Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Triggers Memory?

For some reason I awoke this morning thinking about some of the outfits I wore back in junior high school!  Good grief!  What difference does it make to anything now?  But, think of them I did.

Every autumn my parents would take me shopping for school clothes so I would have some new things each term.  It was a lot of fun. My parents, both suckers for buying nice clothes,  were very fashion conscious in their younger days. They would always have me try on every outfit in the stores and then pretend I had to choose only 1 or 2. I knew that the longer I  hemmed and hawed about what to purchase the better chance I had of them just buying everything!

 Oh, and "outfits" were the big deal in those days.  It was rare to buy any "top" without also purchasing a matching "bottom".  Buying clothes piecemeal the way we do today was simply not done at that time, at least not by anyone we knew. 

The year I started Grade 7, the grand junior high adventure on the horizon, I found a wonderful outfit in the local Woodwards department store.  Are you old enough to remember Woodwards?? It was the one Canadian "department store" in the 1960's about which you didn't have to feel embarrassed for having purchased your clothes there. (One of my cousins-in-law was a store detective in the Vancouver branch, but that is fodder for another blog entry.) The Bay and Eatons were only OK in those days and you didn't always admit to buying clothes there.  Zellers and K-Mart (an updated version of the traditional Zellers competitor, Kresges) were unmentionable, even for childrens' clothing, and if you went into one of those stores it was best to cover your face so no one would recognize you. I don't think I ever entered a K-Mart store in my life. My feisty paternal grandmother used to take me into the downtown Zellers regularly and buy me a hot dog lunch at their lunch counter for the express purpose of horrifying my father.  haha I loved the smell of the store's oiled wood flooring, and the spongy "rise and dip" feel of it under the soles of my shoes.  Woodwards had a modern cold feeling to it with lino floors, large plastic squares of overhead panels to cover the tube lights, and lots of silver painted welded metal railings separating the various departments.

Anyway the outfit in question was a subdued green reversible skort with a matching top in a heavy cotton fabric. (for readers younger than age 50 a skort was a pair of knee length, wide legged shorts with side slit, front and back skirt panels that hung over the top of them)  One side was solid green and the other a print I thought quite lovely, although then as now I wasn't much for prints.  The print pattern was small orange flowers and tiny yellow/green grasshoppers, just the thing for a 12 year old girl: a little bit grown up in style and a print that was girly but not too childish. O how I loved that outfit. No one at school had anything like it, all the girls admired it, so I wore it to nearly tattered rag condition that year.  haha  I loved the solid colour and print mix and match options.  "Reversible" was "in" at that time and it was great fun as well as reducing the number of outfits required that year.

The next year in Grade 8 neon colours ruled!  For Christmas that year I received a neon pink, long sleeved A-line mini dress of thick knit polyester! Polyester was the newest man made fabric at the time and was really hot stuff....especially if it was hot pink! My dress was the latest '60's fashion statement with the giant gold zipper that ran up the front of it....a zipper with a large gold hoop to pull it with.  The fabric was scratchy and non-absorbent, but I wore it with pride...and wore it and wore it, although I always felt like I needed a shower afterward to get rid of that scratchy feeling!  For school dances I wore it with Go-Go boots:  ankle height, low heeled white leather affairs that, paired with the pink neon mini skirt made me look like a pair of legs hanging out of a pink cumberbund with a tiny face appearing above it.  All photos have been destroyed.........

For Christmas that same year I debuted a neon purple straight cut dress.....like today's pencil skirt with a blouse attached.  There was a band of fine white lace around the wrist cuffs and it sported a huge white man-style, Windsor knotted suit tie edged with lace hanging down the front of it.  Mixing traditional men's and women's fashions together was quite a big deal in the 1960's!  We slaves to fashion were all about attempting to wear the same clothes advertised by a popular British fashion model with the moniker "Twiggy".   I had never seen anyone so thin in my life and I wanted to look just like her. Fortunately my 13 year old self was pretty much as thin as a twig anyway so the clothes hung properly; no bulges or rolls or panty lines to worry about....unlike now.....

Elephant pants were also the rage for about 8 months in junior high school so of course I had to have a pair.  Elephant pants were high waisted wool blend pants, that were tight around the waist and behind, then blossoming into yards and yards of fabric in the legs. By the time they reached the ankle there was about a yard of fabric at the bottom cuffed hem of each pantleg.  From the waist down we girls looked like walking giant triangles! If elephant pants were too expensive to purchase you could make cheaters by ripping open the outside seams of your blue jeans and sewing in wide panels of brightly coloured polyester fabric. For some reason red and bright yellow were the favoured colours. Elephant pants vs slit jeans defined your social status in some schools. If you could afford elephant pants you were among the snooty elite and if you wore slit jeans you were likely viewed as some kind of poverty stricken druggie.  Aahhhhh, the heirarchy of junior high days.....

Maybe I have these bizarre memories in order to feel more grateful for life as it is now!  Because I am....I am..... 

2 comments:

chris e. said...

In our neighbourhood you felt like royalty if your clothes came from ANY store and not older siblings, cousins, your neighbour's kids who'd outgrown them!

Susan said...

Each family is so different: I was never allowed to even enter a thrift store or wear other peoples' clothes, even though it would have been far more practical!