Back in the day, during the late 50’s and early 60’s, shopping for our family’s clothing was limited to three particular areas: The shops on 7th street between Ritner and Snyder, Lit Brothers Department Store at 8th and Market Streets or Robert Hall Clothing Store near 24th and Oregon Ave.
A trip on the trolley to Lit Brothers was always a special treat because Lit Brothers had a larger selection of clothing to choose from and that meant that Jane and I had more leverage with mom. My mother, who always bought and dressed in the latest fashions, seemed to lose all sense of style when it came to buying clothes for her pre-teenaged daughters. You can tell by the above picture that I was not at all happy with my outfit, and in fact, tried to hide among my cousins.
Michael and Lucy being younger didn’t mind as much, but Jane and I dreaded every shopping adventure with mom. She always bought clothing that was too big, and when we complained, she would quickly counter with, “You’ll get more wear out of it.”
More wear? Like...did she expect us to keep the dress for our 80th birthday? She did this with shoes too. I’ve often wondered if my siblings' and my classmates thought that we had a genetic condition with our walking because we clumped around in our shoes, but... according to Lucy, “You’ll get more wear out of it.”
Mom also liked to buy things in duplicates and triplicates, for example, if she liked a particular sundress then she would buy the same dress for Jane, Lucy and me. We weren’t triplets or twins, but mom wanted us to look the same. How wonderful! Jane, Lucy and I looked like refugees; all wearing the same dress that were two sizes larger than they needed to be…you know to get more wear out of it.
Although we would make the trip to Lit Brothers and 7th street at least once a year, my mother’s favorite store was Robert Hall. It was in walking distance, ten city blocks away, and the clothes were more affordable according to mom. Maybe my mom liked the jingle for the store. Here is a sample.
One particular summer, my mother had bought Jane, Lucy and me the shorts and tops we would need for our two week vacation from our crazy parents and the grocery store. Mom had packed our clothing into the metal trunks without us seeing what she bought and sent us off to St. Monica’s Summer Camp.
Robert Hall must have been having one hell of a freaking great sale on red and blue shorts because Mom bought Jane and I five exact shorts all the same color…five…exact…shorts. Lucy was spared only because they didn’t carry the style in her size. Nothing like being teased at camp because the kids thought you and your sister were wearing the same clothing over and over. I still have nightmares about that summer.
I hated this dress!!!! Can you tell?
Once Jane and I were in high school and going to Newman’s dances, we began to argue with mom about the clothing she was trying to force on us. The last time my mom bought clothing for me, we were in one of the dressing rooms at Robert Hall. I hated the dress. Mom liked it. I threw it on the floor. She hauled off and smacked me…but in the end I had won the battle and she didn’t get the dress.
Jane in a dress she bought with her own money
Jane and I began buying our clothing with our allowance money from working the store. We no longer worried about wearing clothing that hung on us or was outdated. The clothes Jane and I shopped for were always in style and more importantly, they fit.
Rere with an outfit she picked out
I vowed that I would never force my fashion style on my daughter, and I didn’t. Rere was pretty savvy on clothing style as young as four years old and she would often pick out her own clothing whenever we went shopping. But…some things never change. On one of my yearly visits to see my mother, who was then living in Napa California, she took my daughter and me clothes shopping. Mom had found a beautiful dress that she wanted Rere to try it on.
It was two sizes bigger and definitely nothing Rere would wear; my daughter was a tomboy, but Mom persisted on buying it. I was about to say something, but Rere beat me to it. “Grandmom, it's not going to happen.”
“Okay, pick out something you like instead.” And just like that, my mother let her granddaughter pick an outfit she wanted to wear.
Who was this woman?