When culottes was spelled c-o-o-l

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Lori Borgman | Monday, Feb. 20, 2017

Once again I find myself making fashion history and not necessarily in a good way.

One of our daughters texted me a picture of a short dress with wide legs and asked what I thought.

“Culottes! The ultimate in cool!”

“So you’ve seen them?” she asked.

Seen them? I created them!

I sewed culottes in home economics class in ninth grade. When I wore my homemade culottes I felt like the epitome of cool. It makes for a difficult life when you reach your fashion crest at age 15, but for some of us that’s life.

In any case, I loved my culottes and I wasn’t even good at sewing. The inner facings around the arm holes sometimes bunched up because I hadn’t bothered to “tack stitch” them. Girls talked about things like tack stitching, side-placket zippers and blind hems in high school because we didn’t have Facebook, Instagram or Stitch Witch.


The main reason I felt so confident in my culottes was because our home economics teacher, Miss Grove, approved of culottes and she was the definition of cool. She was young and pretty and wore her long brown hair in a perfect Mary Tyler Moore flip. If that wasn’t enough, she was the first person any of us had ever known to wear contact lenses. You could tell someone had contacts because they constantly batted their eyes.

Culottes and contacts – it was a total win-win. Oh yes, and Miss Grove could walk with a book on her head, something we girls were encouraged to practice at home. Today, it might seem strange sustaining eye contact with a female wearing a dress with baggy legs, balancing a book on her head and furiously blinking as though a piece of sawdust, or even an entire 2×4, just flew into her eyes, but there was a time it was cool.

We were full of cool back then. We were full of a lot of things back then.

Batting your eyes was nearly a status symbol.

“Wow, look at her blink.”

“So you think she—“

“I heard she did. And get this – they’re tinted!”

The first generation of contact lenses not only came in tints to enhance eye color but frequently fell out of the wearer’s eyes, which is why there were often large groups of people crawling on their hands and knees on shag carpet (also making a comeback) looking for someone’s contact lens.

CRUNCH! “Found it!”

Our cool factor was not limited to culottes and contacts; we also teetered at dangerous heights on platform shoes (also making a comeback) and swished about in long maxi dresses (also having made a comeback).

It’s not fine-line wrinkles that make a woman feel old; it’s seeing the fashions of her youth recycle. Even our 30-something daughters must be feeling old, as hair scrunchies and jellies they wore as girls poise for a comeback.

It’s entertaining watching the fashion gurus recycle old trends, but I do have one urgent request—please, no shoulder pads.