Preppy People, Meet The Hot Topic People

If the names L.L.Bean, Lacoste, Chris Craft, or Benetton bring back some bad memories, you aren’t alone. I spent the better part of my middle school days lost in the midst of the “preppy era” where pink and green were the “IN” colors of the day. I spent hours staring into the Benetton store window admiring all the bright colors and dreaming of owning one of those sweaters.

preppy example

Yes I'm embarrased to admit I scanned this from my very own copy of the Official Preppy Handbook. Not only did I own it, but I colored it in according to the directions which means I actually read it. Why did we think this was a good look?

I have a theory on how the preppy thing started.

A rich fashion-designer-type is sitting around his posh home sipping a brandy when his poodle throws up some crushed florescent crayons on an imported corduroy rug and inspires the Spring collection. We have Rover to thank for looking ridiculous for years.

Signs of Preppiness…

Bear with me on the real awkward photos of me that follow. I’m sure it was just bad lighting and Photoshop didn’t exist yet. Be gentle.

Corduroy Pants

If your florescent green wide corduroy pants caused the cones in your classmate’s retina to scream and shut down in color overload, your popularity was practically guaranteed to increase tenfold.

Animal logos

The Izod alligator was the badge of coolness. Higher than the alligator on the fashion evolutionary scale was the horse, and the smell of the guys’ Polo cologne filled the hallways thanks to Ralph Lauren.

Calvin Klein, Jordache & Gloria Vanderbilt jeans

(This is not me…it’s Brooke Shields in case you were confused.)
Who doesn’t remember the famous line?

If you didn’t have to lie flat, struggle, tug and then finish with hopping around to squeeze in them, your jeans weren’t tight enough. OK now I feel guilty for complaining about my daughter’s skater jeans and see I’m getting payback.

Recently my mother arrived at my house with a surprise. My old pair of Jordache jeans that I had painstakingly sewed up the inseam to make them tighter. *Deep sigh* A treasure that my not-impressed-with-the-vintage-jeans daughter tossed off to the side. How dare she! They sit patiently on my dresser in the hopes that one day I can fit more than my arm in there and re-live the magic.

The add-a-bead necklace

fake add a bead necklace

I dare you to question their authenticity.

Remember that necklace? Each bead was 18K gold, so even the tiny little beads were like $18. I remember walking to the jewelry store in the strip mall beside my neighborhood and laying a pile of change on the counter hoping I had enough to cover the tax so I could add one more tiny bead. By the time I got home, it already had a dent in it. That’s how you knew they were real.

While the rich kids paraded around with 3 strands filled to the clasp with the large mm beads, there I was with my 3-5 measly 3mm and 5mm beads that were so small you needed a microscope to see them.

That’s when you mistakenly fall into the fake add-a-bead necklace trap. Look! I have 23 large beads. Yes they are turning green but just look at ’em!

preppy outfit

Who needs good hair when you have what is really important...the real add-a-beads (the shorter smaller necklace) and the fake ones and my only preppy shirt. I would have worn this every day if I could have. Thank goodness for slow laundry turnover.

My parents were sensible and didn’t frivolously spend money on fads. In order to cease my begging for name brand clothes, I got about $20 a week allowance that I had to use for my activities and all my clothes, and I learned to stretch my dollars by digging through the racks at TJ Maxx in hopes of finding something name brand even if half a pocket was missing.

The real thing out of reach price-wise, preppy status was looking unattainable. Then it happened. The day I found one green Polo shirt hidden deep within the racks. I practically screamed in delight and ignored the tiny hole under the sleeve! It became my prized possession. Making the most of it, I wore it twice a week – Mondays and Thursdays – as well as in every photograph for the next two years. Just because it was long sleeve didn’t stop me from wearing in in 78 degree humidity. Something about wearing that horse made you feel like you were sitting high in the saddle, and it was always a great day.

Bermuda Bags

bermuda bag

These are still popular and even cuter today. Photo credit to where you can buy them. Now I want one!

My favorite fashion accessory and a must-have was the bermuda bag. The covers were exchangeable so you could match whatever you were wearing. This lead to another popular trend that caused an issue for me…


Everything could be propelled to an even cooler status if they were embroidered with your initials. This was a problem. I don’t have a middle name. Really. My mother explained the reason behind this was because she went by her middle name, but was constantly called her first name. To avoid such confusion, she didn’t give people any choice but to call me Melinda. Thank goodness I wasn’t the product of celebrities and stuck with Zuzu.

This was an issue when having a sweater embroidered since 2 initials throws the monogram off balance. After learning that lesson with a sweater, I opted to ditch the initials on my purse cover.

The Baseball Shirt

the baseball tee

The baseball t-shirt. Always look fashionable while tangled in a phone cord.

Penny Loafers, Duck Shoes, Leather Moccasins and Sperry Topsiders

It’s hard to tell in the picture, but I’m wearing penny loafers. You never know when a penny is going to come in handy, and you conveniently have 2! That’s practically 1/4 of a gumball.

penny loafers preppy look

Under my only cable cardigan? Oh there's that green shirt again. Again it's all about distracting from the bad hair.

The IZOD shirt. The hair got better eventually. I just felt I had to prove it.

The only thing worse than growing up in this label-conscious society was not being ridiculously wealthly during it. It didn’t really bother me that I didn’t have $1000s to spend on my school wardrobe like so many of my friends who had a closet full of the “in” clothes with the tags still on. That just made my few items I did have worth that much more to me. I appreciated what I had and looking back my parents taught me a valuable lesson about fads. Don’t get sucked into them. It’s a waste of money. This is why I love consignment stores and the thrill of the hunt.

Today’s Preppy

Out shopping for clothes for my son’s birthday, my soon-to-be-fourteen-year-old daughter mentioned “Hot Topic” people. I listened and learned how teens that wear Hollister and Aeropostale clothes are the preppy equivalent of today.

“Preppy” people apparently have no business stepping foot into Hot Topic which is reserved for the hard core music fans of the music of Lady Gaga, Falling in Reverse, Asking Alexandria, Black Veil Brides, and other bands that I couldn’t spell. She considers it “cheating” on Hot Topic to walk into Hollister. The only exception to this rule is you might have to go there to a preppy store to purchase brightly colored pants which are all the rage. Hmm…that sounds scarily familiar. They come in green and pink, too. *Flashback*

I’m told it is all about being bright and colorful or going completely opposite by wearing all black.

As we approached Hot Topic, she began salivating at the thought of what’s new in there.

“Sorry we can’t go in there,” I said.

“What?! Why not? I want to see if they have new Lady Gaga shirts.”

“Your rules. Excuse me but, YOU’RE wearing Hollister.”

She looks down and screams “Ahh!”

I didn’t really get a good feel for what is Hot Topicish and what is preppy as it all seems to be mixed together to me. Perhaps if they had the updated version of the Preppy Handbook, things would be clearer.

Were you in school during the preppy era?
Did you have this book?

the preppy handbook

Next Thing I Knew A Ninja Was in my Cart

superhero KloutI’ve been busy running around fighting crime (who spilled the chips on the floor?) and performing amazing stunts like leaping over Lego towers in a single bound, or at least it seems so according to Klout’s misleading indication that I’m influential about superheros. This is both baffling and AWESOME. I’ll take it since that is about as close to cool as I will ever get.

Superheros like to surprise people with their grand entrance.

If only they knew about my genuine, official faux Wonder Woman swimsuit it would be worth +10 Klout at least. It pays to ooh and ahh over someone’s Facebook pictures. A friend had a picture of the swimsuit, and I went nuts over it. A few weeks later this amazing Justice League invitation was delivered by FEDEX. After giddily giggling like a small child finding a pony at the front door, I hid it away for the right moment of disclosure.

When I was in second grade I would bike to my friend Margot’s house to play super heros. She was always Wonder Woman and never gave me a turn. I bet Margot doesn’t have the real deal outfit. HA! I win…36 years later.

wonder woman swimsuit

Please don't touch it! It has the ultimate power of embarrassment and must be handled with extreme caution.

Finally the perfect day arrived, I excitedly prepared to present my alter ego. After squeezing and tucking myself into the less than flattering ensemble and being thankful that this didn’t have to take place in a cramped phone booth, I realized that the fantasy isn’t always the reality.

I encircled myself in a towel before tracking down the kids. First I ran into little one. After a quick glance, she squealed in delight. “Go show Sissy!”

She bound ahead of me and burst into the teen’s room announcing “Mom’s a superhero!! Look!” My thirteen year old slowly, uninterestedly looked up from her phone. Her “What?” look quickly turned into a speechless, shocked and horrified expression rolled into one. Priceless!

Leaning in the doorway I nonchalantly asked, “Want to go to the pool? I’m ready to go as soon as I can find where I parked the invisible plane.”

“OMG! Are you REALLY wearing that?!” she asked. Interpreted that meant “I can’t believe you would wear that but it is sort of cool in a really horrible, embarrassing way.”

“Are you kidding? I don’t have the headband and bracelets yet. I can’t be seen like this!”

Superheros must have a sidekick.

walmart trapI have a ninja that makes me smoothies every day, and that’s a perk of being a superhero. Batman had Robin, and now I have my Ninja.

Thanks to the $5 gift card inviting me to come see the new and improved Walmart, I entered with my school supply shopping list and two girls in tow. Obviously the new layout was designed by the same people that create the maze in casinos that get you trapped in there for hours without being able to find an exit. School supplies were scattered around the store in a way that made you feel like you were hunting down treasure. “Found the paper!” one child would scream from the towel isle.

ninjaThis is how I ended up in the shiny new appliance section obviously brainwashed into thinking I couldn’t live without a new blender. My daughter pointed at the higher end model with the cool name as she recited the infomercial word-for-word while animatedly demonstrating the advantages of three blades and sturdy construction. After assuring me she wasn’t getting a commission, the next thing I knew I had a Ninja in my cart.

Who doesn’t want to “Rule the Kitchen”? It’s a small price to pay for a new superpower.

Superheros belong in cartoons

superhero deskWhen I saw the picture “The Horror of the Corridor” (by John of Hypertransitory) I knew I had to have it. This is exactly how I feel when the kids are chasing me asking 15 questions at the same time, so I fondly refer to it as “Escape From The Kitchen”.

Every superhero needs to be in cartoon form above the headquarters of operations.

Oh I just heard the oven beep which could be the Justice League telling me I have a new mission.


Discovering the secrets

angel wingsThere’s nothing like a new bra to boost the confidence, so I hopped in the car armed with my $10 off any bra coupon and excitedly headed to Victoria’s Secret where I am a proud Angel card carrier thank you very much. That is just because I’m cheap and want the coupons.

My kids refuse to step foot in this store because they find it completely embarrassing and wait outside. Not wanting to make the news in a story about how my children were abducted while I was trying on bras, I went solo. Just mentioning the word “bra” sends my daughter into hiding, so she’s going to be horrified by this whole story when she reads it.

The choices are overwhelming, and I wander around until the saleslady asks if she can help. Since I don’t know what size I am because that fluctuates based on how much candy corn and chocolate I’ve indulged in on a weekly basis, I succumb to her evil measuring tape.

They insist on measuring you right smack dab in the center of the store and yelling out the size for all to hear. I wanted to look around and ask “Did you get that or should she repeat it?” If this is a sales tactic it didn’t work. It made me want to run out of the store with my sunglasses on, and I’m not a shy person. I argued that her measuring tape was off, but she wasn’t listening. She was already on her way to make recommendations.

Hypnotized by the strong perfume smell, I blindly follow her to the push up bra section. She loads me up with 3 “sexy” bras before I could say “This isn’t really what I’m looking for because I’m more of a t-shirt and sweats type of girl”, and two minutes later I find myself standing in a dimly lit dressing room with a bra that looks like it belongs in a brothel. I could hardly see a thing, but maybe that is for my own protection.

Secret #1: What they don’t tell you is the push-up is just a fancier version of stuffing wads of toilet paper in your bra which I remember doing as a teen until it fell out one day and I had to pretend to have a cold while lop-sided. It only takes one time to learn that lesson. Plus there is too much pressure during the rainy season or sweating in PE which can have less than fabulous results on your figure.

Staring at my image in the mirror, I realize this looks nothing like it does on the model in the giant wall size photos all over the store. False advertising! Does this come with that body, too? Because I’m willing to pay extra for a size 6. They should use some really ugly people in the ads so you will look in the mirror and say, wow I look way better than the model. Now that would work!

Secret #2: Ah ha!! The dark room is so you don’t notice that you were not instantly transformed into an Angel.

Carefully dodging the pushy sales lady, I return to the sales floor to look on my own for other choices. That’s went I noticed there are three types of men in VS:

  • The uncomfortable ones

    “I don’t want to be standing in a sea of underwear” types that have been forced to wait for their partners while they are in the dressing rooms. They are staring at the ceiling.

  • Kid in the candy store

    The excited boyfriend type that can’t contain his excitement over a see-through nightgown, and is actually embarrassing his girlfriend. He can’t stop talking about how he would love to see her cooking breakfast in it, and you get the feeling he’s going to be single shortly after the mall trip.

  • The Creepy ones

    Lurking about the store solo, they are checking out which size drawer you are picking from. I throw those off by opening several drawers and selecting 5 different sizes.

They could do us all a favor and ban men from this store.

Now loaded with 15 choices, most not in my size, I’m confident that I have confused the creeps who are now drooling over the wall posters, and I head back into the dressing room. The results were the same.

The biggest secret of all

I left VS empty handed but confident in the knowledge that Victoria’s secret is airbrushing.

Upcoming Fashion Trends


I’ve been walking around in sandals for three days now with the pink nail polish missing off one toe.

Why am I sharing this breaking news?

If this becomes a fashion trend, I can now claim that I started it since I have proof right here. Note: you must use colorful, bright polish like hot pink. I’ve already written out my story for Vogue, so I’m ready when they call.

Other fashion trends I may be responsible for

One pant leg cuffed and the other one not. This only works if they are capris jeans that are suppose to be cuffed. Yes I went to 5 stores like that before I realized it, so I’m certain the exposure was enough to catch on.

This is not to be confused with walking out of the nail salon after a pedicure and forgetting to fix the pant legs you hiked up over your knees so you could stick your feet in the water, and then going through the entire grocery store before you realize you look like Tom Sawyer on his way to go fishing. There is no way to pretend this was on purpose, so change grocery stores immediately.

Sporting an old, barely-sticky sticker on the rear pocket of your jeans is only considered trend-worthy if:

  • it has SpongeBob or Dora on it
  • is an old sticker that is barely has any stick to it, yet manages to still stay on
  • you didn’t know you placed it on yourself when you sat on it in the car

If people stop you in the store to point out, “Did you know you have a sticker on you?” The answer is always “Yes, of course I do”. Then smile and walk away.

At this point in my life I find myself lucky that I haven’t ended up on People of Walmart. If you don’t know what that is, go check it out and come back.

The designer responsible for this took the picture which is why my head is not centered.

I care about my readers and don’t want them missing out on the hottest fashion trends.

Imagine being able to say you were wearing bows all over the back of your head way before the Parisian trend-setters picked it up. I have to credit little one’s hair salon for this fabulous look. It is a shame I was all dolled up and had no place to go that day. I didn’t pay a dime for it either.

It pays to have inside connections to the fashion world.

Shoe shopping fun with my son

Tennis shoes

He needs shoes soon

Is there anything more painful and useless than trying to talk a teenage boy into going shopping with you? Unless, of course, it is to pick up the newest, greatest game on release day.

I gave up a long time ago. He describes what he wants, and I go get it. He isn’t very picky so he never complains about my choices. However, he is a big boy at six feet tall, and shoe shopping requires you actually try on the shoe.

Last year…

I’m dreading the shoe shopping ordeal thanks to last year’s experience.

I announced we were taking a quick trip to the store to get shoes. I tried to sell my idea by claiming we could be back within an hour and would even splurge for a refreshing smoothie.

In a desperate attempt to avoid accompanying me on this venture, he came up with a solution.

Leaning in his doorway, keys in hand, I asked if he was ready to go. “Yep,” he replied while handing me a tracing of his foot. “Get the same thing I have now in white.”

Not in the mood to argue, I painstakingly cut out the foot. This is my artistically-challenged child, so the tracing was a bit off. The shape resembled a potato, so I created toes to make it more realistic-looking.

The paper foot and I headed to the store. This trip had all the excitement of shopping with a cardboard cut-out of my child. The conversation in the car was lacking, but there were no complaints about the music playing.

Trying on shoes

Browsing through the shoe department I was approached by an athletic, young salesman who asked what I was looking for. “My son needs new shoes,” I replied. He grabbed the measuring tool and looked around, assuming my son was wandering around the department somewhere.

I removed the foot from my purse, unfolded it, and lay it on the measuring device. “Do you think that is a size 12 or 12.5? He’s definitely a wide.”

“I want to try on a size 12.5 in this shoe,” I said as I held up the sneaker I had selected.

He looked shocked and confused as he politely advised, “Ma’am, that isn’t going to work.”

“Just let me see if I can fit the foot in it. Humor me.”

He returned with a box of shoes and a strange, amused look on his face. I imagine this was going to make for some great conversation in the break room later.

I proceeded with trying to fit the paper foot in the shoe. As shocking as this may seem, it didn’t work very well. I couldn’t tell if the toes were crumpled at the end. Since the foot couldn’t argue that it didn’t like the blue stripe, I bought them and hoped for the best.

This year

I’m not accepting paper feet in place of a live person again. This year he is going with me, we’re going to have a lovely experience, and he will enjoy it whether he wants to or not.

That is…unless he bribes the girls into molding his foot to make a paper mache version.

I don’t care if it is a masterpiece that is painted and glitter-covered. I refuse to take that to the store!

How my jeans are affecting my life


This is my open letter and a desperate plea to the fashion industry:

Dear Fashion Industry:

Please design a new style of jeans that cover the hips just a bit more. All I’m asking for is about an inch. I’m a mom, but I do have enough fashion sense to stay away from the “Mom Jeans” stereotype. I’m not looking for a “Pee Wee Herman” type look, just a little more coverage for the  muffin-top impaired.

The current selection of  jeans available barely cover my hips and are causing great stress and money issues.

I haven’t been able to shop on the lower shelf of the grocery store in over two years. You see, that is where the bargain brands are located, and I’m unable to get to them without holding my shirt down in the back with one hand while performing an unnatural yoga bend to reach the product without flashing everyone in the busy aisle.  I guess I could bend down with my back to the shelf and reach behind me for the item, but that attracts strange stares and unwanted attention.

I’m currently researching a theory that there is a conspiracy between the jeans manufacturers and name brand food companies. Their goal is to force us to avoid store brands by preventing shoppers from reaching the bottom shelf. Very clever, but I am on to you. My only option is to bring along my children who can reach that shelf, but that ends up costing me more money as they add unnecessary items to the cart. You can see my dilemma.

I enjoy taking my family out for the occasional Friday night dinner. However, walking into the restaurant, the stress begins as I attempt to steer the hostess to a table that has a chair that backs up to a wall so I can comfortable sit for an hour without constantly pulling my shirt back down in the back. It is hard to enjoy a meal when you are worried about exposure issues. Despite your advertising claims, this is not a sexy look while dining. Sometimes we have to wait an hour for an acceptable table. Booths are, of course, the best option.

This might be a good time to mention that short shirts do not go with low cut jeans, so these fads should never occur in the same season.

Might I suggest testing your jeans in real-life circumstances such as: (a) your child drops her art paper in the parking lot and the wind is blowing…requiring constant bending and running at the same time. (b) heaving yourself up into a tall SUV at the gas station which requires you bend and then slide into your seat. (c) Having to squat down to tie your preschooler’s shoe in a crowded mall.  Thorough testing is required to properly assign a flashability rating (FR) which I recommend adding to all tags. FR0 would be fully covered and FR10 is you’re at risk for an indecent-exposure charge.

Thank you for consideration in adding about 1 more inch to the waist height to accommodate real people.

Best regards