Originally Published: January 31, 2016 1:04 a.m.
Did you belong to the Members Only jacket club or sport an alligator on your polo shirt in high school?
With my family's finances, I most certainly didn't. Until my mom discovered the Lacoste "seconds" outlet. Then, I was styling - I didn't care that the little alligator was slightly askew or missing an appendage, I had a reptile on my shirt!
I remember getting my first pair of Levi's. I think I was 11 or 12. Until then, it'd been the Sears Toughskins jeans for me. On the way home from the mall, where the Levi's store was, I pulled the jeans out and put them on my lap to check them out. I was so excited to have them, I read the entire famous tag on the back and the special buttons. I told my mom that Pat Pending must be a seriously rich guy since his name was on everything. I remember her pulling over the car and leaning over the steering wheel, laughing more than I'd ever seen her laugh. That was the day I got my lesson on patents and how merchandise works. Of course, it didn't end there. She told my dad before we even got fully in the house, called my sisters, aunts and grandma to share her daughter's observation. Someone STILL brings it up at family reunions: "Hey, how's Pat Pending doing, Robin?"
My family tends to hang on to things ... thank goodness Facebook didn't exist back then.
Mom recognized that some school kids were cruel to others who didn't dress like them. She scoured consignment shops - which were rarer in the '80s than now - for Jordache jeans, Docksides boat shoes and Lacoste shirts so that I could "fit" in. Before I started working and buying my own clothes for high school, she often saved extra cash from the grocery bill throughout the summer so she could buy designer jeans for me to have for the start of the next school year. My most prized jeans were my Gloria Vanderbilt's. She found four amazing pairs in different colors at some outlet for my freshman year. The woman knew clothes - she found matching color ruffled blouses for each pair, too. Ruffled shirts and Farrah Fawcett hair equaled the "it" look in those days. I'm pretty sure I've successfully destroyed every known photo of me with that hair.
High school was brutal for my friends and me in terms of clothes. We literally had the railroad tracks in the middle of town and you knew, by what someone wore, where they lived. You didn't get into some clubs or cliques because of your clothes. Think of the movie "Clueless" - except my school was that on steroids.
Mom was also a seamstress, and bless her heart, when she and dad absolutely couldn't afford to buy me the official high school jacket, she made one. It was definitely homemade looking, with the hand-stitched letters of the high school on the back. Even as a self-centered teenager, I realized what a labor of love that was. It was my Christmas gift my junior year, along with my class ring. I couldn't believe she'd done that.
When I had children, I worried about what other kids would say about their clothing when they hit middle school. Until then, I shopped exclusively at consignment stores - I still do. But, I thought maybe I should trim our budget elsewhere and take them to the mall for the start of their sixth-grade years. When I took my son, he found some things he liked, but asked to go to the Army/Navy store and Goodwill. When I took my daughter the next year, she balked at the mall before we even went in. We ended up at our favorite secondhand shops for her clothes. She informed me clothes didn't matter like the "old days" when I was in school. She always has a lovely way of making me feel like I was part of the "Little House on the Prairie" family!
Well, that definitely saved our money during those years. Both kids still shop in secondhand stores for their clothes. I guess I inadvertently instilled that in them. I'm glad they didn't succumb to what was a stressful part of school for me - would anyone laugh at this outfit?
I outgrew the need to please people with my clothing in my freshman year of college, thank goodness. Nowadays, I think the people around me should feel quite honored I cared enough to pull on a pair of pants in their presence. Ahhh, the privileges of being an older woman.
Until next time, Robin