Posts Tagged ‘1972 dress codes’

The year was 1972. I’d given up my bra, much to my father’s dismay and discomfort. (My mother supported me, bad pun not intended.) I’m flat-chested, so it wasn’t like I gave up much. Still, girls were sent home from school for going braless. Sadly, no one noticed I was braless. Not even the boys I had crushes on. (Oh well, life goes on!)

I’d arrive at school and meet up with my best friend, Janet. We’d then trade shoes – hers were always more comfortable than mine and she swore mine were better than hers! I wore her shoes to school for almost 4 years.

When the winter winds plummeted to minus some bizarre degree, like -32 Farenheit, we were allowed to wear “slacks” to school. Slacks being defined as “something polyester and in horridly bad taste, but which match the top you are wearing, and with tasteful shoes, preferably ‘feminine’ shoes with high heels”. Walking home, facing a North wind that feels like -32 Farenheit, in polyester “slacks” was as bad as walking home in a short skirt and nylons. You might as well be naked. Most women of my generation are fortunate to have survived winter without freezing to death in the 5280-foot long hike home, uphill both ways. With drifting snow.

Pioneer women at least had long skirts, petticoats, and leaky boots.

We waited with great excitement for those winter days when we could wear pants – er-“slacks” to school. No voyeurs waiting at the bottom of the stairs when we tried to walk up them in our mini-skirts! No frozen knee caps because our “Little Prunes” hose wasn’t wind proof.

My Sophomore year in high school was rife with rebellion. We hated the Viet Nam war. Our generation was defined by the events of 1970: the court-martial trial of William Calley for the My Lai Massacre (exonerating higher-ups), the Kent State Massacre, Woodstock. You were either a fan of Merle Haggard or you were burning your draft card. There was no middle ground: For US or Against US. In short, it was pretty much what we have going on right now in the political atmosphere of 2016. You can’t be a moderate. You’re either for Trump or for Hillary.

Hillary still wears those horrid pant suits of the 1970’s. I’m just pointing that out, not making a political statement… but if you want to know what we looked like in 1970’s pant suits… Hillary didn’t get the memo.

(You can still vote for her and I won’t judge. I won’t ask, either, because I still believe in the secret ballot.)

Anyway, flash forward to the last day of our Sophomore year at White Pine High School, Ely, Nevada. Seriously, we were not on any political map. News stories had been carried by every major news channel of high schools in major cities exercising their right to disagree with dress codes. Some won, some lost. Nearly all have returned to dress codes, but that’s beside the point. We had the opportunity to be leaders in a revolution that changed how schools looked at boys (long hair) and girls (denim jeans).

Now, by definition, “jeans” = Levi’s or Wranglers or Lees to me. At least it did then. I bought my jeans and poured bleach on them and cut holes into them (you pay big money for that style nowadays, but I achieved it with a minimum of expense and not too much complaint from my mother about the waste of bleach and money). Bleach is cheap, even today. My sister and I honed our sewing skills by adding handkerchiefs to the outer seam of our jeans in order to create bigger bell-bottoms. Hip huggers were our favorites (couldn’t pay me money to wear them now!).

There was a “walk in” protest by the boys, protesting school dress codes regarding the length of their hair. The boys lost that year, but by 1973, long hair was allowed. Native American and fellow artist, Jamie, wore his hair waist length when I was a senior, That would never have been allowed prior to the rebellion of 1972.

The girls decided to stage a walk in protest regarding jeans, scheduled for the last day of school in 1972. I selected a pair of my favorite jeans: fashion bell-bottoms with triple red stitching on all the seams.

During our homeroom period, Mr. Neanderthal Himself (PM me classmates if you want his name. He taught Sociology and History and he and I hated each other), announced that “any girls wearing jeans should excuse themselves from class now and rejoin us when we actually check out.” I decided, on a whim and in an instant, that my denim bell bottoms with triple red stitching on all the seams did not “actually” meet the definition of jeans. I decided – on a whim – to challenge Mr. Bigot.

All the other girls in jeans left the class. A scattering of girls who did not favor the revolution or who were (like me) too timid to confront the Establishment, stayed. We had to rise up and walk to the front of the class to check in our books. I swallowed and stood up, walked to the front, checked in my book. I maintained a straight face and made no move to attract attention to the clothes I wore (no bra, by the way). Mr. S. never even looked at me!

By the time we all met up in the hall to finish out checking out, I felt like I had wings. Other girls crowded close and whispered, “Why didn’t he kick you out?” I have no answer to this day. I made a stand and I refused to back down. Little introverted me. I was scared. I didn’t want my perfect record of being a little-miss-perfect ruined, I also did not want men to tell me how I should dress. I ached for the freedom to choose.

In the end, the Great Blue Jean Walk In was probably considered a loss. Girls were expelled on the last day of school. But it was no loss: in 1973, at the beginning of the year, it was announced that the school dress code had been dropped. We could wear jeans whenever we wanted to.

However, the length of miniskirts would continue to be monitored. And for once, I support that policy. Most of ours were crotch-length. Yeah. Pretty much a BAD idea.

Rock On.


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