by Jeannie Prinsen
Something I read on Twitter last week got me thinking about the clothes that were in fashion when I was a teen.
Lee overalls were a popular item, and I had a pair in navy-blue corduroy. Overalls are kind of impractical when you stop and think about it, but I didn’t care about that: I was just extra cautious in the school washroom so that I didn’t come back to class with my straps twisted — or with one strap wet from falling in the toilet!
Levi’s were also very much in style: the jeans and cords, of course (I had rust-coloured Levi’s corduroys), and those gingham shirts with the all-important tag on the front pocket.
We wore hoodies back then, too, except we called them kangaroo jackets. (Did anyone outside Prince Edward Island call them that, I wonder?) I had a red pullover one that I wore constantly, often under a denim jacket. It strikes me now that many of the clothes that were trendy at that time were quite unisex — not to mention timeless. I wish I still had all those items. Well, not the overalls, maybe…
And let’s not forget Adidas sneakers. Some of them were white-with-blue-stripes, and some were blue-with-white-stripes. I had a pair that looked very much like the ones in this picture; I wore them till they fell apart. Actually, I think I ruined them when I was working as a flaggeron a road construction crew and accidentally stepped on hot asphalt.
It might sound like I was always buying the latest styles or begging Mom and Dad to buy them for me, but I think these examples stand out because they were exceptions. A lot of the time, in fact, I wore hand-me-downs from my cousins or other relatives. I didn’t mind, though; I thought it was fun to dig into a bag of clothes in the hope of finding some treasures. I still do!
Once when I was around 14, somebody gave us one of those bags of hand-me-downs. In it I found a pretty blue flowered shirt that buttoned up the front and had white trim at the collar and cuffs. It was loose and flowing and very striking. I thought it was beautiful, and I proudly put it on and wore it to school.
The second time I wore it, we had a substitute teacher, and she waswearing the very same shirt, only the flowered print was brown instead of blue.
This could have been nothing more than a eyebrow-raisingcoincidence — except she was pregnant.
It was — no doubt about it — a maternity top.
I’m sure the teacher never said a word (though she may have kept aneye on me for signs of morning sickness), and I don’t remember if anyone else did either, but I know I endured a day of mortification. After school I came home, stuffed the blue flowered shirt at the bottom of a drawer and never wore it — or even mentioned it — again.
It doesn’t take much for me to conjure up that teenage feeling of wanting to get it right, look right, be right — and the shame of thinking I’d gotten it wrong. I didn’t have a strong enough sense of self to say “I’ll wear what I want and make my own statement, no matter what anybody thinks” — but I wasn’t mature enough to laugh it off and turn it into a funny story at the supper table, either. I guess I was a pretty typical teen in both respects.
If only we could believe, at age 14, that it really, truly doesn’t matter what shoes we buy … or whether we have the “right” tag on our pocket … or whether we’re wearing the “wrong” shirt.
If only we could believe, at age 14, that one day we really, truly will laugh at these moments of humiliation.
This post first appeared here. Photo by Jonas Svidras on Unsplash
Jeannie Prinsen lives in Kingston, Ontario with her husband and two teenagers. She teaches an online course in essay-writing at Queen’s University, writes fiction and poetry, and blogs about family, faith, books, and whatever else interests her at Little house on the circle. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Jeannie, I’m not familiar with Kangaroo jacket. I think we just called them hooded sweatshirts. I am familiar with the feelings of not having the right look. I wish it stopped at age 14 but I’ve had similar insecurities much later in life too! 😉
Thanks for commenting, Debby. I confess I have too.
My entire high school career was a huge fashion fail, and my tendency toward begin oblivious is only a little improved with age.
Kids are rediscovering those great Adidas sneakers with the stripes–and it’s funny how much of “our music” they’re listening to. 🙂
Thanks, Michele. I know what you mean about the music and the retro shoes and everything. I honestly DO wish I still had some of those things from the 70’s. I had a long green cardigan, lighter green at the top and getting darker toward the bottom. That would be so perfectly ON TREND right now. 😀
Ah yes… my teen years were in the glorious 80s and Pretty in Pink was inspiration to just create and wear what I liked. Of course I wanted to ‘in’ brands and looks, but with limited budget, I learned to get creative in putting things together and while I mostly went along with the trends, I remember a few ‘outfits’ that were more out of the box that I loved –whether anyone else did or not! 😉
Pretty in Pink – of course! Those were the days…. 🙂