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 Allaboutyoudesign.com 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…

Monograms

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

This Isn’t What I Expected | My Worst Job Ever

During my freshman year of college, I worked at Miller & Rhodes, a department store that shortly after went out of business, but that’s not my fault…I swear! The best thing about working in a department store is you get an employee discount on clothes! The worst thing is that you have to use the department store credit card to get it.

Working over the Christmas season, I netted around negative two hundred dollars.

This, however, was not the worst job I ever had. It just caused it.

Working off debt

Summer vacation arrived, and a credit card debt needed to be paid off. Talking with the local temporary staffing company, I begged for anything they had. Desperate to regain debt-free status, I enthusiastically screamed “I’ll take it!” without asking what “it” was. She tried to explain why I probably didn’t want it, but I wasn’t listening. Just give me the job! I can do anything! Ahh…the naive rantings of the young.

worst job outfit

The actual sweater was even brighter!

Figuring I would be filing papers or answering phones as usual, I borrowed my sister’s EXTREMELY bright, turquoise sweater. (See the outfit in the picture).

Fashionista Reporting For Work

Pulling up to the building, I noticed it was a very plain, brick building with a tiny sign that I almost missed. Grabbing my purse stocked with hairspray, lipstick, and gum, I took a deep breath and ventured in.

“Good Morning!” I peppily announced with a friendly grin.

My chipper voice seemed to startle the girl behind the counter, and she darted into the back.

The small lobby was disturbingly drab without as much as a picture or plaque of any kind on the wall. Strangely there was no furniture to sit on, so I had to guess they don’t get visitors.

Suddenly a stoic-looking, middle-aged lady dressed in jeans and flannel shirt appeared. I identified myself as I curiously glanced around to discover where the filing cabinet or phone system was hidden.

The Adventure Begins

Following her through a system of long hallways lined with safety posters, I suddenly felt like Dorothy in Oz. I wasn’t in Miller & Rhodes anymore.

We stepped through double doors into a cavernous warehouse which was a bustling hive of activity. The sounds of machinery and heavy smell of burning plastic overwhelmed me.

Hmmm…I don’t think there are phones back here.

You know that moment that Dorothy steps out of the house into Oz and the picture turns from black and white into color? That wondrous moment of awe!?! This was the complete opposite.

Leaving the world of color behind in the parking lot, I had entered the grey, dreary heart of a plastic bottle manufacturing plant. Still trailing my guide, I took in the sights while trying to figure out what I was doing here. Dressed in drab clothes with handkerchiefs tied around their heads, busy workers tended to the huge machines that ran the length of the building. It was the Willy Wonka of plastic bottles.

When I saw the workers’ dirty hands, I second guessed my choice of white pants, and my curled, hair spray-set hair swept back into a colorful headband seemed silly. My heels echoed throughout the endless room, and they seemed to say “Look at this girl!! HA! She wore heels!”

I was a foreigner in a distant land, and by the looks of the stares…an unwelcome brightly-colored, misplaced one.

My job

We came to a stop at the end of the metal, steaming creature, and my guide pressed a button.

Warm, empty, plastic shampoo bottles exited out of the molder and filled the assembly line. My job was to grab them off the belt and pack them 100 to a box. It seemed simple enough until I was also instructed to inspect them for defects. Any bottles that didn’t meet standards were to be thrown back into the melter. I would have practiced some basketball shooting if I’d had known because the shoot was a few feet over my head.

My gold bangles were confiscated for safety reasons, and I got right to work.

In the beginning things were fine, and I quickly packed away my first box with only a few defects returned to the melter’s shoot. Shortly after my feet began to ache from the heels I wasn’t used to wearing, and I enviously eyed the tennis shoes of the other workers and caught their snickers when they looked my way.

By box two I realized that the machine gets faster after it is fully warmed up and the bottles came pouring out. I kept losing count, and the bottles were backing up. My solution was to dispose of five bottles, so I tossed them into the melter to catch up.

With each passing minute, I got further and further behind as the machine seemed to spit them out at an ever-increasing rate. After quickly glancing to see if anyone was looking, I tossed 10 bottles for every 10 I packed. I wasn’t doing well at all. Bottles began spilling onto the floor.

Just like this…only with bottles



A whistle signaled the 10:30am break, and I welcomed the chance to catch my breath. The line was shut down, and I followed everyone to the break room. Happy to be off my feet, I sat all by myself at a table drinking a Dr. Pepper while wishing I was anywhere else. No one spoke to me, and my feet throbbed in pain. Happy to end the awkwardness, I returned to my station and looked forward to lunch.

The backup of bottles continued to get worse and worse until I was doing nothing but throwing them into the melter. I don’t remember that I even cared if anyone saw by that point.

bottle packing nightmare

During my lunch hour, I quickly escaped and drove the ten minutes home to change clothes and grab a bite to eat. My tennis shoes and jeans were a welcome comfort. I frantically scribbled a note on several scraps of paper for my mom. Something about this being a nightmare, and if I don’t return then assume I jumped into the melter.

I didn’t want to go back. Even if I didn’t get paid! However, I’m not a quitter; so my conscious drove me back even though my feet and body attempted to resist.

The rest of the day is foggy in my memory, but I do remember being surprised that they asked if I wanted to come back. Come back?!? Do this again?! Mentioning that this probably wasn’t my talent, I politely declined.

Memories best forgotten

If I had a picture from that day, it would have looked something like this:

factory workers and me

What’s the worst job you ever had?

Tell me about it in the comments. If you decide to write about it on your blog, let me know and I’ll add a link here.

If you haven’t seen the Women of Industry series from Kelley’s Break Room check them out.

UPDATE (6-29-11): I’m included in Kelley’s recent Name That Job #5 so see if you can guess the right answer about my past jobs. You already have a hint here…so it is like I gave you a cheat sheet!

Upcoming Fashion Trends

toenails

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.