Friday, June 11, 2010

dresses! part deux

Nan left a comment Wednesday that caused an old, suppressed memory to resurface:

When I was eight, I never wore dresses. I was a tomboy. But one day my mum and grandmother convinced me to wear this beautiful swirly dress to a birthday party. I arrived at the party and all of my soccer-playing guy buddies were like "A DRESS?" so I did a twirl as prettily as I could. They fell about in hysterics crying "WE SAW YOUR PANTIES!!"

So I did not wear a dress again till my wedding day. It's been a long, gradual journey for me, but I now love skirts again!

When Green Girl was a young lass she loved her dresses. Her mother sewed a mean streak and she made Green Girl jumpers and sundresses, dresses with smocking and lace overlays, collars and puffed sleeves. Green Girl had dresses in yellow gingham, pink stripes, blue flowers and green polka dots. Swirly, twirly, girly dresses that she wore to the grocery store, to church, to play dates, to parties and to Wilson Elementary. It was a happy, pretty childhood.

Cut to 2nd grade when my family moved west to Wyoming. I wore my dresses to my new school without incident for a while, until one day while stooping for a drink at the water fountain (my first faux pas in Wyoming occurred when I'd asked where the bubbler was and no one knew this Wisconsin-speak). While bent over to refresh myself with a draught of cool city water, some nasty little boy behind me flipped up the back of my dress and yelled "It's dress UP day!"

My face bloomed bright red, tears glistened in my eyes, rage surged in my chest at this ugly Neanderthal. Who the heck did he think he was? I scanned the faces of my classmates for signs of indignation at this affront. They'd all seen my underpants and I felt mortified because every single kid was laughing along with this cretin. Even the girls.

A day later I observed this happen again and again, but the other girls in my class took this abuse in stride, opting to wear gym shorts beneath their skirts and dresses (a move that also gave them full-freedom to hang upside-down on the monkey bars on the playground). "Dress UP" day didn't bother little girls whose underpants weren't on display. It only bothered ME because I didn't know an extra layer of protection against sexual harassment was necessary. I was 7. I was naive.

I loved my dresses, so I confess, I tried to wear them with shorts beneath but it felt so wrong. The gym shorts felt bulky and silly and it angered me that I had to concede to other people's rotten behavior. Why, everything would be fine if the little boys in Wyoming would learn to keep their grubby paws to themselves.

I gave up wearing dresses. It was the 70's and I conceded to wearing Toughskins and one day my mom bought some Butterick patterns to sew something new and kicky called "gauchos." (Also referred to as "culottes.") She whipped up blue and brown corduroy gauchos for me to wear to school--with matching vests. I wore them, but it wasn't the same as wearing dresses. Gauchos were cheating, somehow. Not a dress, not a twirly, swirly, girly dress. Gauchos were a pathetic attempt at being "dressy" while retaining that division that made them half pant. In my view, they were still pants. Baggy, flared, short pants.

Privately, I hated them.

I still hate them. When gauchos returned to style about 6 years ago, I was damned if I'd even try a pair on. They represented concession to those horrid, invasive little boys of yore who took away my affection for dresses. (I can't help but fantasize ... if I'd only known karate back then, I'd have meted out sweet, fierce revenge on their smug freckled faces.)

We moved again (and again and again and again). By middle school I was wearing dresses and skirts on occasion. I wore skirts with more frequency in high school and college. When I became a high school teacher, I only wore pants on Fridays for the longest time because I could, at long last, dress UP without having to wear gym shorts underneath.

My love for dresses never died, just my opportunity to wear them without fear. And I promise, if I ever catch a member of Team Testosterone lifting up a girl's skirt or dress, the punishment will be swift and furious. And ladylike, of course.

So thanks, Nan, for dredging up these memories of my past with dresses. I'd forgotten all about my "no-dress" phase. Apparently it was a long, gradual journey back into a dress for me as well.

Readers, you have through Saturday to leave a comment and have a chance to win Alyssa Goodnight's Unladylike Pursuits. The perfect beach/bathtub/hot tub/coffee shop read. Spill it, what do you recommend for easy summer reading?


  1. OH my gosh. I had totally forgotten about the whole "dress up day" thing boys did... I was in WI and boys did the same thing in Elem. school

  2. They celebrated Dress UP Day in Texas, too. Of course, there was still corporal punishment in school for such utter stupidity in those days.
    I'm reading drivel this summer. You don't really want to know.

  3. Jamie whistled the other know..THE whistle! I whipped around and said-what where you whistling at?!? (There was a less than appropriately dressed biker heading into our corner bar...and I was about ready to Kill him!). Thankfully he was just admiring her ride and not what she sat on ;) "Oh MOM...if you whistle like that at a girl, she gets to punch you in the nose!". Ok..that works for me ;)

    As far as summer reading, I just read The Butcher and The Vegitarian. It was ok, finished it in a day. Can't wait to see other suggestions.

  4. That was a truly great story--and your memory is so sharp! I have more of a conversation memory.

    My vote would be The School of Essential Ingredients. :)

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. A little karate for 6 year old girls might not be a bad idea I think! C wears leggings under her dresses in place of shorts. It is annoying but on the other hand, does make it easier for her when she wants to hang upside down on the jungle gym.

    One perennial favorite summer read - Handling Sin by Michael Malone. It is an incredibly hilarious romp around the South which makes me laugh outrageously every time I read it (so far, three times).

  7. I'm just writing to sympathize, Greens...I'm an unabashed, lifelong dress-lover. My mom was a forward-thinking, pants-loving feminist who was neutral on dresses. But when I learned to swing-dance, my Number One Concern was that someone would see my panties while I was dancing. O lord, the thought of this almost paralyzed me, at 30 years old and about 200 pounds. The accepted attire for social swing-dancing is, you know, swirly, girly dresses...I voiced my concern to my tiny perfect (but feisty and fierce!) dance teacher, whose guidance was, "wear pretty panties."
    Well, they do make something called "dance pants" tahat are ruffly and sort of 'made to be seen' but I just decided to take the teacher's advice. (generally, just don't worry about it, and wear nice panties in case of a panties-in-view incident) *heh* and I held off on the aerial moves until my confidence-level was a little higher.
    * ; )

  8. I hated skirts and dresses as a girl, so I entirely missed this. So glad! Little boys need the tarnation taken right out of them for this kind of behavior... or else they grow up to be "not nice" young men. I also recommend karate for all little girls. =)

  9. I never wore dresses when I was a child. My mom would have loved me to wear dresses but I would have much rather been climbing trees and riding my bike and such. They just weren't practical. ;)

    I love this post. :)

    A good summer read, huh? It has been so long since I have laid in the summer sun with a good book. I'll go with your recommendations. :)

  10. my little girl will be wearing a pair of shorts under any dress she wears to school...thanks to you. ha.

  11. We had Dress UP Day at our elementary school too. I was reminded of it as I was reading your blog and then the next line said 'Dress UP Day'.

    I'd say the best book I've read lately was The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

  12. You so just brought me back to my Catholic school days!

  13. I don't remember that, but we did have shorts--I think sort of like bike shorts--to wear under our dresses so we could go upside down on the monkey bars.

    It sounds like you were a real fashion plate back in the day!

  14. I could never have wore dresses in grade school....we played Red Rover and games with the boys. We chased them, they chased us. At home I climbed trees and rode on bicycle handlebars. No, a dress would never have worked!

  15. I too had a mad sewing mom and had the gauchos and matching vest combo in brown plaid! I'm trying to pass on the sewing tradition by whipping up some beauties for my daughters - no gauchos though! They wear a biker short underneath their dresses so they can hang upside down!
    I'm trying to get through "Lamb in Love" for book club but the new Dan Brown is on my nightstand - now that school is over and i can stay up late, I'll take on the action of "the lost symbol".

  16. i've been missing dresses and skirts lately. but i feel to fat to wear them (yes, i realize this is stupid logic).

    you brought back so many memories with the culottes and gauchoes

  17. My girls wear leggings under their dresses and skirts -- mostly for modesty and ease of movement.

    I just finished reading "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" by Beth Hoffman and recommend it for all my girl friends.

  18. We wore shorts under our school uniforms, so that we could do handstands!

    But your dress posts have so inspired me that I've made a date with my sister to go shopping today. While the boys watch the World Cup with their Uncle Dan. That match last night, AAAARGH! I have to say, the English Drunks were very subdued, staggering home after Pub Closing Time last night!

  19. I've never heard of dress-up day. Yuck. How awful. My 10 year old wears shorts under her dresses/skirts. It can tough finding the perfect pair of shorts--not too long, not too bulky, etc.

  20. This is a tremendous post--powerful in the way dredged up memories can many of us are identifying with you and being taken back to our own younger years here. Oy.

  21. UPDATE: I got SUCH a pretty dress at Monsoon!


Spill it, reader.