Ever since I returned to college I have been amazed, and often left speechless, by the outfits students wear every day to school. That’s probably because I’m what’s called “an older returning student” and I tend to dress conservatively, or put another way, appropriate for my age. No need here to reveal my age but it does exceed, by several decades, that of most other students who attend Bellingham’s Western Washington University. Dressing more for the climate I choose jeans, sweaters, jackets, suede boots, and scarves because, on the Canadian border, it’s usually cold during the school year.
In particular, one of the first things I noticed when I started school was that many of the female exchange students don’t dress for the weather. Instead, they wear tiny mini skirts over lacy black stockings with holes in them, and high-heels or fur-trimmed, knee-length boots. Puffy nylon jackets with fur collars top decolletage, covered with flashy jewelry. I imagine this is their first taste of freedom –– away from home, parental supervision, and a school uniform consisting of a white, buttoned-up blouse, dark skirt, dark blue jacket, black leather shoes, bulky white socks, and a scarf wound around their neck.
(In the interest of accuracy I decided to Google “Asian school girls” to check whether or not I was remembering the uniforms correctly. Whoops! Don’t go there unless you’re into porn.)
I had grown pretty blasé about unusual student costumes, until recently, when my husband accompanied me to school and waited in a campus restaurant while I attended class. We were to meet up after class, have lunch, and then go to an appointment. While waiting in the ordering line he suddenly noticed the young woman in front of me, wearing a pleated mini skirt, lacy black stockings and furry, high-heeled boots. But he was more conscious of her vintage, dress blue Navy jumper –– complete with military patches, distinguishing patches and white stripes on the cuffs. Naturally, as a former Navy man this would grab his attention. Every day I’m at school I wish I had my camera, because there’s always someone wearing an outfit I would love to take a picture of, for what I think would make a wonderful photo essay.
Yesterday, for example, I noticed a colorful student –– resplendent in a long, red women’s coat –– with huge lapels in the front and large pleats in the back, held in place by a wide belt and two round, white plastic buttons. On his head was a yellow wool Pakol cap.
On his feet, poking out from under the coat, were plastic muck out boots and, finishing off this elegant ensemble were leather aviator glasses with green lenses.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m in some kind of weird dream, which may be why I awoke from a deep sleep this morning and, still in a fog, rushed to get to my 8 a.m. book club. When I walked in I headed straight for the caffeine, while at the same time noticing that one member was wearing a chef’s white jacket and toque
“I didn’t know she worked as a chef,” I thought, knowing that particular woman loves to cook. “She must be going to Hawaii,” I reasoned of the other. It never occurred to me it was our Halloween meeting. What’s worse, I didn’t really notice anything out of the ordinary on any of the other club members, EVEN THE ONE SITTING ACROSS FROM ME WITH A STUFFED, HOT PINK FLAMINGO ON HER HEAD. I was in jeans and a sweatshirt –– the only one not in costume. I guess I’ll just have to get over my conservatism and assemble my own outrageous outfit for Halloween.