GALLOPIN’ GRANDMA: Lifelong fashion police fugitive

By on February 17, 2015
Nebraska 1924: My mother and friends after escaping from the fashion 5-0. (Photo credit: Jean Webber)

Nebraska 1924: My mother and friends after escaping from the fashion 5-0. (Photo credit: Jean Webber)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – A few years ago when I was in high school, my mother made me an Easter outfit. It was a pink, and I mean pink, corduroy suit. I chose to accessorize my ensemble with all navy-colored items including a hat, blouse, gloves, purse, nylons and old lady sandals. I was an eye-rattling vision, sort of like a rabid Easter Bunny or a very large egg.

Not having learned anything from the incident, when I started college I made myself a grey corduroy suit to wear during opening week activities. The suit had a black velvet collar and a white scarf because I wanted to look very British, like I had just ridden with the hounds. But it was 90 degrees, the suit was hideous and I looked more like I had gone to the dogs.

A few years ago, my 10-year-old fashionista granddaughter and I arrived at a gas station in Victor, Idaho. The fashion queen looked around in disbelief and announced the inhabitants of the gas station had no fashion sense. The only red carpet they ever saw was the greasy one in the restroom. I have since come to realize that their fashion sense was just right for them and they were perfect.

I recently took out a 1976 high school yearbook and the horror is with me still. I had forgotten how ghastly everyone looked, as if some mass delusion had overcome the fashion world. It was page after page of wide lapels, giant ties, puffy down vests, bell-bottom “trousers,” violent plaids and hair. There was lots of hair along with granny glasses. It is a wonder that anyone reproduced.

I have to admit that my husband was a victim of this disaster. He had a brown wool double-knit suit with bell-bottom trousers and a pair of square-toed brown and tan shoes to match. He bought himself a blue-and-orange plaid suit, but we made him take it back as it was out of the “Seabiscuit” design line. He even had a pair of white patent leather loafers and a belt to match. He had no shame, or taste.

As time went on, the terror continued. I let my sixth-grader wear pink velvet hot pants (really short shorts!) to school. I discovered my seventh- and eighth-graders in the bathroom at 7 a.m. wearing their coats and plastering on their eye makeup. Underneath, they were wearing halter-tops, which covered very little, but then, they didn’t have much to cover. They have since cried, “Why did you let us leave the house looking like that?” As if I had a choice. A few years later I got payback when one of them got her wedgie shoes caught in her elephant leg pants and fell down in the street. Served her right, someone said.

I now know we are victims of our own times and each generation commits its own crimes against humanity. We cannot be blamed for sins we cannot control. My mother wore underwear made out of flour sacks that said  “Nebraska’s finest” on her rear end. I had a homemade snowsuit and looked like an orphan. Not our choice, not our fault.

We are what we are and to my sister-in-law, who would give me the evil eye and say, “You’re not wearing that, are you?” I should have said, “Yes, I am, it is my own fashion sense and frankly you don’t look so hot yourself. “

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