The story Betty tells is a simple one. She needed "the perfect dress" for a very special occasion. Betty describes in amusing detail how she found just the right one, spent more than she could afford for it, modeled it for admiring friends, felt absolutely transformed and then...never got to wear it. The story and Betty are witty, engaging and delightful.
Then Betty is asked to tell her story again. This time the story is strikingly different. While the facts remain the same, Betty reveals how she really felt: her anxiety over buying the dress, her discomfort at being praised for beauty she feels she doesn't have, and her subsequent bewilderment at the way things turn out. Betty becomes withdrawn, sad and vulnerable, and her voice, body and words express the painfulness of the memory. The contrast between the two stories is haunting.
Our culture's emphasis on female "beauty" underscores the poignant saga of Betty's search for "the perfect dress". The film is as meaningful and moving today as it was when it was made.
Betty Tells Her Story was restored with a grant from NYWIFT's Women's Film Preservation Fund. The restored version was recently featured at the Barbican Centre in London. Betty Tells Her Story was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2022.