Leslie Crook spent days last week combing through used clothing stores looking for her dress.
It's not just any garment. It's a vintage, stylish, hand-sewn and hand-beaded black-netted number with elegantly embroidered flowers made around 1920.
It's rare, yes. But it's also about to become more valuable with the pending release of a new version of the movie, The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio. This is the style worn in the movie.
It disappeared from , where it hung on a mannequin sometime late Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. It's valued at $525, but similar dresses sell for as much as $3,000. It's not the money that bothers Crook the most.
"Antique dealers and aficionados are kind of a special breed," said Crook. "We're not owners of an item, we're caretakers. We have a personal connection to these things and I think it affects us more deeply when a vintage item is stolen, as opposed to a mass produced piece of merchandise."
Crook could have waited to put it on display until the movie came out, but she loved it so much, she wanted people to have a chance to buy it sooner.
After the heart-breaking theft, she traveled to other used clothes stores with a flier, asking them to call if someone shows up trying to sell the dress. She also reported it to the Santa Cruz Sheriff's department, online.
"I feel violated by it," said Crook, 42. "I've had some friends advise me to do what I can to get it back and others said to just let it go and move on."
She got so caught up in the feelings that she researched psychological aspects of shoplifting, something she had also known about in other retail jobs.
"From my experience it's likely someone who was feeling bad about something in their lives and needed to fill that hole. I doubt it was for drug money. It's such an esoteric item."
Crook said she has sympathy for the thief, remembering a time in her twenties when she made bad decisions.
"Ultimately, I'd love a tag line on the story that says, please just give it back. Drop it off in a bag with my name on it. No questions asked."
You got it.