Flipping through People StyleWatch while waiting for my daughter at the orthodontist last week sent me reeling into a psychedelic teenage flashback. Some of the stuff Nicole, Lindsay and their gal pals are wearing is right out of my ‘70s dresser drawers. Like a vintage tune, these "must have" summer trends sparked memories that haven’t come out of the closet for years.
We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun…
Mocking me from the pages of StyleWatch were starlets in fashions eerily similar to some I’m embarrassed to admit I owned--and actually wore: Britney’s sister in an orange version of the lime green, plaid, smock top I made in Home Ec, and Nicole (again) in a romper reminiscent of the blue terry number I once sported in a July 4th Fashion Show.
What the fashion rags are calling "short shorts," we called "hot pants." (And the girls we called Martha and Laura and Mary are now called Ashley and Fergie and Paris.) Badfads.com says, "Hot pants were the rage in the early 1970s having found great popularity years earlier among European prostitutes." I imagine our mothers did not know of this connection.
Of course I had to have hot pants and wore a skimpy white pair on a Spring Break trip to New Orleans. I was about 13, but felt much older and oh so sophisticated strolling down Bourbon Street in the dark.
"Surely," I thought with confidence, "No one realizes I am with my parents and two younger brothers. They think I'm at least 18 and in college." I kept a safe distance from the fam while hawkers tried (unsuccessfully) to lure my dad into the girly shows. It wasn’t long, however, before I was sobbing and clinging to my mom after watching some guy crumple to the ground after getting the crap beat out of him on the corner. To this day, I wonder if he was dead.
One of the Olsen twins and some other girls in StyleWatch were wearing very short blue jean cutoffs. My friends and I wore those—pocket linings longer than the fringe—long before they were available in stores. We made our own cutoff jean skirts, too. They went nicely with the peasant blouses—also hot this year, apparently. We must have been really crafty because we actually made some of those blouses from pillowcases, and we tied bandanas together for halter-tops.
The shorts and the halters were absolutely forbidden at school. We couldn’t even wear culottes—yesteryear’s version of the skort. When several of us boldly donned them to 8th Grade graduation practice, we were sent home for our defiance, accused by the principal of "prancing around in shorts." But school was out and plenty of summers followed.
Beach baby, beach baby there on the sand, from July to the end of September…
We wore our cutoffs and peasant blouses or T-shirts over our swimsuits and rode 10-speed bikes to the beach. It was at least a decade before "jellies" and flip flops were still called thongs; we wore the latter or those wooden Dr. Scholl sandals that killed your instep if they slid too far forward. We hung out with a guy we called "Boathouse," a young lifeguard whose job it was to monitor the comings and goings of Sunfish onto Lake Michigan. We spent our days "catching rays," drinking Tab and sneaking Virginia Slims or Mrs. W's Parliaments—a recipe for three-way cancer. We had sun streaked hair and everyone was tan--except me. I would burn and freckle and was always trying to "get a quick tan with QT."
Never mind those self-tanners had not been perfected and usually left you streaky and orange. I believed with all my heart that hot pants and frayed cutoffs looked much better on tan legs.
I wish I could say I no longer wish for a summer glow. I do. Fortunately, tanning products have evolved (somewhat). Today most of the streaks are hidden beneath my Bermuda shorts and capris.
P.S. Like that QT spot? Check out this '80s Nair ad: "Who wears short shorts?"
P.P.S. If you grew up in the '70s and want to take a trip into the real life of one teenage girl, check out Miss American Pie, by Margaret Sartor. A great summer read!