Women and Clothes

Where were you in 1966-67?

I was a freshman at Centerville (Ohio) High School, just south of Dayton. The fashion of the day was short skirts with pantihose or knee socks. No pants allowed for girls.

The high school had two buildings–the old junior high (they built a new middle school) and the newer high school building. The football stadium was in between the buildings. I don’t remember how long we had between classes, but it was barely enough for those of us who had classes in both buildings. Long enough for our legs to freeze in the winter!

I read a book recently called Women and Clothes, a collection of essays and responses to a long questionnaire. It was surprisingly interesting.

It triggered memories like our ridiculous short skirts.  Why were we not allowed to wear pants? Short skirts blowing in the cold winter wind surely weren’t more lady-like.  I remember one English class where our desks were in two sections, facing each other.  I am sure many a boy was distracted staring straight at our short skirts.  I finally got to wear pants to school in the spring of my senior year in high school, 1970.  Yay for Women’s Liberation and the power of petitions!

When I went to UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall of 1970, I wore nothing but blue jeans.  I had a maroon turtleneck bodysuit (remember the shirts that snapped in the crotch like baby clothes?) that I wore constantly one winter with a pair of bell bottoms embellished with crochet trim at the hem and some flowers I embroidered on the legs with yarn.  I held onto those jeans for a long, long time.  When my girls got old enough to want to wear them, I couldn’t find them.

At some point in the late 1990’s, I bought a black two-piece dress–my first grownup little black dress. It was lined and made of crepe with a slightly flared black skirt and a matching sleeveless shell top.  It fit.  It was the right length.  It could go a lot of places. I wore it several times to go out to nice restaurants when my daughter was in college in Washington, DC, and I always felt good in it.  Then I gained enough weight that the dress was a size too small.  I gave it away.  I still miss that dress and how I felt when I wore it.

I can only wear skirts and dresses in warm weather now.  I can’t pull up tights anymore because of the arthritis in my hands.  I love the way skirts and tights look.  And I liked how tights made my legs and butt feel firm.  I miss that feeling.

My daughters came of age in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  My older daughter and I clashed for weeks over Guess jeans when she was in middle school.  I refused to pay what I considered an absurd price for that red and white triangle on the back pocket (see it here).  I never did.  These days, she’s Maggie’s mom and buys designer holiday dresses at consignment stores and then resells them when she’s done with them.

When my younger daughter was in kindergarten, she decided she needed a pair of hot pink Chuck Taylor high top (click here) shoes.  Why??  I found imitation ones at Kmart and bought a hot pink pair and a turquoise pair.  She would wear one of each.  I would never wear anything that out of the norm, then or now, but I loved that she did! These days, she is Adaline’s mom and delights in picking out funky outfits for her to wear to school.  I buy Adaline crazy patterned leggings. Her mom sends me pictures of Adaline’s outfits.

Women and Clothes asked women about having “a style.” I wondered–do I have a style? A lot of days I dress like I did in college: jeans, a t-shirt, a sweater, and clogs. Is that an appropriate style for a woman about to turn 63?  I do consistently like clothes from Jjill (click here for their website). They are casually chic, I guess, made from soft, natural fabrics. They have good sales!

I don’t think about clothes much anymore. I know what I like.  I know what I feel good in.  I know what’s flattering. I want to be comfortable.  And I’m not really trying to attract attention anymore.

I just don’t want to be a frump!


Published in: on February 4, 2015 at 4:39 pm  Comments (10)  
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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Funny, as a Catholic-school girl, I always wore uniforms, so shopping became intensely exciting by the time I was in sixth grade…evening and weekend events took on amazing importance as opportunities to share our own “styles.” Maybe that’s why, in college (and a theater student), I really got into “costuming” myself. 🙂

    By the way, I attended Immaculate Conception in Dayton for second grade and then Our Lady of Good Hope (great names!) in Miamisburg for grades 3-6, before we moved back to Wisconsin, and I’ve always missed that part of the country. So lovely.

    I really enjoyed reading this, Amma: what memories cling to our outfits! Oh, and I’ve always been a Chuck Taylor girl, too! 🙂

    Joy to your week; thank you for this fun read!

    • We all seem to have such strong memories attached to clothes. I always kind of envied those parochial school uniforms–seemed so much easier. Stay warm!

  2. THANKS for taking us on this journey, Robin. ps – i have some MUCH beloved.red hightop Chuck’s if ya ever want to borrow ’em 😉

    • I’ve said for years I want a pair of Chuck Taylor’s, but I’ve always feared they wouldn’t work on my funky feet. Not sure why I haven’t actually tried them on…

    • I just might ask, Lisa.

  3. I didn’t even get to wear pants to work when I lived in LA in 1970. Oh wait, yes, we could wear pants suits on meeting days…polyester pastel pants suits. OMG I am 63 and I wear what makes me feel good. I go to college and seem to fit in with my jeans and weird combinations. Thanks for sharing this.

    • I’ve never understood why we couldn’t wear pants! I hope you’re enjoying college, Cathy.

  4. At my high school in Princeton, NJ, the rule was the same. No pants for girls, period. One day we all decided to wear pants–and not a word was said about it. They couldn’t send half the student body home. Looking back I realize I was really taunting them. My pants that day were purple corduroy bell-bottoms.

    I love tights and skirts too. My signature as a visiting children’s author is to wear brightly colored tights. At repeat-visit schools the kids place bets on the color of the day. Hot pink is usually the best guess.

    Great post Robin!

    • I love that all the girls wore pants! And especially the purple corduroy bell bottoms–well done!

  5. Excellent post! Amazing how we can so easily go from foxy to frumpy as we age, because all we want is comfort. I used to wear all those heavy duty power suits when I went to work…now I wear my pyjama bottoms in my home office. I still have the 5 inch burgundy patent stilettos I wore in the 80’s. My husband stares at them longingly once in a while and remembers the good old days. I do too. Still love those damn things!

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