We had no idea what to expect when we started watching Pretty Red Dress. We were just as confused as the other characters regarding what was happening in the story and to Travis, but we saw it meet a beautiful ending, where even though the answers were not given, acceptance was found for the choices of the characters. Recently, watching stories of the LGBTQ+ community that go beyond the struggle of “coming out” has been a fascinating exercise. These stories, which have started addressing the more complex nuances of living one’s truth and fighting for acceptance from family, are a way of standing in solidarity with everyone who has gone through them. However, when we watch them as trans people, our first reaction to them is sympathy, and it took us quite a while to realize that this was far from the intention of the makers. They are telling us how they find empowerment in the very truth that the world uses to ostracize the community. That is the journey of these characters—finding acceptance and freedom within themselves so that what others think of them ceases to matter. Here is how that happens in Pretty Red Dress, presented through this recap.
Why Does Travis Wear The Red Dress?
Travis has just been released from jail and is being welcomed with open arms by his family. Candice, his wife, is auditioning for singing gigs, and their daughter, Kenisha, is going through the typical identity struggles of the teenage years. Travis needs to look for a job to help his family, but he turns down an offer from his brother. Later, when he sees that Candice likes a red dress in a shop that they are not able to afford, Travis goes back to his brother and asks him for a job. This brother comes across as a little condescending and unlikeable, and it is clear that Travis hates his guts. Nevertheless, Travis gets a job at his brother’s restaurant. He is a little too late for the one he wants, but his brother makes sure to employ him in some capacity. We believe that it is with his first paycheck that Travis gets the red dress for Candice. She is on top of the world with her gift and wears it for her audition, where she makes a stunning impression. The purpose of this scene is to show that the dress is powerful. It is feminine and graceful, and it makes a statement about being bold and comfortable in your own skin.
In a later scene, we see Travis try on that dress for himself and realize that he must have brought it for himself rather than for Candice. The message that this dress sends is what Travis would like to tell the world right now, but he doesn’t have the words for it. He is strangely attracted to the dress and what it means for him to wear it. Even as the audience, our first thoughts are that he may be trans, gay, or gender fluid. But throughout Pretty Red Dress, when the other characters ask him the same thing through questions or accusations, he denies both. Travis identifies as a man, and he is attracted to women. Not only that, he is clearly in love with Candice. But he prefers women’s clothing. We would request that our readers remember that all of this is from a cis-het perspective and is prone to fallacies.
Honestly, it doesn’t sound like much, in a literal sense, that a man prefers women’s clothing. If we accept that gender is a social construct, then we must also accept that clothing regarded as being specific to genders is also more about a closed-minded view than anything with real-world implications. Maybe Travis’s desire to wear the red dress is as simple as that, or it could mean that this is his first step in a journey of self-discovery. Regardless, we believe that this movie is not about the entirety of his journey but just a part of it—the part that started with the pretty red dress.
How Does Candice React To Travis In The Dress?
When Candice accidentally sees him in the dress, she is horrified and jumps to the same initial conclusions as us. At one point, she even believes that it was her own fantasy that resulted in Travis taking it too far. Travis lies to her and probably himself when he asks her not to think about it too much. But that doesn’t stop him from wearing it again; however, this time, the dress rips. Travis begs his daughter, Kenisha, to take the blame for it, but she doesn’t give him a reply. Kenisha is going through a difficult time herself, and her parents are finding it hard to connect with her. Kenisha has a friend in school, Cecily, and the two are obviously together. Candice suspects that Kenisha is a lesbian and communicates that she is accepting of her sexual orientation, but her daughter still doesn’t feel free to open up to her. Kenisha might be taking her own time, but Candice is feeling isolated from her own family due to the secrets they are keeping from her. Kenisha is moody and rebellious and doesn’t want to spend time doing “girly” things with her mother.
At the same time, she also doesn’t tell her what she wants. Candice is also clueless about what is going on with Travis. The wise choice would be to give both of them some time, but Candice is on edge due to the weight of her suspicions and becomes increasingly pushy. When Candice discovers her torn dress, she naturally blames Travis, but Kenisha protects him at the last minute by saying that she was trying it on. While Candice believes her, subconsciously, she must still have her doubts. Kenisha had told Candice that she liked boys, but when her mother discovers her with Cecily, she is furious and believes that her entire family is lying to her and that Kenisha’s situation has been influenced by Travis. At this point, we are not sure if Kenisha is indeed a bigot, but she is acting way too angry. We have to consider that, though acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community is growing, people associated with them still have to go through a process of learning to accept them. The day is still not here when it will be as natural to be a part of the community as it is to be straight. Hopefully, movies like Pretty Red Dress are inching us closer to that reality.
‘Pretty Red Dress’ Ending Explained: Does Candice Accept Travis In The Red Dress?
Kenisha gets into a fight at school when her girlfriend, Cecily, tells everyone that Travis wore a dress. Kenisha had told her that in confidence, and Cecily had not cared about it. When the other kids start making fun of Travis, Kenisha fights with them.
Candice learns about this, and this time, her anger knows no bounds. She, Travis, and Kenisha get into a fight, and the police are called due to the ensuing noise. It could have been dealt with neatly if only Candice had not punched the police officer, landing her in jail. The next day, Travis bails her out, and by this time, she has cooled down enough to think about things rationally without the anger born of prejudice. She tells Travis that he should wear the red dress if he wants to, and she will accept it. She also stands by her daughter and talks to the school administration about not expelling her. Travis and Candice deal with the situation as a team and as parents. Later, when Travis asks her to marry him, she refuses, maybe because she still needs to understand and come to terms with the new developments in her life. At the end of Pretty Red Dress, Travis confidently wears the red dress while confronting his friends for their prejudice. Though it only ends in blows, he starts wearing the red dress on the streets whenever he wants, without fearing anyone.
What we are going to say is again from a cis-het perspective, but we wish our limited worldview had been granted some explanation in Travis’ own words. At this point, we relate more to Candice’s journey than Travis’ struggle, but maybe that was the intention of the writers. Every person had their own takeaway from Pretty Red Dress, and ours happened to come from Candice. At the end of the day, the movie is a sweet watch that could have been a little faster but was a well-spent 2 hours.