Monday, July 18, 2016

My teenage fashion fail

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 flagger on 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 was wearing the very same shirt, only the flowered print was brown instead of blue. 

This could have been nothing more than a eyebrow-raising coincidence -- 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 an eye 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.


  1. Oh Jeannie, your story made me laugh. The same thing happened to me, but I was in my late 40's! I was in a shop trying on what I thought was a sweater tunic, and I have to say it looked good on me (as in not tight and not emphasizing every middle-aged "bulge" I have.) I was mortified to see that I'd gotten it off the MATERNITY rack! I was so glad I'd seen that before I bought it!

    1. That's so funny, Betsy. I feel a little better now. :-D

  2. I don't know many 14 year olds who have the perspective to laugh at themselves when it comes to fashion missteps, Jeannie. I just hope that I've had the perspective to empathize with my kids when they go through the things I endured at their ages.

    P.S. I remember my first pair of athletic shoes I bought to be fashionable. They were Nike Oceanias, ca. 1975. They were completely unsuitable for my every day wear, but did they ever look good!

    1. Thanks, Tim. I know what you mean about the perspective. It's just NOT THERE when you're 14 -- sometimes even when you're 24, or 34 ... But when you can get to the point of laughing at your own youthful foibles, it's kind of refreshing. :-)

      I googled those shoes, and yeah, those are classics. I love the big swoosh.

  3. I remember you wearing those blue overalls. I don't recall the maternity top though! I had the red Adidas with white stripes but didn't acquire them until first year of nursing school....behind the fashion times again. Don't you love being the age we are now? So much more fun and easy to just be ourselves! Thanks for the memories.

    1. I totally agree! Yes, it was fun reminiscing about this.

  4. I had navy blue corduroy overalls, too. Just like those ones. I think I wore them for the class picture on 6th grade (that's 1982-1983). Fun to remember now...

    As for maternity clothes... I remember buying a flowery print dress from a charity shop (second hand clothes) in my early twenties. I liked ankle-length dresses, loose and flowing, and empire waists, and I thought this dress was really pretty. However, I didn't wear it a lot, because the front hem sagged noticeably lower than in the back, and because I'm not very tall, I found myself stepping on it often. At some point, the penny dropped... and back to the charity shop donations it went.
    Oh well. A single girl in her early twenties, no pregnant friends at the time, how would I have known that it was a maternity dress...? On the positive side, I don't remeber anyone else commenting on it either. :)


Please leave a comment; I love to hear from readers. (And tell me who you are if you're comfortable doing that -- sometimes the comment form defaults to Anonymous.)