In fifth grade, my mom took me to Weight Watchers. More on that later. Suffice to say that I had been promised “a whole new wardrobe” when I reached goal weight. Reach it I did, and looked forward to a serious shopping excursion. Except to my mom, “a whole new wardrobe” meant the “Pretty Plus Bargain Box” from Sears.
The cheerful lavender box printed with pink frogs, flowers and snails hid horrors rivaling the TV in Poltergeist: Six polyester double-knit shirts in egregiously awful patterns. Six pairs of polyester double-knit stirrup pants in colors never seen in nature. My mother did the appalling math for me: six pants times six shirts equaled 36 outfits, total! That was more than seven weeks of school before I’d have to repeat an outfit!
For those too young to remember the fashion apostasy that was polyester double-knit, I’ll enumerate the virtues:
- Untouchability – this stuff would catch on everything, and the tiniest pull made a feather-like puff. More severe pulls (and since each Kevlar-like thread was unbreakable with human hands, must pulls were severe), and cutting the puffs, made runs.
- Impermeability – wicking? What is wicking? Sweat and you’re guaranteed an eelishly slimy feel coupled with truly ominous odors as your body chemistry reacts with the petroleum by-products used in manufacture.
- Colorfastness – directly connected to the abhorrence of the original color – the more hideous it was, the longer it stayed “true.”
- PermaPrest™ unwrinkleability – but it never lay exactly flat, either. After a couple of washings, one sleeve was always shorter, and the hem was an asymmetrical pucker.
This was in the mid-seventies, when every self-respecting young teen in Southern California was wearing OP shirts and Dittos Jeans (feel the fit!). At a time when I craved conformity, my clothes said “iconoclast.” Except I didn’t know what that meant. And I don’t think it counts if you’re one by mistake.
The stirrup pants weren’t nearly long enough, so I either had overstretched loops standing straight out from my calves, or a waistband hugging the lower curve of my belly and a mid-thigh crotch that made me shuffle like a penguin with a DePuy hip replacement.
Somehow Ban roll-on made a yellow pit stain on every shirt, no matter what color it was. The revolting patterns didn’t manage to hide a single food spill. I heard inauspicious seam-pops every time I dragged them over my head that quickly led to running holes.
So there I was in Junior High, my belly and ankles peeping from brightly hued stretchy industrial waste, surrounded by fashion plates in flare-leg jeans, pinball wizard t-shirts, cork-wedge shoes and floor-length pimp coats. What could be worse?
You have no idea.