My grandmother has the most stunning collection of vintage gowns and shoes. Old photos show a woman more beautiful than Marilyn Monroe (in my humble opinion), with a wardrobe to match. When she was about my age, she was in a Marimba band with four friends. They performed all over the USA and Canada, including two presidential inaugurations and the Ed Sullivan Show. Google has digitized versions of Billboard magazine going way back, and if you search them you can find several mentions of them. Fortunately for me, my grandma has an incredible talent for holding onto things for decades, and I’ve ended up with a beautiful, and only slightly musty, collection of 50’s era gowns, suits, and jewellery.

Photo by Hannah P.

Today, I’ll be highlighting the dress she wore on the Ed Sullivan Show. It’s a beautiful gown now, though by all reports it was much nicer fifty years ago. According to my grandma, The Marimba Co-eds bought most of their dresses at the Kansas City American Royal, but these ones (and the matching shoes) in New York City.

Photo by Hannah P.

The shoes were sandals, with rhinestones the colour of the dress. I don’t know if I ever saw the shoes, but I do know they wouldn’t fit. My grandma worse a dainty little size 5, while I’m a more… robust… size 8½. Which is a terrible pity, because Grandma kept many of her shoes, and I’d kill to be able to wear them. They’re adorable.

Grandma Rayma, c. 1952

So, this dress. It’s as 1950’s as it gets. The bodice is princess seam, boned, and strapless, with a tuft of tulle at the bustline. The skirt is full, dipping at the back, with a tiered tulle overskirt. It rustles when you walk, and makes you feel like a princess. I love it.

The Marimba Co-eds had a reunion at the Calgary Stampede in 1998. My Grandma is second from the left in the group of be-sequined ladies, wearing a red dress.

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