Friday, May 22, 2009
A Sense of Fashion
Several years ago I found the best birthday card for Hipee. It was almost as if I commissioned a custom card. The front said something like, “Do you remember how you used to dress as a child?” Then inside, “You can stop it now.”
As a child Hipee had zero fashion sense, maybe even less than that. Yes, most children don’t carefully plan their wardrobes for the day, but for Hipee it was almost as if she tried to find the worst combinations possible. Although we all know that I will tell tales out of school (diary entry) this is not the case now. If you knew her, she would freely admit that it was true. If you met her today you would find it hard to believe. She’s currently a well-polished professional with a real flair for fashion. She’s a very classy woman who always looks put together. You would think she was joking or exaggerating if she mentioned her quizzical fashion choices as a child. Let me let you in on the sad truth: she’s not kidding. Hipee was a fashion disaster. If they had had a What Not to Wear for kids way back then, we all would have nominated her.
I wish I had pictures to document the full scope of her fashion foibles. Alas, we were in a devastating flood that filled up the basement of our house and ruined most of our early family photos. We have a few, damaged prints left from her early years. To top it off, she was the third child, and, well, no matter how cute she may have been there were far fewer pictures of her to begin with.
After losing vast numbers of photos to the flood, Dad decided to have all the family pictures from that point on made directly into slides. This means that if we want to see photos from several years of our childhood we have to set up a slide show. Although there are some great shots, they are all faded and not easily accessible. Our younger sister Whiy is always eating in the pictures. Always. There is a great one where ED, a Boy Scout, got a hatchet for Christmas. It shows him in mid-yell wearing thermal underwear with his new hatchet raised high in the air. (I may have to look into getting my hands on that and see if I can enlarge it as a photo for a memorable Christmas gift.) But, for all of Dad’s good intentions, the faded slides really never captured Hipee’s peculiar style of dress.
I do have a photocopy of an old water damaged black and white photograph. It shows ED, Hipee, and me standing between our Dad and Uncle. They are holding up fish. (A whole new story could be entitled “Us, Holding up or Posing by Dead Things.” Dad was an avid outdoorsman and hunted and fished. We ate what he caught. We also posed for pictures by many dead things.) In this particular photo ED is holding up fish. I’m taking a pose with my stomach sticking out. Hipee is a skinny little thing in shorts and a shirt. The shirt is unbuttoned and wide open, flapping in the breeze. It looks like she was holding up her shorts and having trouble standing still. She may have needed to find a restroom.
Old pictures of half dressed kids aren’t rare. What I vividly recall is that it was the colors and separates which Hipee chose to combine that reflected the worse choices available. You can’t capture that in a black and white photo. In my mind’s eye I can picture her in the early 70’s wearing bright purple silky polyester gaucho pants that had this wild trim on them. (FYI Hipee: gauchos are back in style!) She made them in junior high home ec. I believe she liked a green shirt with them, but it’s hard to say. It would have been anything that contrasted. Orange would be a good selection too – go to your color wheel and think contrasting colors. That was Hipee’s color palette.
The summer of the swimsuit solved all her fashion problems. Yes, Hipee spent a whole summer wearing a swimsuit every day. Every. Blessed. Day. Usually it was this 2 piece red number that featured red and black checks on it. I don’t remember what she wore when this was being washed. Perhaps she never had it washed. Her summer of the swimsuit is a well-known documented fact in our family. We can date events by it. “Oh, I think that happened the summer of the swim suit.”
In addition to her poor fashion choices, Hipee and I were also forced to wear matching clothes on occasion. I can not express how much I disliked this, but as the oldest sister, I actually came off in good shape. We both received a matching outfit; I out grew it and passed it along to Hipee. Hipee had to out grow her outfit and grow into my hand-me-downs. But Whiy, Whiy had it worst of all. She had identical hand-me-downs from Hipee and me.
Two particular matching outfits come to mind. Our grandmother made these matching outfits for us. The first was this sleeveless dress, a simple A-line, with a ruffle at the hem. It was a blue and green abstract pattern. I actually liked this dress when I wore it. I grew to dislike it as Hipee wore it for years and years, first hers and then my old one. She was a skinny little thing and it took her forever to grow out of anything. She even extended the life of my old dress by wearing it as a shirt with shorts under it. She prolonged the life of that dress, which was originally made for a young child, by wearing it well into her early teens.
Hipee loved the second set of matching outfits I was glad to out grow. They were these little shorts and shirts with a Popsicle print on them. Sounds cute, right? Sounds cute until you live through years of your sister saying “You want a [grape or orange or cherry or lime] Popsicle?” and then grabbing at one on either her outfit or yours and pretending to lick it. Cute, sweet, funny, until you’ve been through it for ten million imaginary Popsicle grabs and tastes. Then it becomes annoying. Very annoying.
I think our parents were secretly worried that their third child was destined to become a bag lady, or at the very least one of those adult women that you meet from time to time who have no idea that the impression their clothing choices are leaving with people is not good. The whole family was thrilled that Hipee eventually outgrew her clothing issues. Since this miracle would have occurred sometime in the 70’s (not a good decade for fashion by most standards) it’s hard to pin point the exact moment she saw the light, but, rest assured, that light was bright enough to signal the end of disco – or an alien abduction.