March 21, 2017

my childhood wardrobe limitations

My kids give me an eye-roll when I suggest they wear something to school that doesn't look like they slept in it.  (In Tank's case, he usually has slept in it).  I recall the days when they once attended Catholic school.  They were required to wear uniforms.  Back then, they looked, well . . . uniform.

After my recent struggle to get them to wear something presentable to school because we had an event at 3:30, I wondered how they would've handled my childhood wardrobe limitations. 

I held the distinction in my family of 5 siblings of being the middle child AND the youngest sister.  Freakishly, I was also the tallest sister.  My budget conscious folks believed strongly in hand-me-downs.  With five kids, who could blame them?  My life might have been a bit more pleasant, however, if they had recognized that the tallest sister shouldn't be expected to wear the clothes that were too small for the shorter, older sisters.  Dare I say, 'Duh!'

In 1982 when I was in 6th grade, knickers were introduced as the latest fad.  I was elated.  At last, clothes that wouldn't be considered too short for me.  Fashionable knickers buttoning at the knee were this tall girl's dream.  So long as that trend lasted, I didn't stand out.
Attending a Catholic grammar school should've been a blessing because of our school uniform requirement.  Unfortunately, my classmates mostly consisted of wealthy, entitled children.  I was  sneered at for merely existing.  My white, uniform blouse with the pathetic Peter Pan collar, and lack of Izod label didn't compare with the sturdy cotton, button-down collar blouses embellished with a polo horse or an alligator that most of the other girls wore.  many of the 'preppy girls' as we called them, wore their collar up.  Not an option with a flimsy Peter Pan collar.  My appearance didn't help my social standings.

My family was financially comfortable, but sensible.  Dad was an accountant.  He tracked all expenditures.  There was no wiggle room for non-essentials.  A wealthy aunt from Texas sent my sister a bright colored, striped Izod polo shirt for her birthday one year.  My siblings and I leaned in  and let out a communal 'oohhh' when she opened the box.

Mom asked for one of us to get her ripper from her sewing box.  We watched as she carefully ripped off the little alligator emblem . . . much to our shock.  'If they can't be friends with you when you don't wear the right clothes, then they aren't good enough to be your friends anyway.'

Glasses with curvy arm.
I hated school because I often felt like an outcast.  When I wasn't yanking at my winter uniform corduroy floods, I was pushing up my 'upside-down-styled' glasses or trying to fluff my boy-styled short hair-do compliments of Mom's razor blade and obsession with short hair.

Glasses with arms attached at the base of the frames and curving up to the ear were the latest look.  Mom helped me choose a pair when I needed to replace my glasses in 6th grade.  The craze was short lived, but so long as my prescription didn't change I was stuck wearing the outdated, silly looking frames.  My two, younger, wise-ass brothers enjoyed flipping their glasses upside down in order to imitate me.  I so preferred the knickers phase to the upside down glasses one.

Since all good things must come to an end, I was the last nerd our family produced.  My two younger brothers had it made in the shade.  For one, my pair of cost-conscious grandmothers who willingly sewed clothes for their grandchildren, neglected to create clothes for boys.  Enough said?  My brothers' wardrobe freedom was coupled with the fortunate fact that they were both athletic.

While neither of my older sisters ever exhibited any athleticism, my mediocre athletic ability developed slowly.  My involvement on any team was so unexpected that it offered more of a humor component to our family's focus, than let's say an element of pride.  My folks dwelled heavily on my bros and their tendency to be jocks.

Jocks who weren't wearing matching, polyester print garments sewn with love by devoted grandmothers. Jocks with gender acceptable short hair cuts.  Jocks who weren't expected to wear older sisters' floods.  Jocks whose eyeglasses always looked right-side up.  Jocks who were accepted because even if they weren't fashionable they contributed something to the team.  Jocks who didn't rely on knickers to escape embarrassing short pants.

My personal history with floods, short-lived fads, and hand me downs means I am incredibly sensitive to the importance having decent clothing options.  My kids are so lucky. They have no idea that their occasional 'church clothes' dress code is nothing compared to the embarrassing ensembles I once sported. 

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