I found her in Beyond Retro on Great Marlborough Street, when I was looking for something to give me a 90s look for an event that I have long since forgotten the details of. I went into the shop thinking I could perhaps find a vintage slip and style it appropriately, but I quickly found myself being drawn to fabrics that reminded me of my teenage years. The drape and handle of viscose always reminds me of the 1990s as I had many dresses and skirts made out of the fabric. My sixth form years were mostly spent in shapeless garments and my all-girls school had a “no trousers” policy, so my friends and I owned rather a lot of grungey maxi skirts and boxy tops/cardigans which concealed our bodies from the world so that we could focus on other things. We were convinced that the school policy was to prevent those of us not in uniform from looking scruffy in jeans, but those two years taught me that there are rather a lot of ways to look scruffy while wearing a skirt!
I don’t recall exactly when I bought the dress, but the earliest record I can find of her on my Instagram feed is from April 2015. The caption doesn’t mention where I was going or if the dress was a new purchase, so I have to admit that her origins in my wardrobe have now been lost in the mists of time. What I do remember is that, since I first took her home (fully expecting to never wear her for anything other than that 90s-themed night), I’ve developed a curious fondness for Erika. She’s one of the few dresses that I’ve found in Beyond Retro that fit my size 16 body, but her loose boxy shape acquires the appearance of being nicely fitted once the thin ties at the waist are fastened in a bow at the back. Her sweetheart neckline, topstitched princess seams, and tiny (purely decorative) flower-shaped buttons are almost incidental next to that stunning floral print.
She’s helped me stay comfortable from ridiculous o’clock in the morning until mid-afternoon at a car boot sale, back when Manda and I thought we could make money from having a clearout. She came with me to the barbecue festival where I first met Orbette, and rather embarrassingly introduced myself by dashing over to where she was quietly enjoying a beer and announcing “I know you off Twitter!” And Erika also came to brunch with me and my colleague Holly, back when Brunch Club had a very busy summer and we decided to do one of our reviews of a chain restaurant, so that we could all visit separately. That was another of my incredibly rare early starts and shows just how easy this dress is to wear – even half-asleep Lori can pull together a decent look with her help.
Erika is a comfortable casual frock who isn’t just useful in the summer months. Due to the dark background of her floral print, she works for all seasons and so was ideal when I had to find something for traveling to Mexico in January last year – I layered up for the trek to Gatwick and then consigned those additional layers to my bag once we arrived in Cancun without ever once looking out of place. I do love a floral on a dark background and I have rather a lot of them in my wardrobe now! But, despite all this high praise that I’m heaping on her in my tale of our time together, I don’t actually have that many photos of her. Erika has only ever made it into my weekly outfit round-up posts on Instagram once as, strangely, I’ve always considered her to be a bit more casual than the outfits that I usually prefer to show off. Perhaps this strange lockdown summer should now be her chance to shine?
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