I was a teenager in the 90s, so I spent most of high school dressing like Angela Chase: baggy jeans, tee-shirts, flannel shirts, oversized sweaters, the occasional baby-doll dress with granny boots. (I recently went through a bunch of photos from those days, and kept yelling at Teen Molly. “What are you wearing? Those clothes don’t even make sense together!” And then I saw this. Oh, right.)
If I shopped, it was at thrift stores, but sometime in ninth grade I’d discovered that my dad and I wore the “same” size jeans (that is, I could wear his jeans; in retrospect, I wouldn’t say they actually FIT me), so much of my wardrobe was cobbled together from jeans and giant sweaters I stole from his closet and leftovers from my mother’s hippie college years I stole from her closet. Strangely, I remember spending SO. MUCH. TIME. choosing my outfits every night. Deciding which pair of baggy pants to wear with which tee-shirt/cardigan combo apparently took a lot of work.
Unlike Paige Sheridan, the protagonist of The Princesses of Iowa, I was NOT a high school princess. I wasn’t a popular girl (in case the description of my wardrobe didn’t already tip you off!). I was a theater nerd and an orchestra nerd and a poetry club nerd and probably just a nerd nerd. But it didn’t matter, because my boyfriend wore too-short jeans that rose well above his sneakers when he sat down and flannel shirts and a thick plastic watch. In other words, we were perfectly matched.
But even though I wasn’t popular, I was creative and perpetually bored, and sometimes I liked to sartorially shake things up (as you do). So one day in ninth or tenth grade, I came to school in an outfit so fabulous I’m still completely in love with it, fifteen years later. I wore a little black dress with white polka dots, black tights, white character shoes, a white beret, and a large ankh necklace on a long silk cord. (No outfit in the nineties was complete without an ankh necklace, am I right?) I would still wear this outfit today, possibly minus the beret and ankh.
I don’t remember if anyone commented on my amazing outfit as I walked the hallways of the school that day, though I imagine they did, because come on. It was amazing. But I do remember that after bio, these two super pretty, super popular girls pulled me aside and complimented me on it. “We want you to know that we think you’re really interesting, and we love your outfit,” they said. “We actually suggested that you be added to our group, but we voted and the other girls think you’re a little too weird. Sorry! We still like your outfit!”
“Uh….. thanks?” I said.
The hilarious thing about this moment is that it was actually the SECOND time it had happened to me — a different group of girls had pulled me aside in eighth grade to tell me that they really liked me, but they put it to a vote and decided I was too weird to join their group. Even at the time, I was like “WHY WOULD YOU TELL ME THIS?”
Luckily, I was sort of shockingly well-adjusted, and had already decided that I prized creativity and originality over popularity, so I didn’t really mind. I might have even been flattered to be deemed weird by the popular kids. I do wonder, though, if these little brushes with popularity and moments of insight into the ways of the popular group (apparently they voted a lot?) didn’t fuel my imagination, years later, when I started to think about The Princesses of Iowa. I wondered about the girls who did prize popularity over anything else, the girls who would have been CRUSHED if informed they were slightly too weird to be popular. I wondered what it might be like to care so much about what everyone else thinks that you forget how to have your own opinion, or listen to your own voice.
And, like a weirdo, I decided to write about it.
19 Replies to “Molly’s Most Amazing Outfit”
Sounds to me like you LIVED a YA novel. Perfect research for the Molly Writer-To-Be.
And I love that pic of you. You look like a girl totally comfortable in her own skin, which is a rare thing to be in high school. 🙂
I may have lived a YA novel, but it was definitely a different one than I wrote!
And thanks for the compliment, but the pic is of the main character from the show Freaks & Geeks — but her fashion sense & hair are basically identical to mine in high school. 🙂
Ha! I should have zoomed in on the photo. I’m going to have to see if Netflix has Freaks & Geeks.
It’s delightful! We watched it on netflix back in the old days when netflix still involved shipping “discs” through the “mail.”
LOL! What is this “mail” of which you speak? Shouldn’t there be an “e” or a “g” in front of it? *grin*
I love this story, Molly. And I SO love that picture, too. Our teen years are really so formative, especially for writers of YA, aren’t they? I think the weirder or more angst-fuelled the childhood, the more prepared we are to write about it for others.
And I need to comment on those girls who voted you down. Uh, wtf? How cruel is that that they felt the need to TELL you that you didn’t quite make the cut. Nice of any of them to stand up for you — that just tells me they were all a bunch of clones and you were obviously too cool and individualistic for them anyway.
Haha, thanks Joanne! The funny thing is that I didn’t get a cruel vibe from them at all. They were very earnest and sweet about it, like “We think you’re cool but the OTHER popular kids think you’re weird.” Yes, tactless and clueless, but not exactly cruel. At least, not intentionally!
This story makes me both happy and sad that I wore a uniform most of my school days. I remember being really proud of my fashion sense when I bought a braided belt.
Thank god I didn’t have uniforms, or I probably would have pierced my ears a bunch more and given myself homemade tattoos just to prove how wacky and edgy I was.
The voting?!?!?! Who knew popularity was such a democracy. I think it was like Mean Girls. Whatever Regina George says, goes.
I like to imagine these voting sessions as being VERY rigid and formal. I sincerely hope they voted with aye or nay. And wore parliamentary wigs.
1. Who WERE those girls? We might need to have this discussion in another forum because I’m dying to know more. Please tell me I had no part in this.
2. Thank goodness you were/are as cool as you were/are because you turned out just right.
3. I don’t remember your special outfit but I remember The Chatauqua and you were fantastic like a bright red ribbon in many aspects of the good ol’ H.S. We were all weird and special and I’m grateful for that. If we all looked like cookie cutter popular kids life would be no fun (and they still look the same now BTW) 😉
You tyrant, you! I can’t imagine you being a part of any of this, but then you were part of the group of enlightened freaks in the “diversity club,” which was probably the one place in school where I fit perfectly. 🙂
A vote!? Er, I only hope these young women continued to make good use of their voting rights as they grew into adults (even if the ticket didn’t have such compelling issues on it!) but oh, that makes for a delicious story, Molly dear. And I am waiting to dive into THE PRINCESSES OF IOWA over holiday break because I do not want interruptions! I’m so excited.
So here’s my question…Who WAS popular in high school?
We writers, okay, that makes sense. I get that. But just yesterday I read how Charlize Theron wasn’t popular. So I’m thinking, okay, now just stop. If Charlize Theron wasn’t popular, then someone’s fibbing. I mean, come on.
(Thanks for the My So-Called Life still, too. Oh, takes me back. )
I can’t wait to hear what you think!!
And also, I think the kids who were popular in high school are still in high school. That’s why you never hear about them. 🙂
’90s fashion was kind of the best thing ever. i never rocked the ankh, tho–i was more of a sun/moon/stars girl. i even had a reversible choker with the sun on one side and the moon on the other.
Yes! My go-to earrings were a moon in one ear and a sun in the other. Again: awesome.
Girls in high school actually said things like that? That’s for real???
As you can see, I was the kind of nerd who just avoided the popular clique AT ALL COSTS. 😀 Thank you for sharing your weirdo story.
I know, super weird! But as I recall, even non-popular girls can be mean. High school is harsh for everyone!
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