I was one groovy chick, back in middle school. I was the first to wear bell-bottom jeans. I saw them in a fashion magazine and made my poor mother go on a hunt for a pair, a quest not unlike that of Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail. She finally snagged a pair and I proudly wore them to school. The reception was the same as if I had arrived bare-bottomed: no one understood bell-bottoms and the consensus was that I looked stupid. My vindication was slow to arrive, but it did. Within a few months, ALL the cool kids were sporting bell-bottoms. So there!
This was the time of macrame belts, tie-died tee shirts, go-go boots. Everyone had the soundtrack to Woodstock and it was the rising reign of Aquarius, of the hippies. I embraced this look with all my heart. In fact, I was so experimental that several friends later confessed that they had thought I was from some weird foreign country, if not from a completely different planet. I did like my beads and my fringe.
My birthday was coming up and my mom and brother had a surprise in store for me. They had been secretly collecting Campbell’s soup can labels so that they could send away for something that they knew I would totally dig. It was a screen-print paper “pop art souper dress from Campbell’s” and looked like one big Andy Warhol painting of soup cans. Did you catch that? It was made of paper. It was the most far-out dress that I had ever seen. I loved it.
The first thing I did, of course, was to take a pair of scissors to it and chop it off into a micro mini dress. Was I wearing white go-go boots? If not, I certainly should have been. And then I sashayed off to the bus stop, where I made quite the impression with the boys. “paper???” “your dress is made from paper??” “like, I could tear it off you?” (ergh: had not thought about that frightening scenario).
Although I was too cool for school, I still got on the bus when it arrived. I sat down on the ancient buckled leather seats and heard a sound that made my heart stop. R-R-R-R-I-P!!! NO!! I had just ripped the dress the minute I sat down. The bus went crazy. As we pulled up to the school, the boys were hanging out the window screaming “we got a girl in a paper dress and it ripped!!!!!” Had it not been so humiliating, I would have reveled in the reception I received as I stepped off the bus. I was famous! Everyone wanted to see this paper dress, especially the now air-conditioned back side where my underpants could be strategically viewed. Someone from the Administration ran up and wrapped me in a blanket and hustled me off to the Infirmary. The secretaries tried everything to save my dress: staples, scotch tape, packing tape. They did what they could to preserve my dignity and then sent me off to class. I doubt that I learned a single new fact that day, other than the obvious: paper rips. I was constantly applying more scotch tape to fresh rips all day long. That dress never saw a second wearing, and was probably tossed in the trash when I got home.
I just googled that dress and discovered that at one point it was selling as “rare Vintage pop art” (vintage??? ow, that hurts) and someone actually paid nearly $7,000 for it. Wow. I could have been a bazillionaire if I had only left the dress safely in its plastic bag. But, where’s the fun in that?