I packed my suitcase with my winter clothes, red housecoat, and jewelry box. For the first time in my life, I left home in February 1968 to attend Central Michigan University. In retrospect, the day is grounded as a rite of passage.
Never again did I share a bedroom with one of my four sisters. Away from the hub of home, neither did I observe my two younger siblings grow into adolescents and gain their first housecoat. Another rite of passage.
Rather, be it a dorm room on campus, or a rented house in downtown Mt. Pleasant, my roommates and I gathered in our housecoats and hair rollers at day’s end.
A short-sleeved dress at knee’s length, our attire buttoned, zipped, or snapped from collar down to hem. As Mom preferred snaps, I followed suit.
No self-respecting and frugal college female in the 1960s and ’70s would be without her favorite, cozy housedress. Relaxed around the television after waiting tables in the Embers restaurant, my roomies and I watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon July 20, 1969. In our rollers and housecoats.
Not to be confused with the long abandoned dressing gown, such as the peony pink taffeta floor-length robe my mother sewed for my wedding trousseau. Her gorgeous, long-sleeved work of art spoke of my mother’s romantic side.
As I never mastered seaming and embroidery, my mother and older sister Linda showed mercy upon my three little girls with robes for Christmas gifts.
Alas, following my mother’s principle “use what you have,” cut off jeans and tee shirts replaced my threadbare housedress for a season. Then along came Mary Lou Retton’s Olympic gold medals and fired up the sweat suit dominating J.C. Penney’s children’s and adult clothing departments.
After school and church, my three little gymnasts and I lived in sweat pants. They passed their childhoods turning front walkovers and back handsprings-walking their balance beam, a Christmas gift from Uncle Larry.
We owe the most recent phenomenal fashion shift to the yoga pant. “Athleisure” stretched from the gym/studio to street, shopping malls, and office. Nowadays, a long blouse (or is it a short dress?) with accessories satisfies our “formal events” cultural dress code.
I’m not complaining. As the sweat suits of the ’80s, the selection of black pants riding the yoga wave is endless. I wear them with my winter dresses and skirts. And in this present polar vortex, they’re perfect to layer under ski pants our girls left behind.
That’s if I manage to persuade myself to leave the warmth of the new, wooly housecoat my baby Ruth gifted me Christmas past. Yes, what went around came around at last.
Unlike my style of yesteryear, Wooly’s long sleeves are not meant for a busy housewife in the kitchen and laundry room. Or a college student commiserating with roommates.
Dear Reader, Ruth knew her find is designed with the solitary septuagenarian in mind.
Grateful, I wrap Wooly around a new book of poetry from my middle daughter. Another rite of passage.
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