Saturday, August 02, 2014

School supplies II

And then there was back-to-school clothing and shoe shopping. I've spoken of this before. But I wonder now, do families still do it this way? When I was a kid, clothes buying was a major production (we had to drive to the mall, which, I don't remember how far Chapel Hill Mall was from where we lived, but it was more than 15 or 20 minutes, as I remember). Clothes were pretty much something you got before school started and maybe at Christmas (and when you got older and cared about clothes more, maybe for your birthday. Though I never really cared about clothes all that much until I was an adult).

We'd trek around to each store, going first to one department (maybe boys', for my brother) and then to Girls or Juniors or later on Misses for me. (Though I think when I got older, and there were underwear-type things, and underwear-type things more delicate than pants and undershirts to be bought, I kind of think my mom and I went alone to do that). I guess my parents had a list they went buy, how many pairs of jeans and how many shirts, that kind of thing. Often a jumper or skirt or dress for me, because particularly when I was younger, I liked those kinds of things. (I guess I've come back 'round to that now; I mostly wear dresses or skirts to work unless I'm going in the field or it's really messy weather out)

There was sometimes some arguing. I remember when OP (Ocean Pacific) stuff was first popular. I remember when designer jeans came out. My parents were frugal and didn't want (understandably) to spend large sums on clothes we would soon grow out of. And maybe, in a way, they were equipping us for a life where we were more concerned about what was on the inside than what was the outside package.

But I also remember it was kind of miserable. When I was in seventh grade, I had three pairs of jeans and one of khakis. One pair of jeans was Lee brand, which was perceived as normal and acceptable. (Levis were also normal and acceptable). One pair was an unmarked store brand (maybe from JC Penney's; back in the day a lot of my clothes came from there). And one pair was Wranglers.

Oh gads. The Wranglers. I got teased for those. Got called "Wrangler."

Had I lived where I live now? Wearing Wrangler jeans would at worst have marked me as a "cowgirl" or "rancher chick" and no one would have said boo. But in the snobby town where I grew up, they were "day laborer" jeans. "Poor-people jeans." And I caught heck for it.

And it's funny. As an adult I can look back and go, "Dang. That was a stupid thing for the kids to judge me on and a stupid thing for them to make fun of me for." And I can say "Dang, it was crazy of me to get upset about that, I should have just rolled my eyes at them and kept on moving." But at the same time I remember the pain and, yes, the SHAME that I was wearing "poor-people jeans" and the feeling that nothing I ever did would allow me to fit in. And while on some level I didn't WANT to fit in with the stupid snobby kids who would judge someone for non-designer jeans, I also felt AWFUL that they didn't even want to consider being friends with me because of the clothes I wore.

(Heh. Then again, I remember with the few friends I did have - who were kids from families that were frugal like mine - whispering furtively "lard-ass jeans" about the Jordache jeans (I think that may have been a joke on SNL?). Whispering furtively because "ass" was a bad bad bad word and we could have got in SO MUCH TROUBLE had a teacher overheard. Heh.)

I suppose in the long run having parents who didn't indulge my every whim made me a better person as an adult, but dang, when I was 12 and 13, it did mean a certain amount of discomfort in school. And I'm sure my parents would have been horrified to learn how I felt but I never really told them. I just....I didn't know where to start with it and I felt like nothing would have changed my status as an unpopular anyway, so why bother?

And then, last of all, there were shoes. I've spoken before of Miller's Stride Rite (I think there is still a Stride Rite in Chapel Hill Mall, if the online yellow pages are to be believed, but apparently they've dropped the "Miller's." I liked this store because in the middle of it there was a scale model of a tugboat - like playground-equipment sized. (I suppose that was to entice reluctant children to 'walk around and try out the shoes'). They also used to give small inexpensive lollipops after your purchase was completed. Usually I wound up with "oxfords" of some kind; I don't know if that was just more typical in my childhood (rather than wearing tennis shoes everywhere) or if that was suggested by one of the pediatricians (I had flat feet. And my brother, in fact, had that thing as a baby where he had to wear shoes with a bar across the soles for a time - to make his feet turn outward properly, I think? I don't know, it looked like a torture device to me but as he wasn't really mobile yet it didn't seem to bug him, and he didn't have to wear it all the time). We did get separate 'tennis shoes' (as we called them) for gym class, but were expected to wear our regular shoes most of the time.

Usually when we went clothes shopping, there was some kind of a treat after. Either we went out for lunch, or maybe even to a movie (Chapel Hill has a cinema, at least in those days) or ice cream, something.


CGHill said...

Stride Rite, now owned by Wolverine, seems to have gotten away from the franchise model and now runs its own stores.

Charlotte said...

Shopping for school clothes for me meant a trip to Golde's Department Store to pick out three pieces of fabric which my mother than made into new dresses for me. I got new clothes for school, a "church dress" for Christmas and again at Easter and then a play outfit for the school picnic. Sometimes the Christmas and Easter outfits would be ready-to-wear but often Mom made those too.