Dyanna Charles

Past Perfect Essay
by Dyanna Charles

About four years ago, I took an interest in salsa dancing. As my interest began to shift into a craze, certain sacrifices were necessary—I turned down other plans on my dancing nights, forwent many precious hours of sleep, and relevant to this project, my wardrobe choices took a turn for the worse. You see, salseras aren’t known for their quirky style or their early leap on fashion trends; about all they’re known for is wearing next to nothing—tacky, trampy, synthetic next to nothing. So, although I fancied myself a more inspired dresser than my dance floor peers, my skirts came up, my necklines came down, and everything got just a little tighter. Whenever I went shopping, my new criteria became if I could dance in an article or not. Would the top stay in place? Could I lift my arms easily? Could you see down the shirt if I leaned forward? Luckily, there are moments when something wonderful comes my way that I’m not responsible for picking out for myself. About a year ago, Jamie gave me a fabulous, handmade, vintage, two-piece number—a skirt and a matching wrap around crop top. It was sweet and feminine, a flower print on sheer fabric with white trim for detail and a little ruffle to make it extra sweet and feminine.I flounced around Chicago and New York in my ensemble, displaying to the city folk the good fashion sense that is possible when someone else picks out my clothes. Trouble didn’t come until the Atlanta salsa debut. Because the top is tight and secure and shows my belly, I thought it was salsa-friendly. Sadly, as has been proven many times in the past, mere cloth is no match for the power of salsa. On the first wear, I sprung a hole in the left shoulder. My mom graciously sewed a little strip of ribbon over the hole, and a matching strip on the other side. Upon the second wear, a new hole opened on the opposite shoulder, next to the ribbon. I frowned, fearing that the top half of my darling outfit is not long for this world.

So, my Vietnam wish is that my top spring to life anew! AND improved!

Included here are two photos. The first is a pic of me in said top. As a bonus, I have worn a spicy coral-colored bra and a skirt from Tanzania and included Don Tomas, the white cat with orange detail! The second pic is three little drawings. Drawing A represents how I view the current version of the top. Drawing B represents the saucy, improved neckline that I imagine. Drawing C is the more daring version, for the new generation of salsera (features more arm AND more belly!).

Features that I like: sheer fabric, flower print, white trim, criss-cross design with long tie in back, subtle ruffle sleeve. I love all wonderful colors as long as they are not yellow or including too much yellow. Green, blue, red, orange, purple, or chocolate.

Features I like less: very narrow neckline, shirt shoulder parameters not wide enough to accommodate my Amazon shoulder girth, probably contributing to the double-shoulder blowout.

What I love most about the idea, is that Jamie gave me the top in the first place, so I already associate it with her and the wide-eyed joy I have whenever she chooses something wonderful for me. So, getting this top will be just like getting the original top all over again.

Bio: Dyanna is an urban dweller from a not very urban town somewhere in east Tennessee.  She loves cooking, dancing, laughing, fireworks, roller coasters, and making Halloween costumes using a hot glue gun as her primary tool.  She also thinks a lot about learning how to play the banjo.


photo by Alix Lambert
drawing by Jamie Hayes
Dyanna Charles reference photo

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