The Danger of Borrowing Clothes

This is me, pretending to use a mixer in the home ec room of my high school.  The year is 1973, and I’ve just been awarded the title of Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow for my school.  At home it was a huge joke, because I was well known for my cooking failures.  My brothers called me Miss Betty Crocker.

I took home ec for three years in high school because half the year was spent on sewing.  Who could resist the opportunity to spend an hour of each school day actually sewing?  Not me.  And I somehow muddled through the cooking part, due mainly to the fact that I knew how to pick a good cooking partner.

Even though the award was given by a food company, there was no cooking ability involved in the process.  The winner was chosen purely on the basis of a multiple choice test that was given to all the seniors who were in home ec.  I may not have been able to cook, but I was a pretty good test-taker, and so I beat out all the girls who actually could cook, including my best friend who was the favored candidate (and teacher’s pet, it must be said).

I tried to be humble about the award probably because no one, teachers included, thought I deserved to win.  So I just forgot about it and tried to live down the teasing at home.

At the time I was seventeen and my sister Susan was ten.  We got new clothes for Christmas, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that my baby sister had not only caught up to me in size, but also that Santa had brought her some very cute things to wear.  I knew better than to ask if I could wear them, but she and my brother left for school about twenty minutes before I did.  So I decided to raid her closet, knowing that I’d also arrive home before her and would be able to change into my own clothes.

I got a disapproving look from my mother as I headed out the door, along with a stern warning that I was playing with fire.  I just laughed it off.  In the photo of me you can see the outfit.  The pants are purple corduroy bells, and the sweater vest was just adorable.  The back was multi-colored stripes, but the front had little folkloric figures knit into the design.  I loved it.

I don’t remember a thing about school that day except that a photographer from the local weekly newspaper came by the school to take photos of anything that might be news worthy.  That’s how I came to be pretending to mix up a cake, and how ultimately, I got caught.

I was so excited about having my picture in the paper that I forgot that I was wearing Susan’s new clothes.  When the paper came out with my article, my time in the sun was short-lived.  The only thing Susan saw was her vest and pants.   As all heck broke loose, my mother said that she had warned me, and that I was going to just have to live with it.  And Susan did eventually get over being mad, but she kept a much closer eye on her closet from then on.

You can thank my little brother for the story.  I’d forgotten all about this until he brought it up at dinner last weekend.  I think all he really remembered was the yelling and crying!

38 Comments

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38 responses to “The Danger of Borrowing Clothes

  1. I love this story, so much, Lizzie! Thanks for sharing!!

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  2. What a fantastic story! Thank you for sharing! I adore the picture too! I only wish it was in color! Purple cord bells!? How great!

    These days home ec is a thing of the past! Although we still had it at my middle school (and I was in middle school from 1999-2002), but I didn’t take the class, opting for choir and drama (which it was called in middle school, to be called theatre in high school) instead as my electives.

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  3. I was forced into home ec in the 70s in middle school, it was a requirement. My sister ended up sewing my simple scoop neck jumper dress as I hated sewing then and now, and somehow I passed cooking with burned brownies. Domestic arts are not my forte! And YES, purple cords ROCK!

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    • It was a requirement here until 1966, when all the small high schools were consolidated into two large ones. At the smaller schools there were just so many teachers, and so all the girls took home ec, and all the boys took shop or ag.

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  4. Haha! Fabulous story Lizzie!

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  5. Gosh…I had plenty of those…. “battles”… screaming and yelling sessions with MY sister (who was one year younger than I was) ….but .she stole MY clothes.

    Isn’t it sad that right now,…you and I both, would trade a closet full of clothes if our sisters could be here to fuss with.

    Thanks for sharing a sweet precious memory, Lizzie.

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  6. What a hilarious story! I’m surprised you forgot it–lucky for us your brother didn’t!

    Wish the photo was in color so we could see just how purple those bells really are…:).

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  7. Diana Coleman

    “When I was a girl…….” We had a year of Home Ec in 7th grade…1/2 cooking, 1/2 sewing. What a disaster! I made a nightgown. I can see it now…..cotton batiste with printed rosebuds and lace trim. I took it home, wore it to bed. The next morning it was in pieces. End of sewing career!

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  8. I was that age in the early 70s like you, and I think we were taught to sew because the moms were really expected to know how to sew. I remember coming home from school with instructions for my mom to make a certain jumper pattern in red corduroy for my “Girls’ Choir” uniform, and she was just told to make my sisters’ ballet costumes as well. Clearly it never crossed anyone’s mind that the mom might not be able to or want to do it. By the late 70s, that whole concept of home sewing by necessity was over. Fortunately, my mom and sisters had taught me to sew by then.

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    • That’s true. It was just taken for granted that moms could whip up a costume at a moment’s notice. Thank goodness for my grandmother who really could whip up anything in her sleep.

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  9. Hahaha! That’s too funny! I also absolutely loved my sewing classes in high school. I graduated in ’79 and I remember my sewing teacher like it was yesterday; all the pant suits and blouses she wore she sewed herself and she sported a French twist hairdoo. I though she was great, if a little bit late 60s fashion wise. We didn’t have cooking in high school that was required but we had that in Jr high. I had been sewing since I was 10 so I was always one of her favored students and we even had a tailoring class. Jump ahead to today, where my two teenaged daughters have no interest in sewing at all and home ec went the way of the dinosaurs….sadly :o(

    Julia

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    • I love your description of your teacher. Mine was a “witch with a capital B” (her words, seriously). She disliked me because she really could not sew at all, and most of the girls in my class would turn to me and the others who could sew for help. She actually made me cry once, and her apology consisted of the above description of herself. I didn’t argue with her.

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  10. Oh what a delightful story Lizzie. You haven’t changed a bit either (except for the long hair!!!) And so lucky to still have the photographic evidence too!

    There’s nothing quite like reminiscing with loved ones over dinner. I love to hear funny tales from long ago. It’s also wonderful to remember your beloved sister with such fun. I’m sure she forgave you eventually! Nice tank-top though . . . . 😉 xx

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  11. Wonderful story and brought back memories of my own time in Home Ec— required in the ’50s (boys had to take “shop”). We even “learned” flower arranging— still hopeless. I actually took “advanced sewing” as an elective in ninth grade. That culminated in an end-of-the-year fashion show where we modeled the year’s projects. I received an A- for my final grade. When I asked the teacher why I hadn’t gotten an A, she said, “Why, Michelle, you didn’t use the electricity all year.” Sure enough— I so wanted every stitch to be perfect that I turned the wheel by hand!

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  12. Ah, what a cute story! And photograph. Thanks for sharing with us, Lizzie. I just wish the photographer captured the front of “your” vest!

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    • This was the photo that was used in the paper, but the photographer took others. This one was delivered back to the school but for some reason they didn’t send the others. It’s shame, really.

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  13. Christina

    Have you ever thought of doing stand-up comedy Lizzie? Seriously.

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  14. Morning Waters

    I LOVED home ec. I loved my teacher (yes, I was teachers pet). I loved the sewing, but was miles ahead of all the other girls as my grandmother had taught me sewing at a young age. I actually won the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) award for sewing for designing a prom dress. The cooking part was okay, I didn’t burn anything but cook is still a 4 letter word for me. I also tried auto shop in high school when they finally got coed with those classes. Still sewing today!!!! Made my sisters wedding dress.
    Celtic Lass

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  15. What fun to read this story! Am wondering if your sister ever took home ec – and also if she ever “borrowed” any of your clothes?
    My mom insisted that my sister and i did not need to take home ec, as she had taught us “everything” we needed to know. I did great with the sewing part, but when I got married about the only thing I knew how to make was Chipper Tuna Casserole, which I learned in Girl Scouts. (I’ve learned a lot about cooking since then, thank goodness!)

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    • I really don’t know if she took home ec. I’m seven years older and by the time she was in high school I was gone from home. There was only a short span of time when we were the same size, so I doubt it. If she ever “borrowed” any of my clothes, I didn’t find out about it.

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  16. Great story, Lizzie! Funnily enough, I had some purple bell-bottomed cords too – not borrowed from my sister, I hasten to add. I think they may have been second-hand. And were slightly too short. But I loved them.

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  17. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. BUSTED!!! Well, you do look cute in the outfit, anyway.

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  18. LB

    You forgot the part where the outfit was brand new and Susan had not yet worn it. And that having brand new, store bought clothes was kind of a big deal for us. Great memories of life on Queentown Road.

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  19. lol – what a great story! I want some purple corduroy pants now! (I love wearing my flared pairs but they are boring brown and khaki.)

    I remember taking home ec in 6th grade and being so bored with the cooking part. The sewing was definitely more fun! I made a dinosaur pillow and helped everyone else use their sewing machines because I was the only kid who already knew how to sew in the class. I wonder what happened to that pillow…

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  20. You got caught but a great story and memory! I took EC too and it kept me sewing my entire life!

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