It seemed to start at a very young age. I can remember my mother crocheting me a pair of togs (swimmers) when I was tiny. I walked into the chilly grey waves at Scarborough Beach in Christchurch and plunged under, and when I stood up, my togs dropped to my knees. I was mortified and humiliated as my older sisters chortled with glee. Mum learned that cotton crochet does not mix well with water.
There were more mishaps. Being the third of four sisters in a lower income household, I had a thrifty mother. She made one nylon party dress which my oldest sister would wear until she grew out of it, then Mum would dye it for the next child to freshen up the look. By the time it got to me, the miserable third, it was dyed a lurid shade of lime green that can only be likened to phlegm. By the time it got to the fourth child, mum saw the error of her ways and made her a new one.
As I grew up, I was an adventurous dresser. When the surfie phase was in, I dyed my jeans with household bleach to make them unique. In reality they looked like I had accidentally plunged them into a vat of bleach. They did not look groovy at all. In my mod phase, I used black texta to outline my eyes as I was not allowed eyeliner, and used white ointment to make my lips pale. I shudder now to think of it.
Then the day my undies fell down.
I was a student teacher and very, very short minis were in. Mine barely skimmed my bottom. I was very poor being a student and my undies were on their last legs so to speak. One day, I stood at the traffic lights waiting to cross and I felt them shimmy down to my platformed feet. Shock horror! Being a young woman who could think on her feet so to speak, I nonchalantly stepped out of the offending article, crossed the road with a delicate mincing step, making sure to hang onto my hem in case the wind blew. Thank God it didn’t. When I got to training college the head teacher took pity on my pained face and tightly clenched knees and sent one of the other girls to buy me a pair at the nearby department store.
Did I learn my lesson? No indeed. Over the years a bikini clad stroll along a beach garnered me plenty of wolf whistles. I thought that I must look pretty fab, but upon looking down I realised that one breast had escaped and was innocently pointing north free from the confines of the cloth triangle. Oh the humiliation of that day! Now I always check that every thing is decently covered, except the few times that I have innocently displayed my bottom clad thankfully in undies when my skirt has been tucked into the elastic – and nobody told me. Then there was the time my wraparound skirt blew up over my head in a gale force Christchurch wind crossing busy Bealey Ave. I got a few toots that day as I was wearing a g-string (that was thirty years ago!). And years before with small children in the heat of a Sydney summer when my wraparound Indian skirt caught in the car door and unravelled to display the fact that it was too hot to put on undies when I was only dashing out to pick up a few things. Oh dear.
Oh dear, the phases I went through. Tie-died silk nighties with little bed jackets worn out to parties. Tie died or appliquéd kaftans festooned with baby ducks. Hot pants worn with platforms and canary yellow tights. The day I went out with the sun and moon and stars drawn on my face. The jumper I wore which featured a massive pair of lips earned me the name ‘quivering lips’. I am not sure why. Purple hair dyed with gentian violet. Op shop finds that should never have seen the light of day. A moth eaten maxi coat rescued from a council pick up that I adored and wore on my honeymoon. Hmm… No wonder that marriage was doomed.
However, I can proudly say that these days I am a pretty normal looking nanna. My knicker elastic is firmly in place, and I endeavour to keep my buttons done up and my knickers under my skirt. My shoes are comfy and not tripping traps or escalator high hazards. I do smile though as I recollect those days. I’d love to hear some of your wardrobe mishaps.