My mother really knew how to dress. She wore elegantly tailored suits with hats and gloves and made sure the seams of her stockings were straight, and of course she wore a girdle. Several times a year my parents attended dinner dances, and I loved to watch them get ready for these events, my father in a tuxedo and my mother in a formal gown. My favorite was pale blue lace with an off-the-shoulder neckline. For such special occasions she stuffed "falsies" in her bra.
But my mother's excellent taste did not seem to extend to me. My clothes were ugly. I thought so then, and I think so now. My mother chose my clothes, and I always seemed to end up with something green or yellow and unflattering. Left on my own, I tended to go overboard. My mother had bought me a "Gibson Girl" outfit, a high-waisted velvet skirt and a plaid blouse with puffy sleeves. I decided that a lace handkerchief pinned to the sleeve would be a nice touch. The idea was promptly vetoed. (Okay, she was right about that.)
Here I was, at the start of seventh grade and begging for a brassiere. Mother argued that I had no need for one, but finally she relented and passed on some of her old ones, which I stuffed with hankies. I wore nylon stockings to church; on the Sunday I was confirmed I worried all through the service that my uncomfortable garter belt would fail, and my nylons would wind up puddling around my ankles.
And the hair? My mother had beautiful naturally curly hair, but mine was dead straight. Every night I wound my hair in pincurls held in place with bobby pins or settled for a home permanent. ("Which twin has the Toni?" was a popular ad campaign of that era, showing two girls—one supposedly with natural curls, and her identical sister with a Toni home permanent.)
Then I had a home ec course at school and learned to operate a sewing machine, producing an apron after one semester of stitching and ripping out the stitches. But I was not deterred. I bought myself a Singer with birthday money and set out to sew my own clothes. I don’t even want to think about some of the weird items I made and actually wore--until my mother intervened again.