Is it still possible for fashion to shock? I was young and leggy when hemlines rose and jaws dropped. Those first miniskirts seemed revolutionary. Hemlines made headlines.
Showing up for school in a super short skirt could get a girl sent home. Or so I heard. Uniforms were required at my school but at the public school the principal, hell-bent on banning the mini, insisted all girls kneel down in the hallway while he proceeded to measure the distance between floor and hem. Anything more than three inches, the girl was sent home. I still remember the neighborhood scandal when an older girl on our block was sent home from school. She was mortified.
I was relieved I didn’t have to choose between risqué fashion and fuddy-duddy. The required uniform — a plaid, pleated, one piece jumper — decided for me. I was definitely not fashion forward. However, in seventh grade, girls switched from the babyish jumpers to tween-worthy pleated skirts.
And the waistbands of skirts could be rolled.
In this way, a girl could leave the house in a modest knee-skimming hemline and somewhere along the way to the bus stop hitch her skirt thigh high. Never mind that rolling the waistband of a pleated skirt creates what appears to be a thick roll of wool plaid belly fat. Our legs looked fashionably exposed. And we were certain we had the old nuns fooled.
In fact, the Sisters of Perpetual Eye Rolls generally ignored our appearances to focus on more important things, specifically, our brains.
The times were changing almost as fast as the fashions so what was daring one season became standard issue, say, three years later. (Even trends moved slowly before the high-speed internet.) I remember when my oldest brother came home on leave from the Army and expressed his shock to see his own mother wearing a mini.
Mom insisted she wasn’t wearing a mini but simply a standard issue off-the-rack dress that only appeared short because, through no fault of her own, Mom happened to walk around on a pair of extremely long legs.
The desire to be stylish can turn even the best of us into spouters of alternative facts.
And that is rather shocking.
(The above picture of me was taken around 1979-1980 to illustrate a humor essay titled Dress for Unsuccess or something like that about how not to dress for a business meeting. They blew out the background and ran the photo with arrows and tongue-in-cheek fashion tips in a Portland newspaper. I was on the dock of our houseboat which was a gorgeous spot to live but, truly, a floating slum. )