Whittling Away: Clothes shopping

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By Dick Brooks

For Capital Region Independent Media

The start of another school year crept up on me again this month.

I guess since I retired from teaching I’m starting to lose my focus on the school calendar that ruled my life for so many years.

I’ve always liked the start of school. The summer vacation was long enough — even as a kid, I’d start looking forward to the new school year about the beginning of August.

Even back in those ancient times, kids knew what was coming. School supplies would start to appear at Newberry’s and Woolworth’s. The dummies in the window started displaying the latest in juvenile fashion for the fall season and Mom would start weeding through your wardrobe to see what was still socially acceptable for the upcoming educational season. Clothes were assigned to one of the three categories that kids’ clothing fell into — dress-up, school and play.

Dress-up clothes were your top-of-the-line duds, your hatching, matching and dispatching outfit.  They were worn to baptisms, weddings and funerals, all of which had to do with church functions, so we referred to them as our church clothes. 

After a year or so, your dress-up outfit was downgraded to school level. Your school clothes didn’t require quite the same attention as dress-up clothes — they could be hung on the doorknob, the back of a chair or on a hook instead of a hanger. 

School clothes usually lasted a year or so, depending on the frequency of growth spurts. When elbows started to appear through shirts and pants reached the level of capris, the school clothes became our play clothes. We wore our play clothes forever, in fact I think I still have some of mine from high school.

Pre-school shopping involved a trip to town to pick up a couple of new shirts, a new pair of pants and new sneakers. You didn’t need new socks or underwear since nobody would be seeing them anyway, and you got them at Christmas, they were one of Santa’s staples. 

Shopping took 10 minutes — there weren’t a lot of choices, especially in boy’s clothing. The main problem was making sure they fit loosely enough to last the school year. Getting sneakers was really easy, there was only Converse and they came in any color you wanted as long as it was black. Canvas high tops, just like the pro basketball players wore, mostly since they had no choice either. 

The bill for this gaudy new outfit usually came to around $10 — $2.50 for the sneaks, $5 for the jeans and a dollar or so for each of the shirts. Not bad for that clean, looking-good feeling to start a new school year with.

I found myself remembering when our Princess had been readying herself for the upcoming school year starting around April. She organized her clothing into three categories — dress-up (which ranged from her collection of ball gowns, which were kept at the ready in case a handsome prince should appear, which didn’t appear likely considering the crop of young studlings currently at her school, to a large assortment of nice blouses and skirts); school clothes (a most abundant supply); and her exercise clothes ( she didn’t play much anymore).

Since most of the clothing hunting and gathering is done in the company of the Queen, I was delighted when the Princess asked if I would take her to the mall to purchase new sneakers. She knew just the kind she wanted and the store they could be found in.  

Imagine my delight when she escorted me into the store and held up the shoes she wanted — Converse black canvas high tops, white soles, white laces — just like the old days! Just like the old days… until we went to the register to cash out — $42.

I’m beginning to understand why they call them “The Good Old Days!”

Thought for the week — “Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns; he should be drawn and quoted.” — Fred Allen

Until next week, may you and yours be happy and well.

Reach columnist Dick Brooks at whittle12124@yahoo.com.

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