Fashionable #SOL22 28/31

By third grade I was allowed to dress myself. My parents were both working, I was the oldest and my mother, frankly, had better things to do than to police my sartorial choices. I was free to express my fashion sense however I chose. I chose comfortable pretty much all of the time. One of my absolute favourite outfits was a pair of grass green pants patterned with red barns next to trees with blue trunks and yellow “leaves”. I particularly liked to pair this with a black leotard. Regularly.

I played outside a lot – catching frogs and climbing trees with Chad and Saundra – so I spent most of third grade in grubby clothes that were just on the edge of unwearable. We often roller skated to school, which involved a fair amount of sweat and a small amount of falling. (Before you laugh too hard, our school actually had roller skate cubbies near the bike area to accommodate all of the roller skating kids. The 70s were weird.) I showered when someone noticed I was dirty.

Third grade was also the year I convinced my teacher that I was really good at reading and really bad at math. Apparently this was at least in part because I “paid attention” while reading – I have long been able to get lost in a story – but wandered the room aimlessly during math, “helping” others after finishing only two or three of the problems. My grades suffered but my demeanor did not. I neglected to mention to anyone that I just did the last three problems of every worksheet and then moved on. After all, those were the hard ones. As a result, my math work got easier and I had more time to read and contemplate my lovely green pants. Perfect.

Towards the end of the year, my teacher, Mrs. Glantz, proposed a class party. She said we should ask our parents to see if anyone could host it. I immediately said that my family could do it. Mrs. Glantz said I had to bring a note from my mother. I did. She seemed uncertain about this, so she called my mother who confirmed that we could host at our house.

“Ok,” said Mrs Glantz, dubiously. “I’ll just take up a little collection from the children to help with the expenses.”

“Thank you,” said my mother, “but there’s really no need.”

“Oh, no worries, no worries. The children can help out.”

Puzzled, my mother accepted. Mrs. Glantz sent home the collected money, and the weekend before the party, we prepared food and decorations. I was really excited.

Finally, the big day came. The whole class was going to walk (not roller skate) to my house. I was probably wearing my fancy green pants/black leotard outfit because I loved it. My mother came to school and she and Mrs. Glantz led the way to our place.

As they walked and chatted, my mother noticed that at many intersections Mrs. Glantz seemed to want to turn away from our neighborhood, towards the ones a little closer to the school with smaller houses, but she didn’t think much of it. As we turned into our neighborhood, my teacher got quiet. Then, we arrived at our house, she exclaimed, “Oh, but this is a beautiful home!”


Sometime after the party ended, my mother took a long look at me and realized what had happened: the yearlong experiment of letting me dress myself had resulted in my teacher thinking that we were poor. When she tells this story, we all laugh and it ends here. But when I think back, I realize that fourth grade was when I started bathing regularly and my outfits mostly matched. I wonder now how Mrs Glantz might have treated me differently if I had dressed differently? I marvel at the privilege of changing my clothes to change people’s perception of me. And I’m not even the tiniest bit surprised that things changed in fourth grade.

At this point, my sister had inherited the beautiful pants.

13 thoughts on “Fashionable #SOL22 28/31

  1. Those pants really are a “fashion” statement. Since I was a poor kid, I’m now wondering how my elementary teachers responded to me based on my clothing, which I don’t remember much about, except that I wore a lot of hand-me-downs.


  2. So many fantastic, idiosyncratic specifics that you’ve assembled here. The staying (and storytelling) power of memory continues to amaze me in your slices.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. First of all, I’m just cracking up at the fact that I had pants almost exactly like that that my mom made. They were green, bell-bottomed, with chickens and pigs and barns and farmers on them, and I was obsessed. I also laughed out loud when you said, “The 70s were weird.” Indeed, they were. Also, I’m jealous that you could roller skate to school! Amazing. We were definitely not rich, and my mom made most of my clothes, and she also gave up at some point and let me dress myself. I also wore hand-me-downs, which makes me wonder what stories my teachers told themselves about me. This is such a powerful observation: “I marvel at the privilege of changing my clothes to change people’s perception of me. And I’m not even the tiniest bit surprised that things changed in fourth grade.” I love the unfolding of this story, the descriptions of you as a student, the way it says so much about who you are (were), the dialogue between your mom and your teacher. Well, I just think this is my favorite piece this year!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This slice has so many levels–Fantastic story telling, a nudge to look at our assumptions about students, sartorial elegance, and more. I’m so glad you found that picture and updated your slice. My Dad died in November and my sisters keep talking about the amazing black and white panda pants he used to wear when playing golf. (Yes, the seventies were weird.) I can only dimly remember those pants (worst memory of the family here!) and so wish we could find a picture. You also have me reminiscing about my own favorite childhood clothes…


  5. Beautiful story! This is a great personal narrative mentor text! The 70’s were an amazing time for kid’s fashion. I love that your teacher got such a shock. In grade 6 I struggled in math. My teacher gave me credit for completing SRA cards. Do you remember those? All I had to do was read and I got a better mark in math. And I didn’t have to worry about doing extra math to get it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, my. This is such a story. The way we sometimes perceive our students without knowing their stories is fascinating, isn’t it?

    I am mostly frustrated by the fact that my school did not have roller skate cubbies. Probably because only certain months would be skateable in Ontario.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Those are some EXCELLENT pants!
    What a story! Glad that the “green suit” inspired you to share this one.
    The 70s and 80s led most people to questionable fashion choices. Trust me, you weren’t alone.


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