Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would be wearing a muumuu (aka “caftan”) at any point in time during my lifetime. I also never considered the possibility of sending this text to my truest and dearest female friends: “Oh, lord! I’m in a caftan (and a GWAR tank top). Am I supposed to wear pants? Pantless feels too naked…EEK!” But that’s exactly what I did on Monday, January 9th, for Ms. Akiko Jones’s “Night of 1,000 Mrs. Ropers.” It was the first outing for the newly formed Mrs. Roper social club, headed up by Jones. (She’s also a local performer and burlesque dancer in Atlanta and goes by the stage name Ruby Redmayne.) A motley crew of Three’s Company-inspired Mrs. Ropers, Mr. Furleys, a Chrissy Snow, and the random Bea Arthur (from the Maude years) neighbor showed up to Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium. (Three’s Company was a ’70’s tv show about tenants of the married Ropers. Mrs. Roper was a feisty, caftan wearing, big bauble sporting, curly redhead, who was always trying to get some lovin’ from her stick in the mud husband Stanley. The Ropers even had a less successful spin off show called The Ropers.)
If you are wondering (like I was wondering) why in the world anyone would want to be seen out in public in her (or his) house dress, then you know I had to ask Akiko how this zany idea had taken shape in her brain. “The caftan idea came from an inside joke with some friends about spending our advanced years in stylish caftans together, and I thought ‘why wait?’ I posted the event thinking maybe ten or so friends would come. I had no idea that the caftan theme would strike such a strong chord with so many people,” she said. To her fantastic credit and those striking chords, word of mouth spread quickly and there were probably 30 to 40 Mrs. Roper-themed outfits fluttering around church that night. Akiko, dressed in a blue satin caftan, tall platform green jeweled shoes, large sparkly jewelry, and wearing her best sky high beehive red hairdo, was every bit the quintessential combination of Mrs. Roper and Sister Louisa. Sister Louisa art, created by local Atlanta resident and church bar owner Grant Henry, is known for its folkish southern religious charm and outrageousness, including paintings of Sister Louisa with captions such as, “The higher the hair, the closer to God.” Akiko’s sky high beehive fits that bill… Hal-le-lu-jah!
While “church (it’s a bar!)” (that’s what the sign says outside of Sister Louisa’s) was in session, Mrs. Ropers wore their brightest and most flamboyant caftan as they giggled, gossiped, and praised the spirit of freedom, booze, and friends. The famed ’70’s house dress muumuu was resurrected and glorified all over Grant Henry’s Sister Louisa southern folk art bar. Both men and women wore caftans, big over-the-top jewlery, and wigs. Women and local burlesque dancers seemed to be the early arrivers at the event, followed by kerchief-wearing Mr. Furleys, and then the bearded lady Ropers. The last group of sassy Mrs. Ropers included Poly Sorbate and local drag queens and performers. Burlesque dancers Ruby Redmayne, Tupelo Honey, Lola Lesoleil, and Ruby Le Chatte were among participants, as was CL Atlanta’s 2011 Best Drag Queen Dax ExclamationPoint. Even though one of the novel ideas of the event was for Mrs. Ropers to participate in a ping pong tournament, none of the Ropers was inclined to leave the party or start the pinging and ponging. A wild time was had by all (despite the lousy rainy weather) and donations were taken up by Jones for official membership in the new social club. So how did Ms. Jones feel about the evening? She had this to say, “I loved the evening, it was fun and had great energy. People were supportive of the membership structure and very encouraging about holding future events. It was great and I can’t wait to keep it going!”
About the International Order of Mrs. Ropers events: The only requirement to attend Roper loving events is that YOU MUST WEAR A CAFTAN. This is a non-negotiable requirement of the newly formed social club. Feel free to wear wigs, hats, big jewelry, and whatever footwear you like, but YOU MUST WEAR A CAFTAN. (The main Mrs. Roper says that you might be able to find a caftan at Ross, Goodwill, or an Auntie.) She also dictates that if not in caftan, you can dress as stick in the mud Stanley or the more fun Mr. Furley (polyester shirt paired with a neckerchief). Mrs. Roper’s mission is to make this a true social club where Mrs. Roper outings happen every 4 to 6 weeks. These events or outings may include bowling, karaoke, getting pedicures, playing putt putt, picnics, going to the gun range, and many other possibilities – ALL IN CAFTANS! With this newly formed social club, Mrs. Roper #1 is requesting, but not requiring, a $2-5 donation for a “Roper Room Fun Fund” so that participants can receive a “Member in Good Standing of the International Order of Mrs. Ropers” ready-to-frame certificate, a button to wear, and a fund to help defray the expenses for Members Only events which may include HIRING A MARIACHI BAND to follow shopping Ropers romping around the Virginia Highlands neighborhood or bar hopping in East Atlanta (tentatively set for maybe spring or summer). A donation is not required to participate in this event, but if you would like to donate, Pay Pal “Roper Room Fun Fund” at [email protected]