Speculation: Bad Back to School Trends in Clothing

I’m watching commercials for back to school clothes. It’s important to predict the styles that I’ll be up against when I return. I consider each possible combination that could arrive in my classroom. No, I don’t want to own them, I want to be ready to mock them, and some heads up is helpful in improvisational comedy.  Sometimes I think Fashion Avenue visited Wheel of Bad Fortune over too many $15 martinis. They spun the roulette wheel, creating combos no sober person could take seriously but teens everywhere would flock to buy in this largest-shopping-season-outside-Christmas. Add in a marketing genius, a three-digit price tag for a ridiculously cheap to produce item, and a celeb or two for good measure, and you’ve got a formula outfits I can mock clear till spring. That entertains me.   The fashion designer who gets them to buy the dumbest looking, least practical fashion item wins. “Let’s put leg warmers….” spin the wheel “with cardigans!”

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 5.18.31 PMI’m not innocent here–I’m a school child of the 80’s. I’ve admitted to swimming in $3 discount-rack teal, wearing tin earrings, thinking the worst perm in the world would make me cool. An icepack couldn’t have made me cool. Not to mention the jelly bracelets–very little more than thick elastic scraps from some manufacturing process. Some guy swept them up and said, “Make them pretty colors…the Americans will buy them. The British, too.”

Friendship pins

Friendship pins (see credit below)

We had “friendship pins.” Safety pins with colored beads in patterns of coded significance on them. Doesn’t get cheaper and stupider than that. You put them on your sneakers. You made one for each of your friends. I loved them. The kids with the most pins were the most popular. It was our equivalent of goths wearing soda tabs. Are you recycling, or too cheap for jewelry? Much like liking your own stuff on social media, people made their own pins to bolster their popularity, but if you got caught, it was “reset to zero” time. Not cool. You were not just a loser who had no friends, you were a loser who got caught. I didn’t have many pins. It was a big deal if someone didn’t give you one–we didn’t care so much about self-esteem in the 80’s.

There were several 80’s fashions that should never come back, but they seem to be. The colors that remind me of Attack of the Highlighter, the skinny jeans, the leopard print. Heck, we wore old-school skinny jeans before spandex–when you had to hold your breath all day to fit in.  When they went out of style, everyone took one big breath heading for the loose and sagging 90’s…to make up for the decade without air. That’s when global warming accelerated. Look it up. It’s true.

Teen fashion just cycled through some regurgitated 60’s fashions followed by some 70’s. It’s like a time machine on crack. Each decade lasts a week, it seems. In real life, it took us ten years to impose and escape a decade of bad fashion, but now it seems that the cycles compress faster and get more extreme as the trends pass by, getting more and more expensive all the while.

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 5.20.46 PMI did like the neat suits the students sported a la Mad Men. Those were classy. Students in suits and ties looking suspiciously like interviewees… “Nah, Miss, no reason.” Society’s gotten so casual that students will dress up to rebel and tell me such. What kind of awesome is THAT?

So, we’ll see what they come up with this season, and I’ll mock it in due time. In the mean time, I’ll watch commercials and trends. The K-mart “Yo mama is so fiscally responsible,” commercial made me applaud, but the “Back to School Style Guide” advertising Flashdance midriff shirts for back to school? Not so much… maybe for a pole-dancing PE extracurricular activity, but not in my world. Not while my mind is still alert.

I have commented on teens before. Saggers and goths and preps, oh my! Give it your best shot, future students–it’ll be hard to outdo my bad fashion, but you’ll push the limits this school year, and I’ll do my best to chronicle it here. In twenty years, you’ll all come back and say, “You were right. I did look ridiculous.” And the worst part–they charged you for the privilege.

[images: Copyright Kim Dietrich Elam 2010 (Friendship Pins) http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGallDetail.asp?photoID=9747583

and polyvore.com and tumblr 1960’s fashion]

Edit and correction: I thank Kim Dietrich Elam for providing the correct photo credit–I credited the pinner. My screw up meant I got to meet a really interesting person. Kim has a super business: K*Notes (Creative Stationary and Photography).  I loved her selection and gallery, and she’ll make pretty much anything for you.


The Legacy of Lindsay Ann Burke

Lindsay Anne Burke is gone.  Seven years ago today, she was murdered by someone who “loved” her.  This happened two miles from my house–the story broke as I was eating dinner.  I thought to myself, “Oh my god, that poor family.” Then I realized it was Lindsay.

Lindsay was the beautiful, intelligent, and kind daughter of my colleague and friend. She was the type of person who always took action to help others, and whom others loved.

We see these stories in the news all too often. Let me take a moment to remember her, and the life she left behind.

Lindsay was twenty-three years old when her life ended.  She was a graduate of Rhode Island College, looking forward to a career in elementary and special education–ready to change lives.  At Lindsay’s college graduation, no one would have predicted the way she would be changing lives in the future–the many people she would, indeed, save.  No one would have wished for it to have worked this way.  If Lindsay were here today, her students might have been entering high school. Maybe one of them would have been in my class with me discussing ways we can change the world.  Looking forward to a bright future…

Lindsay’s future is her legacy.  Through their grief, her parents, Chris and Ann, have done great things.  Things no parent should have to do. They have started the Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Fund in order to promote awareness of the relationship abuse that often starts in high school and ends in tragedy.  They have been summoned to share their story with Vice President and Dr. Biden, who supported them in their mission to promote domestic abuse awareness and education.  Through their family, many people have been saved.  This I know.  Because domestic abuse is a cycle, and cycles are not easily broken without intensive intervention.  Domestic abuse affects men and women, high school boys and girls, parents and children. It is about control, manipulation, isolation, and violence. And the ending—whether it ends in death of a human being or death of a spirit, is always a tragedy.

Sadly, Lindsay’s story is not the only I have seen. I have seen other women who were not able to break the cycle of abuse. I have seen their children live through this being inducted into the cycle. I have seen domestic abuse affect men–men who would not report the issue for fear of embarrassment, because of gender expectations that men remain strong, or because the courts were not willing to support men on this issue. Thankfully, due in no small part to Lindsay’s courageous parents, the courts are starting to take these issues seriously for both men and women alike.

Lindsay came from a family of educators who worked with thousands of students–saw thousands of relationships bloom before their eyes. And yet it happened to Lindsay. And I have seen it happen to others. The Lindsay Ann Burke story is that relationship violence can happen to anyone. It is never acceptable. It is a cycle. It must be broken. In order to do so, we must be educated and aware.  This is the legacy of Lindsay Ann Burke.

Chris and Ann Burke have chosen to save the daughters and sons of others by taking action in Lindsay’s name.  Their foundation provides materials, advertisements, workshops, and support for teens, families, parents, teachers, and friends. For this, they are among my heroes.  For this, they deserve our awareness, attention, and respect.  Maybe together, we can break the cycle in domestic and relationship abuse.  If it saves one family from having to say goodbye to a beloved child, it will have been worthwhile.