Monday, August 10, 2009

Back-To-School Fashion Romp

What a way to ruin a perfect summer vacation. It happens every year. The return of the dreaded ‘Back to School’ signage casts a gloomy pall over the month of August, announcing the death of summer. The only redeeming quality, I always felt, about going back to school was the license it gave to shop. Please join me on this fashion romp through the 1960’s and ‘70’s.

Standing in line at the Marianne Shoppe, Northeast Philadelphia, I am passed the baton.

My best friend Sueann’s older sister Arlene speaks. We listen.

No more miniature golf, bowling or Barbie - start shopping!

Sixth, seventh, eighth grade girls,
we learn to covet conservative colors,
maroon, pink, cranberry but not red,
and white socks are for fairies - get it
straight or you’ll be jive, which is not good.

Initiated into a John Romaine jungle of Ladybugs,
Injuns, Weejuns, Pandora, Velveteen,
initial pins, opal earrings, pierce your heart, pierce your brain.

These things cost money.
More money than our absent fathers collect in their stores and trucks.
Our mothers call themselves twos and threes,
earning pin money from the neighborhood government employer.
Shopping for widgets, they defend our nation.

We try on stretchy bras.

Underpaid, under-lived salesgirls whine,
“You? A bra? Whatya gonna stuff it with cherries? Hmmm?”

Giggling at wayward straps in history,
we search for more things to hide them under.

bikinis for every day of the week,
knee socks not anklets then stockings,
garters, make way for pantyhose, not tights.

We learn to accessorize, glamorize galore,
velour, Nehru, turtlenecks, medallions,
cigarette holders, cigarettes of all kinds.

Standing in line at the Marianne Shoppe, Northeast Philadelphia, we are passed the baton.

Ninth, tenth, eleventh grade girls,
to burn it all in the cool eternal freedom flame,
in the name of hippiedom,
groovy, seldom seen visions of
forests, trees and babbling brooks.

We shag
hair, rugs, dogs.

Bless the beasts
and children
and women
and our older brothers
and cousins fighting
some war somewhere.

Iron your hair.
Unleash the chains of your belt.
Add peace signs.
No more purses of mahogany with
matching case for keys. No more bugs
on sweaters, pins on skirts, try suede
fringies with beads, granny glasses and gowns.

Not a brassiere in sight,
same salesgirl sighs,
“You’re gonna droop and sag and be soorrrrreeee”.

We open our eyes,
pull the fringed purse strings,
tune in, turn on,
drop out of the shopping circuit,
save an occasional trip to the thrift
for flannel shirts from the fifties and
World War Two accessories to
camouflage ourselves from ourselves.

These are the clothes that travel
with us through vines, webs and ivy covered walls,
accessorizing here or there
to pass in hallowed halls of
corporate America, Micro Centers,
organic supermarkets, and the
cinema verite multiplex.

Standing in line at the Marianne Shoppe, Northeast Philadelphia, twenty-five years later, sagging and sorry,
caught without a suit for my father’s funeral,
I am passed the baton.