My incredibly unique clothing style developed while growing up in the 70’s. In elementary school, I was a little frustrated by the current fashion trend of little girls often wearing dresses. I kinda’ liked wearing them, but finding knee socks in my drawer that still had elastic in the top wasn’t my only fashion challenge. Dresses weren’t suitable for tomboys and twirlers, and I was both.
I owned a few pair of polyester slacks, but not always my own blue jeans. On rare occasion I could get away with sneaking on a pair of my brother’s jeans with a belt. I rallied the girls to start a Friday fashion fling of wearing jeans with red or white t-shirts. It lasted only a few weeks until our brothers protested.
(Yes, I had a secret, can you tell?)
Our dirt and gravel playground at Bryant Elementary in Helena, Montana, had uneven horizontal metal bars the girls raced to every recess to not-so-patiently wait for their turn to twirl. You’d climb the pole to the top bar and pad it with a cardigan or jacket. Next, you’d hook one leg over the bar, put your arms under the bar, and clasp the bent leg tightly around the shin. Your loose leg was the pump and rudder, controlling speed and direction. We felt like circus performers as we twirled around and around the bar.
But, the dresses were a problem. Today underclothes are considered clothes, but then it was appropriately scandalous to show even a peek. Numerous playground chants and rhymes were used to taunt or warn offenders about a strap, bit of lace, or an elastic waistband playing peek-a-boo.
There were one-liners for errant zippers. There was a pass code for a wayward strap. But the favored chant was reserved for the show of underpants. Truly the biggest social faux pas of early elementary school was to accidentally flash even the teensiest, weensiest glimpse of the most private clothing article.
One day while donning my favorite blue chambray dress trimmed with white eyelet and red buttons, problem-solving brilliance flashed through my mind. I pulled my blue jean cut-offs out of the drawer and put them on underneath my dress. All morning I squiggled in my desk, anxious to test-pilot my active wear on the playground.
At recess, I ran to the twirling bars, smug with my secret, and climbed up to the high bar for a twirl.
My classmates below were protesting.
“But, you have a dress on!”
“What are you doing?”
I knew I was causing drama and relished the moment.
Every playground taunter below was waiting for the horrifying flash of underpants to justifiably call attention to my indiscretion and holler,
The raggedy edges of my cut-offs flashed for the whole playground to see.
As I disembarked to give the next circus-wannabe her turn, I smirked in a way only a child with half her teeth could smirk.
I was proud.
I’d started a fashion fad of freedom.
And it could possibly spread to London…
… and to France.