Warning: This post contains information about sexual assault which some readers may find upsetting.
A cotton sundress. Black and white gingham. Thin shoulder straps and hitting mid-thigh. Last worn: 20/06/18 in Milan, Italy with white Air Max 95s, small cat eye sunglasses and a black MCM backpack. A quintessential summer look. The outfit I’ll never wear again. The outfit I was raped in.
I remember getting dressed the previous morning, stepping into the dress one foot at a time, slipping the fabric over my body and fastening the zipper that ran up the back. I remember trying to decide between my Air Max 95s and Air Force 1s, asking everyone in our hostel room in the town of Rho which looked better until we reached a general consensus.
I remember stepping out into the Mediterranean heat [pushing 35 degrees, if I recall correctly] and my sunglasses causing sweat droplets to form on the bridge of my nose, my shoulders already getting sticky under the leather straps of my backpack. We walked to Rho Fiera station and caught the next train into the centre of Milan.
I remember standing in the Piazza del Duomo evaluating whether any of the 50+ pictures my friend had taken were good enough to post on Instagram. I commended the contrast between the black and white checks of my dress and the Cathedral that stood proudly behind me and edited the image ready to post a few days later.
I remember cycling on hired bikes to Milan’s Navigli District for dinner and drinks by the waterside to celebrate our final night in the city, constantly adjusting the skirt of my dress to avoid flashing my underwear.
I remember further adjusting it as we sat at dinner so my bare flesh wouldn’t stick to the plastic chair I sat on as we met more friends who’d also been staying in Milan. I assured my travel companions I’d be fine as they left to catch the last train home, saying I’d crash at a friends’ hostel in the city centre.
I remember spilling Negroni on it as I sipped on another drink he’d bought me, the sticky orange liquid soaking the fabric as my coordination and self-control started to fail me.
We spoke about Italian influencers, Balenciaga trainers and the “see and be seen” culture of the area before hopping into a taxi back to where he was staying. As I stumbled towards the vehicle, the taxi driver asked if I was going to vomit. He insisted I would not.
I remember seeing it lying in a crumpled pile on the floor, pushed into the corner of the hostel bathroom as I stood, propped helplessly against the wall to compensate for my lack of balance, then desperately putting it back on when he finally stopped, no recollection of it being removed in the first place.
I remember leaving the following morning to catch the first possible train away from him, cursing its low neckline’s inability to cover the bruise he’d left on my neck and overtly aware of the disapproving looks I was recieving.
I returned to my hostel and entered my room, careful not to wake my roommates. I immediately removed the dress, screwed it up tightly and threw it into my luggage, hoping that removing it from my sight would erase my memories of the past 12 hours.
I’ve always had an innate fear of wearing an extraordinary outfit on an unextraordinary day but now I know that much worse is an awful experience tarnishing the joy that beautiful clothing can bring.
That black and white gingham dress now hangs in my wardrobe, unworn since that day. What was once a firm favourite, now exists only as a sour reminder of that night. An outfit I will never wear again.
This article was originally posted on hercampus.com and has been reshared to Blonde Sartorial in honour of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week 2019.
Peace and love, Bec