10/30/2012 10:22 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2012

The Dress That Totally Changed My Life (PHOTOS)

I have a very stylish godmother. She was my mother's boss in Brussels in the 1970s, and the two women became very close friends over the time they worked together. France (my godmother) was the Joan Holloway to my mother's Peggy Olson, the established head secretary at the firm where my mom, whose French wasn't great, had just started. France had money to burn at the time and she'd take Mom to fancy shops and accompany her to the hairdresser. Twenty years later she hosted and supported me when I studied abroad in Belgium. So it was only fitting that as such a close confidant to our family that my parents would attend her big 60th birthday party in 2000. The question then became: What to wear?

My mom bought a slinky dress from Marissa Collections in Naples, Florida, near my hometown of Sanibel Island. The dress was Gucci, who was in the hands of head designer Tom Ford at the time. The frock was made of a heavy black silk crepe, cut just above the knee, with a keyhole that plunged to the belly-button, and a gold chain necklace. The dress skims the body without hugging, in fact it's almost shapeless while hinting at your shape underneath. But with one small turn, there's just a peek of the revealing hole in the front of the dress. In fact, Gisele Bundchen covered Harper's Bazaar in the blue snake-print version of the dress.

The dress was a splurge at $1,000. My mom described that time period as the beginning of my father's financial success and said that up until then she hadn't needed expensive clothes. Since this was a big occasion, she didn't mind splashing out. She also bought a large wrap, just in case the dress was too flashy for the party. It turns out that the party was a blast. It was also chilly, so mom ended up spending most of the evening with the scarf wrapped tightly around her. No matter, for that dress went on to live many more lives.

Mom wore the dress a few more times, most notably a few years later when, on a weekend trip to Miami with my father they visited a fancy restaurant. My dad swore that they were seated at the best, most prominent table in the restaurant because of that dress.

Fast forward a couple of years to October 2002. My best friend and I decided on a whim to attend a charity ball. The tickets were expensive, so we wavered for a few weeks on whether or not to go, but finally, a few nights before, we decided to go. My mom loaned me the Gucci dress and off I went. Upon arrival I spotted a handsome, dark haired man who smiled at me and shouted across the crowd, "How you doin'?" I scoffed and kept on moving. He was persistant, and thankfully so -- I reluctantly gave him my phone number at the end of the evening, and now, here we are, ten years later, happily married with two children.

That dress caught my husband's eye, and since then my sister, my mother and I have worn it on different occasions. In the years since the dress has made many trips between our three closets and I think it is currently squirreled away in my sister's closet (she denies it). We each love that dress because it is tied to significant memories, it fits us all perfectly and best of all, it takes up almost no space in a suitcase. As my mother said, "That dress is worth every penny that I paid for it. It is exceedingly simple and opulently elegant."

The Dress That Changed My Life

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