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Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


Where, oh where can that little brown dress be?

Special to The Seattle Times

When her blog gained a sudden surge in popularity, Seattle choreographer Alex Martin realized her "little brown dress" performance-art project had taken on a life of its own. But she had no idea that meant the dress would one day be swimming, Goodwill-hopping and visiting the Space Needle — without her.

As an artistic comment on consumerism, Martin wore the same little brown dress from July 7, 2005, through July 7, 2006, and tracked the progress at After designing, wearing (and repairing) the dress religiously for 365 days, Martin threw herself a public "un-dressing party" at Consolidated Works on the night of her 30th birthday last Friday.

"It was amazing," Martin says. "There were about 300 people there. ... It was pretty surreal having all these strangers saying 'happy birthday' — but it was a very celebratory mood."

That is, until the dress went on the lam.

That's right: The little brown dress is AWOL.

At the party, Martin performed the lovely, funny piece she choreographed for the project. Then she blew out the candles on her four-layer birthday cake. Then she took a festive running dive into said cake. Then she took off the cake-covered little brown dress and donned a silvery top and capri pants of her own design.

And she hasn't seen the little brown dress since.

Swept up in congratulations, Martin left the dress onstage, perilously unattended. It wasn't until later that she realized it was missing.

The case of the missing dress soon intensified, as Martin was scheduled to talk about her project on NBC's "Today" show at 4 the next morning. "They had asked me to bring it to hold up for the camera, so I was calling them at 3:30 in the morning, saying I didn't have it, and they didn't believe me."

Then the e-mails started arriving.

Hailing from, the first e-mail featured a rather gruesome picture of the dress floating in a body of water. It read, "I felt like I was drowning and I need some time to sort things out by myself."

The second one featured the garment in the hands of a Goodwill sorter, with the note, "I don't care WHO I end up with." The third e-mail shows the dress near the Space Needle: "I still need some space."

"It's so funny," Martin says of the intrigue. "People keep asking me, but I swear it's not a hoax. I'm more surprised by it than anyone." She says she's delighted by the new "traveling garden gnome" aspect of the little brown dress. "I always wanted this to be an open source project; I wanted people to be able to follow it online. ... This just takes it further."

And the dress's intentions? When asked for comment, the little brown dress responded via e-mail, "I miss Alex a lot, and I hope she misses me too, but I think this time apart will do us both good. I'm sure I'll go back to her eventually." The dress also announced plans for a road trip.

Brangien Davis is a regular contributor to The Seattle Times:

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company




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