Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. ~ Matthew 6-27-29 (MSG)
This post is meant to make you feel better about yourself—at my expense, of course. It’s a brief history of my fashion faux pas.
BACKGROUND: I was the second oldest of six children. My sister Suzanne was just shy of two years older; the four youngest were boys. Part of my responsibility as one of the oldest was to help my brothers look presentable. I washed their faces, buttoned their shirts, pulled up their pants, and made sure their shoes were on the right feet.
It’s what sisters did for their little brothers back then. My mistake was thinking it was what all girls did for all boys in any situation.
THE SCENE: My mother and a neighbor were having coffee at our kitchen table. My 11-year-old self was present when the neighbor’s 15-year-old son, and our paperboy, stepped into the kitchen to deliver the newspaper.
I noticed his fly was down, so I quickly reached over and zipped it up for him, hoping to save him some embarrassment at the next house. His mother laughed, my mother scolded me, and his face turned bright red. It took me years to understand what their problem was.
BACKGROUND: Back to my older sister. I envied her when she started to develop in all the right places. Especially the summer she got the black and white one-piece bathing suit that emphasized her curves. I insisted the same suit with the stiff built-in cups fit me as well as it did her. I talked my mother into buying one for me too.
THE SCENE: At the pond, wearing my suit, the 7th grade boys all abuzz.
To get away from the 7th grade boys’ google eyes and wisecracks, I dove under water, swam along the bottom to the raft. I climbed up, planning to sun bathe away from shore with the more sophisticated high school crowd. When I sat and leaned back on my hands, to my horror I saw my two cups crushed almost flat, revealing my less than full figure. I dove back into the water, poked the cups back out, swam to shore, went home, and didn’t return to the pond that summer.
BACKGROUND: As a junior high student, I had a crush on the aforementioned paperboy. I wanted him to notice me. When the neighborhood kids got a game of softball together, I decided to go. I chose my striped top and a pair of short-shorts I’d inherited from someone somewhere. (My mother never would have bought them for me.) Of course, I didn’t want my parents to see what I had on, so I feigned chilliness and wore a hand-me-down London Fog trench coat over my outfit. Pathetic that it made sense to me at the time.
THE SCENE: In a big, bare field, all the neighborhood kids in jeans and t-shirts, playing softball. I, alone, in a raincoat.
I hung around clutching my coat closed until it was my turn at bat. The longer I waited, the more I was afraid to take the coat off. When I finally did, I felt like Gypsy Rose Lee [Younger people, ask your parents.] I stepped to the plate. No one whistled, but all the kids laughed. My softball career ended that day.
BACKGROUND: In high school, my nerves got the best of me. For a period of time, I sweat like a pig. [They still say that don’t they?] Nothing could stop it. Going to the prom with a boy I hardly knew made it worse.
THE SCENE: Not wanting sweat stains to show up on my hot pink prom dress before my date arrived, I stuffed tissue under my arms to absorb the nervous moisture. It worked so well I forgot it was there. Until I was standing in the middle of a crowd at the prom and a damp wad of tissues slipped through my dainty cap sleeve and plopped at my feet. My date made himself scarce the rest of the night. Never did like that guy.
BACKGROUND: Married with three kids early in life, I didn’t have much of a budget for clothes. My mother-in-law gave me this cool African top, made of stiff cotton in bright colors of orange, browns, and yellow. I wasn’t quite sure it was my style, but I wanted to be in style, so I wore it.
THE SCENE: While waiting at a traffic light, a car rear-ended my Pinto without slowing down. I hit the car in front of me and so on down the line. The ambulance was called. While the EMTs checked everyone out, I leaned against my car with my head in my hands, more upset about my car and the inconvenience than my physical condition.
One EMT seemed especially solicitous of me. I didn’t know why, since I wasn’t hurt. Then I heard him speak into his radio: “We’ve got a pregnant one here.” I looked around for a woman with child, praying she wasn’t hurt. Then I realized he was talking about me.
I look down at my African top and back at him. Now when a woman has to tell a strange man she’s not pregnant, that is not a good thing for either of them. He was back on his radio: “Scratch that. No baby. Repeat. No baby.”
The day I got my Pinto back, the African top went to the Salvation Army.
BACKGROUND: The windbreaker I’d received as a birthday gift was too small. I had gained some weight and was not happy. I went to the store to exchange it.
THE SCENE: While trying on the next size windbreaker in the busy department store, I realized it, too, was small. Aggravated, I tried to pull it over my head; it got stuck, and so did my arms. Blindfolded by the windbreaker, I walked around the store calling for my husband. He tried to pull it down when he saw me; frustrated at his ignorance, I pulled it back up. When I finally listened, he explained that my blouse was caught up with the windbreaker and I was standing there in my bra. The bright side: No one could see my face.
I know I’m not alone. Want to share one of your faux pas with me?