Saturday, 20 August 2011

You're not wearing that.

Driving home last night, we went past a bar in St Kilda where a group of people were congregated outside on the street.    It was about 11:45pm and probably about 10 degrees Celsius.  A woman caught our attention.  Or rather the pants she was wearing did.  We think they were pants, her legs may have been painted in shimmery red paint.  It was hard to tell.  With these amazingly tight pants which she would have "applied" rather than put on, she was wearing a strapless top.  The woman next to her was wearing a skirt so short it looked like she'd forgotten to put it on.

The discussion in the car transformed us into a group of four women who could easily have been at home having a shandy after our Saturday afternoon bowls match.  When did this happen?  When did we turn into people who sound like our parents, where everything is couched in terms of being sensible?  Or comfortable?

I have always liked to think I have a young outlook on life and people, but I will confess, just between us, that there are some things I really don't understand.  Like those tight skinny jeans that are slung so low with a dropped crotch that makes them look more like a pair of thigh high socks.  I really don't understand.  They look so uncomfortable.

And there in lies the truth - there's an age where dressing to be comfortable suddenly matters.  I now understand what was going on when my grandmother would proclaim on arrival home from anywhere, "I've got to get out of these clothes".  If she was wearing a full suit of armour I could understand, but from the outside they just looked like normal clothes to me.

The generation gap in clothing was always most evident at boarding school on the nights of a school social. We were segregated by grade and the rules were laid on more thickly than the gel in our hair - and that's saying something because this was the eighties.  Thirteen-year-old girls are generally awkward in the style stakes and looking back it must have been hard for the boarding house mistresses to keep straight faces. The rich girls would look good and lend all their other clothes to the rest of us.  Lipstick was banned, hairdryers forbidden, but there were systems and ways of overcoming these constraints.  If you were at the top of the pecking order it was possible to pass inspection, but arrive at the dance with hair that looked like you'd been electrocuted and face makeup that would make a drag queen proud.

We were all required to endure an inspection before boarding the bus to take us up the hill to the boys' school.  In the absence of our parents, the school staff had to step in and monitor our wardrobe choices.  There would be tears and back chat as some girls were sent back to the dormitories to get a longer skirt, remove their make up, take the tissues out of their bra, take the bra off if it was clearly superfluous.  And we just thought we looked so good. It had taken HOURS to get to this point.

All the boys of the corresponding grade were already locked in the assembly hall for our arrival (there must be no opportunity for fraternising unsupervised in the dark when hormones were wildly raging and George Michael is singing "Careless Whisper").  The boys would be standing around talking and then we girls were supposed to just walk in and the dancing would start.  It was never like that.

After all the anticipation of the opportunity to mingle with the opposite sex, there had to be some trigger to get things going.  In grade 8, my first year of high school, some fool thought this would be a good idea:  the girls had to put their left shoe into the centre of the hall.  Each boy was to select a shoe and find the girl it belonged to in some crazed reinvention of the prince bringing Cinderella her glass slipper. It does nothing for your self esteem when you're already a size 9.5 and a tiny boy who hasn't started to grow yet comes over lugging your shoe.  Or wearing it as a ski on the polished floor.  Then he called me Helen for the rest of the night, despite the fact my name is Tanya.  It may have been because I was wearing another girl's shoes and her mother had named them on the soles with thick black marker pen.

I wonder what the hired DJ thought of this tragically hilarious scene as we paraded before him with teeny bopper song requests.  I suppose he was getting paid and that was better than nothing.  Just like the staff who were there to supervise us.  God it must have been awful spending your Saturday night at a school dance like that.

We loved them though.  Couldn't wait for the next one.  It gave us something to talk about other than ourselves and Simon Le Bon's hairstyle.

So I try to bite my tongue and keep my head shaking to a minimum when I see what today's yoof wear when they go out.


  1. pink punk hair, pink satin skirt with a bustle,pink fishnet stockings (ripped & mended artistically) (sez i), pink mittens, pink & white "she's a maniac" ripped blouse, teetering pink stilettos, pink eyeshadow!

  2. You would have looked HOT! Or very pink.