Purple Ashley

The Dress That Started It All

Date:  November, 1984.

Place:  Georgetown University. 

Ann:  Our freshman dorm, New South, was hosting the first formal of our collegiate career. 

Julie:  It was the “Screw Your Roommate” dance.  (The point was to set up your roommate with some guy she didn’t know, thereby “screwing” her if he was not a perfect match.)

Ann:  It was very exciting, we all dressed up, and celebrated with groups of friends in our tiny dorm rooms.  I can’t remember my date, but I remember what I wore: a classic, purple Laura Ashley dress.

Ann:  Shown here in berry, I adored the poufy sleeves, the full, princess skirt and the deep V in the back.

Ann:  Looking back on it now, it looks more like the dress a toddler might wear as a flower girl in a wedding.  But, as a testament to the pervasive, conservative style of the 80s, I thought I was smoking hot.

Julie: It was the perfect thing to wear to a party in 1984! I fell in love with it as it was displayed in Laura Ashley on M Street in Georgetown and never forgot the feeling of whisking it out of the store as if I would be the only wearer of that dress, ever…anywhere. Well, until that evening.

Ann:  My dorm room was located at the opposite end of the entrance to the building, so my date (who was it?) and I walked down the winding hall, stopping in at other parties along the way.  We were nearly at the exit, when I passed yet another roomful of people and saw Julie.   She was wearing the exact same purple Laura Ashley.  We matched from our simple pearl necklace right down to our sheer pearl stockings and our black patent flats.  Although she and I had never met before this moment, I laughed, and pointed out the obvious.  She did not laugh.  She didn’t even smile.  I’m not sure that she even showed up to the formal.  That was our first and last interaction during our entire freshman year.    

Julie:  I was speechless when you breezed by in the dress and am pretty sure I never made it to the dance.  After I saw you in MY dress, it all went black and I’ve suppressed the rest of it.

Ann:  But what initially drove us apart, ultimately brought us together.  By senior year, we were inseparable friends, bonded by our interest in and love of fashion (and also by an enriching, but also sometimes-harrowing, year abroad in France.  More about that later).  Our treasured friendship has endured for 25 years, surviving many more fashion disasters, career changes, marriage and children, but it all really began with the purple Laura Ashley.

 Julie:  And, yes, I still have the dress.

Julie:  I thought it so timeless that I requested of my mother — should I meet with an untimely death by bus-hitting — she should send me to my eternal peace in it. I try in on every few years to make sure it’s still a go.



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16 responses to “Purple Ashley

  1. Laura Fowler

    I bet you both looked PRETTY!

  2. Amy

    Oh how I LOVED my Laura Ashley wardrobe! Mine were the running-through-the-meadow inspired, dropped waist type. Just as that style was fading from fashion I got pregnant and could wear them all 9 months! Funny story ladies! I look forward to reading more posts!

  3. anonymous

    well done ….let us know when you remember who your dates were !

  4. Cati

    Such a great story! And it brings back many memories of my own fashion mishaps. Funny how “looking so hot” one year is redefined in following years. My hair, along with my fashions fall into that same category!

  5. Gretchen

    I’m so glad you’ve launched your blog! I could certainly use your tips, as sometimes I think I’m permanently stuck in the ’80s–eeek! 🙂

  6. At the risk of being the first male to comment, let me say that my species believes that it is about the dress, as well. I, for one, am glad that “looking so hot” has been redefined in the ensuing years. Though undoubtedly stylish in its time, the “purple Ashley” is far too close to the purple burka!

  7. KD Lady

    Well, my sorority was full of Laura Ashley dresses, but being from a more, ahem, redneck part of the region I had to get my knock-off LA from Hechts. I’ll never forget the girls in my house who could just waltz into a store and buy anything. Sigh. At least I got to borrow their clothes. Well, at least from the girls who were 5’10″+. Wish I knew you, Julie, then! 🙂

  8. Val

    I think I wore Laura Ashley to every college formal. I even wore an LA wedding dress to my KKG pledge formal. It was cotton and pretty simple but still …

    Love the blog!

  9. anonymous

    congrats on your blog. i never owned a LA dress (i was a chemise girl) but your story brought back many college memories of friends i knew who experienced the same situation.
    I showed up at an event a few years ago wearing the exact same dress as another woman –the thing that made it all ok for me was that the person i was with wispered in my ear “you definitley have the better shoes”! Shoes/ accessories make all the difference in my book!

  10. Jen

    Great idea for a blog! I’m looking forward to reading more!

  11. anonymous

    Hysterical. This blog promises to be a ton of fun!

  12. Deirdre O'Connor

    I had that dress in the light purple. I ADORED it and felt fabulous in it. I think if I put it on now with black patent flats I would feel like I was wearing my bathrobe and slippers.

  13. anonymous

    Just did a pinterest pin of this on my board. Reliving some fashions from the past. I had to make my LA fashions from patterns. Funny thing about this story.. my daughter attends Georgetown and was a freshmen in New South

    • Ann


      the older I get, the smaller the world becomes. I love to hear both that you wore the Laura Ashley AND that your daughter is at GU, and lived in New South. I hope she is having a great experience there. Both Julie and I loved our undergraduate experience and are so impressed with the young students we meet. We wish you and your daughter the very best.

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