My friend Kathy provided me with the "blog fodder" for today's post. Thanks Kathy. (I know many Kathys, kind of like the on-going skit on Kids in the Hall.)
This JC Penny catalog opened a door in my mind. By 1977 I had been out of the clutches of my parents for two whole years, and so was spared any more fashion torture, by my mother in particular. But this is the kind of shit she used to love to dress me in, and JC Penny was indeed her "go to" fashion place. The writer's take on the catalogue is priceless. Read here. I hated clothes shopping (what teenager doesn't) with her. I didn't have a vote on her choices. So I would pick the least offensive thing she would approve of.
My mother was a prolific seamstress, and when I was very young I appreciated her artfulness. As I grew into my pre teens, not so much. It was the late sixties for chrissake, and anybody with any street cred did not wear polyester. Ever. Oh. Sure. Plenty did. But there were not cool. The cool kids (ahem, myself) wore clothes purchased at the Good Will or the local exotic boutique with all things Indian. My bedspread: Indian. My clothes: made from Indian bedspreads. My jewelry: sea shell necklace. Hoop earrings. I wish I had some photos. Alas, I do not. What I do have is me, all cleaned up for a portrait taken by my friend Topher. I don't recall why I was having a portrait done, but I was all preppy (well, maybe not the blue jeans). It may have been for my parents. 19 years old and I eschewed cosmetics (went through that phase in Junior High), styled hair and anything conventional. I showed up at my job at the department store housewares department wearing Birkenstock sandals and was sent home. I had a nice dress on, nylon stockings (required) and hippie shoes. Did not go over well.
As I was preparing to graduate high school, my mother, because she is a pragmatic woman, made me a few outfits to send me out into the work world with. All polyester (easy care, don't you know) and all hideous. An outfit for interviews. A work outfit. A leisure thingy. She put a lot of work into these concoctions and I felt guilty as hell because I hated them. But I couldn't say 'no.' She was on a mission.
I wonder why I had such an aversion to looking normal. Well, wait, it was the 70s. The days of disco and all the clothing to go with it. Blech. And, I dunno, I was a Californian, I lived near the beach, I smoked pot, I drove around in junk cars. I hung out at hippie dive restaurants and movie theaters. I played folk music with my pals. I took acid.
But always, when I visited my parents, I dressed nice. Preppy was my nice style. Button down cotton shirts, crisp knee length skirts. But still, the Birkenstocks. My one nod to my real self. In my effort to look normal for them, I grabbed onto the only style at the time that didn't make me want to throw-up.