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The $500 Strawberry Dress Will Tear Our Relationships Apart

How one couture dress took over the internet — and became a quarantine must-have

Sarah Kochan, 27, knew immediately she had to have the Lirika Matoshi Strawberry Midi Dress after seeing model Tess Holliday wear the garment to the Grammys in January.

Kochan casually showed a photo of the dress to her boyfriend of six months, Daniel Peele, 30, hoping to entice him to gift her the trendy couture. He wholeheartedly agreed. She remembers him saying how good it would look on her and that he just had to buy it for her. She felt satisfied. Not only would she get the dress of her dreams, but her boyfriend was supportive of her style. 

So Kochan sent him the link to Matoshi’s website where, in black letters, he saw the price: $490. Peele no longer wanted to buy his girlfriend the dress. “I wasn’t not into it,” he says. “It’s kind of just like… it’s another overpriced item of clothing.”

Peele didn’t know what, exactly, he’d just poo-pooed. The strawberry dress is this year’s must-have garment. The print — red glittery PVC strawberries weaved onto blush-pink tulle — is a favorite of body image activist Honey Ross, All American actress Samantha Logan and a cadre of fashion influencers:

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The strawberry dress, though, is a specific reference to Matoshi’s midi dress with puffed sleeves, a ruched bodice and a flounce hem. As NBC News reports, Matoshi’s sales have increased 1,073 percent from just over a month. Artistic renderings proliferate on TikTok, Instagram and even the game Animal Crossing for fans who love the garment but can’t afford the cost. The hashtag #strawberrydress has 5.8 million views on TikTok.

The romantic, ethereal dress rose in popularity this year as part of the cottagecore trend. Imagine lying under a willow tree and sipping chamomile from a teacup while Taylor Swift’s Folklore plays in the background. Quarantine is the last thing on your mind as you read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

However, this daydream is getting clouded as male partners balk at the idea of spending hundreds on couture. Cody Smith, 31, a naval officer in Southern California, admits he too told his wife, Shaine, 28, they couldn’t afford the dress — but finally caved. “I basically slept on it for a night and was like, all right, I’ll buy you the dress,” Smith says. 

How romantic: Smith decided to put his wife’s happiness before his bottom line. Except Shaine is calling bullshit on her husband’s faux-chivalry. Cody didn’t change his mind after a restful night’s sleep. 

The next day, while Cody was at work, they chatted over the phone, she says. He detected something was bothering her. “I didn’t say anything like ‘If you don’t buy this for me I’m going to leave you,’ but I was just being petty in the moment,” Shaine says. 

So when Cody came home that night, the first thing he did was ask his wife if she really did want the dress that badly. Shaine said yes, not wanting to squander the moment. “I don’t know that I’ve told him ‘I love you’ so many times in one day since we got married,” Shaine says. 

Why is Matoshi’s dress, of all garments, testing relationships? Unlike previous years’ must-have pieces like the ASOS leopard midi skirt or the Orolay Amazon coat, the strawberry dress is the rare couture gown universally coveted by fast-fashion shoppers. This is why Kochan wasn’t initially upset that Peele wouldn’t buy the dress. “I understood his shock at the price,” she says. 

However, quarantine has found a privileged sector of shoppers with a surplus of cash from staying home amid the pandemic and a need for something tangible to give them hope that this all might end eventually. “I don’t wear Gucci or Versace. [My] most expensive pair of jeans are from Madewell,” Kochan says. So why not allow herself a single indulgence?

While at a family barbeque last week, Kochan received a surprise text from Peele, who was elsewhere at the gathering. She opened the message to find a screenshot of a receipt for the strawberry dress. Her days of mentioning the dress over and over had paid off. “It was just something nice to do. It’s definitely more expensive than any article of clothing I bought for myself, but that’s all right,” he says. 

Except, unbeknownst to Peele, he’d bought the wrong garment. 

Kochan wanted the flowy midi dress. He’d purchased the mini version — tight and short. 

“That was the specific type she wanted,” he says.

Not so, Kochan says. “I like the longer one better, but I wasn’t gonna say anything. I didn’t want to make him feel bad.”