It is a well-known fact that I am smitten with all things Aussie. I have watched most Paul Hogan movies including the famous Crocodile Dundee in which Linda Kozlowski makes one very revealing red dress quite famous on screen. The dress is bright red with one side revealing a lot of flesh from the bare shoulder down to the knee on the right side. A series of large cut out circles are tied together with a thin sash, making a pretty pattern and exposing a lot of skin. It narrowly covers the chest and rear. Mark Kalan, a professional photographer, acquired the dress at auction with the seed idea for a project called “The Red Dress Project.” His goal is to photograph as many women as possible in the famous red dress. You can’t imagine my shock when he reached out to Jeff to ask if I might be willing to model the dress for him. I was beyond flattered that he thought me photo worthy. Not to besmirch my husband’s good taste but he is my husband and legally required to say I look good.
I agreed without hesitation much to my husband’s pleasant surprise, since I do not care for the trip to NYC or large cities in general. Jeff has wanted a Times Square shot for quite a while so the idea is that we will mimic every picture we take in the red dress with a wedding dress shot so that we can put them side by side. We set a date and I more or less forgot about the shoot until the week before. Initially, I was a little daunted by the idea of wearing such a skimpy dress. People telling me how brave I was began to add to my apprehension. As I looked at photos again closely, I realized that this dress leaves next to nothing left to the imagination and I wondered: what do I do about underwear? We had questions about purse and shoe color anyway, so I asked the delicate undies question and got the response I expected; most women go commando or try to wear a thong. Since thongs were invented to torture women (I truly believe this) the decision is clear. I will be sans knickers.
On the way to New York I wonder aloud to Jeff about the cleaning bill for this dress since clearly he must have it dry cleaned after each shoot. I was given very strict directives to be deodorant, perfume and lotion free to protect the dress. You can imagine my surprise when he pulls the dress out, unrolls it from tissue paper and gives it a sniff. He smiles proudly, “A few sprays of Febreeze and a cycle on low in the dryer and she’s good to go!” Jeff turns to me nervously and I swallow a little bile. This will challenge my germ discomfort because I didn’t bring a thong so I am in this boat like it or not.
We decide the dress is so miniscule that I can wear it under the wedding dress as I shift back and forth from bride to temptress in Times Square. I do however need to get from street clothes into the dress. Standing outside an Irish bar I do the obvious and head to the latrine. I am not surprised that Mark’s wife comes to ‘help’ me get into the dress and I am also pretty sure to protect the merchandise. I am stunned however when she jumps into the very small stall to help me change. It turns out I am grateful for the help as the top of this ensemble is complicated. Exiting the restroom the impact is immediate. Jaws drop and several sputter as they sip their cocktails. I exit the bar awkwardly as I try to pretend there is nothing unusual about this.
Standing outside the bar, Mark adjusts the top of the dress which we donned incorrectly. As he adjusts the sash around the neck a group presses against the glass of the bar pointing excitedly. Suddenly I am very self-conscious and glad to get moving. I try not to notice the head whipping and hands pointing as we make our way across the square to find a crosswalk for the first photo shoot.
I walk across the street while the light is red and take direction from Mark which is a challenge for me. I am used to my husband’s instruction. Mark wants me to hit very specific marks with my arm and leg while walking very fast in five inch stilettos. I never expected to wear these shoes again, since we bought them in Russia for a cultural accent. Now I am practically running in them. When he tells me to run and skip, I fire back, “I don’t need a broken ankle!” Jeff, also trying to capture a shot from behind Mark, backs me up that we need to keep the bride healthy. In the middle of the shoot while we are waiting for the light to turn cops pull up and Mark jokes, “You could stop traffic for us, right?”
Their reply is a nod of approval, “I think she is doing a fine job of that all on her own.” That forces an obscene full blush.
As we continue shooting, suddenly I notice that several hundred people have assembled on the corner across from us. They are pointing and snapping photos on their cell phones. There is hushed whispering that suggests they think I am a known celebrity only, of course, they can’t figure out who it is! Some of them get bolder and call out, “Who is it?”
Jeff shouts, “Jennifer Aniston.”
“Jeff,” I scold, “we shouldn’t mislead them!”
Wiggling into the wedding dress, I now attract slightly less attention. We walk over to a different corner in the middle of the square with the brightly lit billboards. Jeff shoots me from across the street. Without my glasses, I can’t see him and of course above the din of the square I can’t hear him, so I smile and wait. A tall man slows to stop in front me and looks me over, “Damn, woman, you lookin fine! Can I have your number?”
Mildly embarrassed I point across the street, “Well, that’s my husband over there taking photos so…”
Instead of leaving he shrugs, “So? Can I have your number?”
“No!” I sputter. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a blurry Jeff waving me over. Relieved, I disappear into the mob to rejoin Jeff, Mark and his wife who have a good laugh about my proposition. Jeff wanted this shot in blue light but Mark took so long doing his shots that we missed it. Unhappy with the picture, I will need to return to the crosswalk so that Jeff can take a duplicate shot of what we did in the red dress initially.
For the next shoot, we decide to use the cartoon characters in the square who allow you pose with them for money. We select two Minny Mouses and Elmo. The negotiations get ugly when the crew realizes I am doing a second photo as I peel off the wedding dress to reveal the red one. Understanding, now that we are on a professional shoot, they want more money and more of them want in on the action. We offended several who respond with choice phrases that would never be uttered by their characters!
Finally, we return to the crosswalk and finish the marathon with me crossing the street swinging my purse in the wedding dress. I am grateful that Jeff is much quicker than Mark was.
It is after ten before I stun the patrons of the Irish Bar once again strolling back in the red dress. Feeling more confident after several hours of gawking crowds, I strut by the gaping men and into the restroom. Only one person recognizes me when I emerge in my hiking shorts and t-shirt. He leans over, whispers and points to me. We enjoy a well-earned drink with Mark and his wife before making the long drive home. They are a very fun, loving couple who obviously enjoy life and each other. I am wrapped in the afterglow of rising to a challenge outside my comfort zone and hitting the mark. All of the positive admiration did not hurt my self-esteem either! If the red dress project hits your area or you have the opportunity to step into the spotlight for some runway fundraiser, I say go for it!