresses as a way to say, ‘I see you. I recognize where you are and what you’ve done.’ It gives me such faith in humanity.” 

The Traveling Red Dress grew into a Facebook community of women telling their stories of struggle, courage & triumph, connecting with each other across the country (and now the globe) by sending around the red dresses, and sharing their amazing photos. You can visit the page here: Traveling Red Dress Facebook page.

In my situation, living with a chronic degenerative illness is tough. My day revolves entirely around it. I pretty much live in a bathrobe and sweats, I do my physical therapy every day, and my pain is 24/7. Even sitting for 15 minutes is painful. When I read Jenny’s message about the Traveling Red Dress, it made me stop and think. I couldn’t remember the last time I put on makeup, did my hair and really tried to look my best. I haven’t felt beautiful in a really long time, and it made me realize I was letting my daily struggle beat down the spark inside me and squash my self-esteem.

In my first blog post about the Traveling Red Dress, I talk about finding out about the project and  I detail how I found my own red dress at a local thrift store for $10. My husband called an old friend who is a professional photographer, and he agreed to do my photo shoot. On the day we were scheduled to shoot, the weather changed and became very cold and windy. We started at Stanford University for all the lovely arches and backgrounds, but I was absolutely freezing! When I was helped up from lying in the grass, I was shaking so hard I couldn’t walk on my own. I had to lean on my husband while he assisted me to my wheelchair. In between each location we shot at, my mom and husband tried to warm me up by wrapping me in a blanket and two coats while I drove my wheelchair. 

Here they are! This collage includes all my favorite photos
 from my 'Traveling Red Dress' photo shoot.

It was a true test of stamina and endurance for me, but I began to feel something beyond the physical. I really felt beautiful! I could see a lot of people, mostly tourists, watching me and it made me feel special. I was the center of attention and I felt like I was actually worthy of it. I wasn't just a 'sick chick' slumped in a recliner wearing an old bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. I discovered I am much more than that. It was truly empowering!

After we finished shooting the images with the rose & camellia petals scattered on the grass, they had to be removed according to Stanford’s rules. As I sat bundled in my wheelchair and the others cleaned up the petals, a strange woman came up to my husband and asked, “Are you doing some kind of ritual?”

He said no and we all laughed. But in a way, I think she was actually right. This was a ritual to prove to me that I am *not* rendered completely helpless, unappealing, and devoid of sparkle by my painful chronic illness - unless I allow it do that! I am much more, and I need to remember to let myself shine through and believe I am worth it!

Be a part of the legacy of the Traveling Red Dress! 
Go to its Facebook Pagefind a dress, 
and have your own ‘moment’!

~The birth of the Red Dress project, Jenny Lawson's blog post#1 and post#2
~Jenny Lawson on the Katie Couric Show (video no longer available)
~Forbes magazine article: 'Traveling Red Dress' Movement Proves Social Media Foundation Is Still People, Empowerment

Shannon's Red Dress posts:
~part one: The Traveling Red Dress: Having My “Moment

     I have to give major thanks to my photographer, Hagop of Hagop’s Photography in Los Altos, California. He is a true talent with 30 years in the business. He was patient and understanding, and worked hard to achieve the vision I wanted for my photos. You could do no better than hire him to shoot your wedding or family portraits. He is the best!
     My hair stylist, Dontay, got caught up in the spirit of the Red Dress and styled my hair for free. He’s a fantastic stylist - thanks so much!
     I also want to thank Carol Angel at Redwood City Florist for helping me get all the rose petals, and my friend Dale for adding in extra camellia petals.
     Thanks to friend Meg for making that gorgeous necklace for me, with real Carnelians! To contact her about having jewelry made for you, send an email to meggieprice@gmail.com 

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