Do it on a dime
Back-to-School Shopping with Little Sis
By Emily Smith
Growing up in the middle of three girls, as a middle-class child of the 1980s, one of the few things I had to look forward to every year was, (drum roll please)… the simple pleasures of Back-to-School shopping.
We all know what it is. Heck, it has practically become a national holiday. The necessity of buying new clothes for a new school year has been beaten into our brains via commercials beginning in mid-July. From binders and folders to new jeans and sneakers, all of the wares are advertised.
Somewhere in the cobwebbed recesses of my mind, I have tucked away fond memories surrounding the annual family cars trips to outlet malls-a-plenty. In search of the closest Duckhead, or Polo outlet, we would dance from store to store, in search of an entirely new wardrobe for ourselves. There was always a strict budget. After all, three girls to cloth equals less stuff for Emily. Trust me, I’ve done the math.
And although most of my recollections of Back-to-School shopping with my sisters now blur together with the haze that 20 years brings, I can most assuredly say that we never spent one cent on any item secondhand. Maybe because it was the ’80s, or maybe thrift stores simply did not exist in our specific area. Either way, hindsight is 20/20.
Had thrifting been an option for me, let me be the first to say that a 13-year-old Emily would have been nothing less than mortified at the thought of wearing anything vintage (huh?), secondhand (gross!), or garage sale (gasp!). But, what that snotty teenage, label-loving girl did not know would not have hurt her in the very least. In fact, it may have done her some good!
I recently rediscovered the insane importance of labels and the notion of “wearing the right thing” to school when my 12-year-old sister came for a visit last month. As I tried to school her on the ins-and-outs of how to buy, style and wear vintage clothes just like her cool, older sister, she reminded me that the other kids could and would possibly find reason to poke fun. We all know it does not take much to provoke adolescents into engaging in that type of negative behavior.
I tried desperately to remember back to the beginning of my first junior high experience…to seventh grade, the classes I took, the boys I pined for, the clothes I wore, and how difficult it was just to fit in. Back then, I would beg my mother to buy me Guess jeans until I was blue in the face, to no avail, of course. And, at $55 a pop, she never gave in. The jeans themselves did nothing for my tall, lanky frame. In fact, the stride was way too long and the legs too short, giving way to the inevitable “high-water” look that I sported most of my junior high days, regardless of the brand. Go figure.
Looking back on the years that I spent obsessing over silly labels and coveting brand names only because the girl beside me had one, I regret that loss of individuality that comes with wanting to fit in or join the crowd. What I wouldn’t give to have been pilfering, digging and honing my craft of vintage treasure hunting when only in my teens. Oh, the collection I could have amassed!
This month, my sister Anna agreed to model our Back-to-School finds. She will be entering 7th grade in a new school, in a new town, and with a whole new wardrobe, compliments of her big sister Emily. We did some compromising on a couple of the crazy vintage pieces, but all-in-all, each outfit is 100 percent secondhand with a splash of vintage retro. Shhhhhhh! don’t tell the other kids! Who knows, maybe when she comes to visit next summer, we can add to her vintage collection, and hopefully to her newfound love of treasure hunting and secondhand shopping…just like her big sis.