Friday, November 3, 2006

Fashion Contraband

From 7th grade through high school I wore a skirt 5 days a week. At 'Notre Dame Prep' we wore 'black watch plaid' kilts even in the freezing Indiana winter - with only our navy blue tights to keep us warm (bbbrrrrr). Since we wore these skirts (made of 100% polyester – fabulous, I know) 5 days a week for the entire school year, they naturally took quite a beating – from paint splatters in the art room, to running around at lunchtime – we routinely held the falling out hems together with safety pins, or my personal favorite, duct tape.

But we were careful in our mending as there was a rule that skirts had to be no more than an inch above the knee. And to in force this nazi-esque restriction, in the event there was any question as to whether a violation had taken place, teachers reserved the right to make us kneel down to see how far our skirts were from the ground. And so from 7th grade – 10th I lived in fear of tape measures and was careful to make sure that I was not in violation of any kind, at peril of my immortal soul. What? (gasp!) You didn’t KNOW that the 7th circle of hell is reserved for good Catholic girls who show too much leg?

Now here’s something you may not know about me: I was a late bloomer (something out of a Molly Ringwald 80s movie I’m afraid). I basically woke up on my 16th birthday, the acne had cleared up, the retainer came out, the hair de-frizzed and I had grown 3 inches and 2 cup sizes overnight. So with my Neutrogena-clear complexion, aligned smile and new figure boys noticed me for the first time (go figure). And so I came out of my very, very shy, reserved shell and became the vibrant, outgoing, smart *ss you all know and sometimes love.

I noticed and rather enjoyed the attention (who wouldn’t after 16 years of being made fun of and ignored??) So now if the hems in my skirt were to come unraveled I would attempt to realign them by the same tried-and-true methods, however, the hems began creeping up with every re-attachment. An inch here, a centimeter there. And then there was the rolling.

What is ‘rolling’ you may ask? No, it’s not verb used to describe the assembly of a joint but all of you former uniform clad school girls know it…oh you know it well. ‘Rolling’ is what we referred to as folding the tops of your skirt up over and over until you reached the desired skirt length. We would then untuck our white, oxford shirts to hide the bulky waste-line we had created and voila! Instant mini-skirt.

This method actually proved to be much more effective than the hemming because #1. It was easy to adjust quickly, should a sour-faced nun come marching down the hallway on her quest to stomp out ALL individuality and sexuality from the sacred academic environment #2. It didn’t require the use of a needle and thread, safety pins OR duct tape #3. Made a mini skirt out of an otherwise ugly, unflattering piece of cloth.

Oh, I still got caught, to be sure. And my pushing of the dress-envelope played a substantial role in my title of ‘most detentions of any other girl in her class’ distinction. And even though my kilt was eventually set aflame at my graduation party as a symbolic, ritualistic burning of religious school confinement, I will always keep a soft spot in my heart for that makeshift-mini-skirt that caused so much scandal.

And so it is with pride that I stand in solidarity with the women of Korea – who are about to embark on a new era. An era where they will no longer fear the repercussions of their fashion choices but wear their skirts freely and strut their legs with pride. That era begins today – as South Korea moves to legalize miniskirts.

It’s one small skirt for women – One giant leap for fashion kind.


SEOUL (Reuters) - Hot pants and miniskirts will soon be legal in South Korea.The country is in the final stages of revising an indecency law that prohibits people from wearing revealing outfits and was once enforced by ruler-wielding police during authoritarian governments in the 1970s, officials said.

"The law for excessive exposure does not match our current society," said Kim Jae-kwang, an official with the Korea Legislation Research Institute.Under authoritarian rule, police could arrest or fine women for their fashion choices. They also took scissors to men whose hair they felt was too long and tossed people in jail for unauthorized dancing.The rules stayed on the books as South Korea moved to an open democracy in the late 1980s, but were no longer enforced.

Now miniskirts are about as common as traffic jams in the capital of Seoul and police have long given up on measuring the distance from knees to hemlines.

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