I was a private school kid. Before you go there, I wasn’t that kind of private school kid. There were no limousines or drivers or designer bags or ivy-covered walls or disheveled teachers in tweed who lived onsite and inspired me to seize the day. In fact, I was a scholarship kid – which meant that 99% of the kids enrolled had more money than I did, but I was smarter than all of them. I raised the school’s overall standardized testing scores, won spelling bees for them, and served as my classmates’ verbal and physical punching bag – all for discounted tuition. Possessing a photographic memory and a passion for reading the World Book Encyclopedia at dinner, I knew I wasn’t normal. I quickly discovered that there wasn’t a single kid in my class who, as their mom served them meatloaf, thought to themselves, “Hmmm. I bet the R volume would be good with beef.” But I wanted to be normal. I so wanted to be.
Unlike the previous parochial school I attended, this one didn’t require the wearing of uniforms. Having spent every school day of my life in a blue plaid jumper paired with a light blue blouse with a Peter Pan collar, I was desperate for the opportunity to dress like the public school kids who waited for their bus on the opposite side of the street each morning. I pictured myself in bell bottom jeans, a crocheted halter top and bright yellow, patent leather platform heels. Because flat-chested – make that concave-chested – ten year olds don’t look at all ridiculous in see-through halter tops and neon platforms. Had my new school actually allowed pants and skimpy tops, I might have given Jodie Foster a run for her money and found myself a taxi-driving, psychotic boyfriend.
Little did I know that this small freedom would be my downfall. Despite the fact that I’d been no less of a geek at my previous school, my uniform had shielded me in a way. We’d all looked alike and I’d managed to hide my ginormous brain – under a hat -but the kids thought I was just very fashion-forward. It made me look like Jughead, but no one ever suspected that he was smart, did they? More likely, the kids just didn’t care at that age. There’s something about puberty and hormones that transforms children into the fanged and winged raptors of Satan. I’m convinced that the case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde was really just delayed puberty. Think about it. Linda Blair was 12 when she pulled her spinning-head trick in The Exorcist. Right around the advent of puberty, Jodie Foster began turning tricks, Brooke Shields got herself naked and lost on a tropical island (on purpose, I bet!) and Scott Baio started saying stuff like, “Wa, wa, wa.” That’s not even English. That’s the secret language of Lucifer.
Unfortunately, my transfer to a non-uniform school coincided with puberty for many of my classmates. This was not the case for me. Puberty was a distant promise like the destruction of the Berlin Wall and colonies on Mars. Though the students weren’t forced to dress alike, there were rules and plenty of ‘em.
FCS DRESS CODE
1) FEMALE STUDENTS MAY NOT WEAR PANTS. This is not in all caps to emphasize the importance of this rule; this is actually how it appeared in the rule book. In truth, pants were allowed if the temperature was 45 degrees or below at 6 a.m. in the morning. Swear to God, this was also in the rule book. In these cases, slacks or courderoys were permitted, but absolutely no jeans because the Highway to Hell was paved with Jordache. The problem with this rule was that I grew up in Miami. It’s never that cold – and if it is, the entire family is in shock and fighting for space over the oven burners trying to warm their fingers and ward off frostbite. No one leaves the house on a chilly day in Miami. What was the school thinking? We could have died just trying to get there.
2) The Hem of the Skirt or Dress Must Measure Two Inches or Less from the Middle of The Knee. If you’ve read my earlier post, 5 Reasons Why God Loves Short People Best , you already know how unfair this rule is for a taller-than-average girl who’s built like Lurch and is so thin that her shadow is often mistaken for a crack in the sidewalk to be carefully side-stepped (no one wants to break their mother’s back…unless puberty has set in). Fortunately, the no-uniform rule opened up a world of fabrics to me so I was no longer putting a strain on the tartan-weavers in Scotland who worked day and night trying to create enough fabric to cover my endlessly long thighs.
3) No Bare Shoulders, Cleavage or Midriffs. Though a rule about no cleavage shouldn’t have seemed necessary for fifth graders in the Seventies, remember that I was growing up in Miami. Latino girls are like crocuses; they bloom early. My best friend was Cuban and she must have been a C-cup by the time we were in sixth grade. I didn’t even own a training bra yet. Heck, I still played with Barbies and I hadn’t yet removed the red bathing suit on my Ken doll to find out what was underneath – because I was afraid I’d go to Hell.
All the rules aside, my entrance into this new school necessitated a new wardrobe. As I was a scholarship student, my parents weren’t financially prepared to take me on a shopping spree at the mall. No, the wardrobe-buying process would have to be thought out. K-mart, as an option, was quickly discarded because the clothes would have to be extremely well-made and sturdy, in order to last all year – and into the next, if possible. After all, I’d lived in two uniforms per year for the previous four years. My parents had no intention of filling my closet with dozens of new outfits. Only a few dresses would be needed. A talented seamstress, my mother also planned whip up a few designs for me to “wow” my classmates with. Because nothing says, “Wow!” like hand-made clothes when you’re ten, right? I was so excited.
For about five whole seconds…but it all drained away as my mother pulled the car into a parking spot in front of a store called, Polly Flinders. Can we just start with the name here? What fifth grader in the Hip and Happenin’ Seventies wants a wardrobe manufactured by a company that sounds as though it makes pantaloons and petticoats. Worse, I’d already had a Polly Flinders experience.
In the second grade, I’d received one of their dreaded dresses for my birthday. I call it my Patriotic Pilgrim Dress. Blue with red and white smocking, its ginormous white collar ended in two sharp points, much like vampire fangs. God forbid my mother should buy me a dress that wasn’t the same color as my school uniform. With my buckled school shoes and 15th century hair style, the only thing needed to complete my look was a tri-cornered hat and a musket. The Patriotic Pilgrim Dress still fresh in my sponge-like memory, I wrinkled my nose and cringed when my mother announced, “We’re here!” My refusal to move from my fetal position on the front seat, along with me sobbing, “Oh, God. Not here! Please, I’ll be good,” apparently gave away my distaste for the idea of shopping at Polly Flinders. But my mother said it was this or nothing. The thought of attending school in my skivvies was a threat sufficient to make me scurry from the car.
Clearly, the store catered to the Toddlers and Tiaras crowd as tiny, frilly dresses with (you guessed it…crinoline petticoats) filled the front of the shop. The skirts were so full and so short, I wasn’t sure if this was pageant hell or the only ice-skating costume shop in all of Miami. Before I could ponder them more fully, Mom grabbed my hand and dragged me down the sole, narrow pathway through the center of the store, away from the cheerful, hand-smocked confections and towards the sober Laura Ingalls Wilder dresses for girls who hadn’t yet hit puberty, but had lost every bit of Shirley Temple cuteness they ever possessed.
Why is puberty relevant here? Smocking. Nearly everything manufactured by Polly Flinders was smocked and waistless, with decorative white Peter Pan or Pilgrim collars and sleeves that are gathered at the wrist and finished with lace. Now a flat-chested girl like myself could retain the image of childhood in a dress like this – granted, childhood in the Victorian era, but I looked like a kid, nonetheless. Once boobs entered the picture, however, you had yourself a maternity dress. And no one at a private, Christian school wanted their grade school students looking – erm – knocked up, if you catch my drift.
Not only were the dresses just plain ugly, the entire shopping experience was both depressing and mortifying. Chrome rounders of smocks were tightly crammed into the poorly-lit room like a twelve pack of soda cans, clearly intended to wean out any kid with boobs whose mother was intent on purchasing her a Polly Flinders’ dress. Scattered along the path were the bones of puberty-ridden girls who’d gotten stuck between the rounders and had never made it back out. Why hadn’t their the mothers gotten similarly mired, you ask? They were taller. Their boobs skimmed the tops of the racks.
My mother announced we would be buying four dresses. Mentally, I had one goal. Please don’t let any of them be blue. Nothing blue. Because I was taller-than-average, I needed to try them on because Mom was no longer sure of my dress size and we had to be certain that I didn’t violate the two-inch hemline rule. Here comes the mortifying part: the store had no fitting rooms. NO FITTING ROOMS. Okay, this may be fine when you’re five, but not when you’re ten, going on eleven. Especially not when you aren’t wearing a training bra to hide the boobs that you don’t yet have. Or when you’re wearing your Wonder Woman underwear. You’d think my mother would have warned me. At least told me to wear a bathing suit.
“Can’t I try it on over my clothes?” I asked, as Mom sifted through a rack filled with dresses my size.
“No, I won’t be able to tell if the dress fits right in the shoulders.”
“But it’s supposed to be loose so I can grow into it. That’s what you always say.” It is what she always said. Except for that day. No, not on the Let’s-Get-Naked-In-Front-Of-Everyone-Day.
My mother was losing her patience. “Just try it on,” she demanded, shoving a shit brown dress with a Pollyanna collar at me. “No one is watching you. There’s nothing to see, anyway.”
Thanks, Mom. Drive that point home why don’t you. By now, my only goal was to get out of the store as soon as possible. See, there were BOYS in there. Even though it was a store that catered to girls, mothers often brought all of their children with them, males included. Quickly, I slipped on and off every dress as instructed, my eyes tightly shut. I guess I thought, If I can’t see the people staring at me, maybe they can’t see me. This is a philosophy my cat believes in vehemently. Apparently, though a scholarship student, I wasn’t much smarter than a tabby named Dinsworth.
“Do you like this one?” Mom asked.
“How ’bout this one with Holly Hobbie on the collar? It’s blue. You love blue.”
“Uh-huh.” No, you love blue. I love not being naked in public.
“Oooh. This one’s nice!” That dressed turned out to look a lot like what Heidi would wear if her dirndl was made from a brown, patterned, Seventies hotel carpet. Did I mention that, after blue, brown was my least favorite color?
So exactly how did Polly Flinders destroy my life? Simple. I showed up on the first day of fifth grade, Holly Hobbie shyly shielding her face with a bonnet on the collar of my – ugh – blue dress, and I was quickly targeted as an outsider. How? Was my gigantic brain on display? No, I’d worn a scarf. Still, my inherent geekiness was immediately obvious. Why? No one else was wearing a dress. Not a single girl in the class was wearing a dress. Not one. Neither were any of the boys, but it was a very conservative school. Apparently, dresses were for little girls with ringlets who wore frilly socks and patent leather shoes. The fact that I was wearing the ugliest dress ever sewn didn’t improve my situation. It became abundantly clear that any girl who wasn’t a complete dork wore skirts. Every day. Skirts were grown up. Skirts were cool. Denim skirts were The Holy Grail. So why couldn’t I just wear skirts? Two reasons:
1) I only had one skirt. Exactly one. It was not denim. To wear it every day would have been as ostracizing as wearing ugly dresses four days out of the week.
2) My mother refused to buy me any more skirts. She claimed that since I had absolutely no hips to speak of, to look at, or to identify under a microscope, that skirts were NOT appropriate. They would slip right off my body and I’d be walking around school in my Wonder Woman underwear. Funny, that didn’t seem to bother her at the Polly Flinders store. This begs the question: why did I have a skirt at all? No good answer for that. It had an elastic waist and, despite my mother’s fears, never once just slipped off my hips and collapsed into a red, flowered puddle around my feet.
Surely, I must be exaggerating. How could an entire class of girls convince their parents to let them wear skirts every single school day? Don’t forget, most of these girls were starting puberty – unlike me. As Lucifer’s newest minions, they had already mastered parental mind control, and spent their evenings slaughtering the bunnies and raccoons that lived beneath Florida’s palmetto bushes, then – drenched in blood – danced around bonfires, celebrating their kills – and training bras.
Once identified as a freak, I’m afraid that I only made things worse by offering to write my essay on “The Ark of the Covenant” in rhyme, and by being the only kid in the entire class to complete all the books on the reading list. The final blow may have been bringing a few of my pet grasshoppers to school so that my classmates could also enjoy the thrill of watching Southeastern Lubbers metamorphosize over the span of several months, shedding their exoskeleton approximately five times. Who wants to learn The Hustle or how to French-braid when you can do that?
Had I not been wearing a Polly Flinders dress that first day – and 4/5 of the time after that – perhaps the kids would have overlooked my other quirks. Maybe I wouldn’t have become mesmerized by the molting and reproductive cycle of the Romalea guttata and would have gone to a slumber party or two, instead of sitting at home, burning through all the books on the friggin’ reading list. I guess we’ll never know. Still, I hate you, Polly Flinders. And one day, I may just write a rhyming poem about it.
75 thoughts on “How Polly Flinders Ruined My Life”
Love it! I remember the far and few between days we could wear pants! Oh and how awful we’re the cheerleading uniforms. Girls today would just die to be forced to wear what we did.
Hey… this looks like a thorough-going good read! Which is how come I shall return when I have the time to read it through thoroughly and then write to you on how I liked it and stuff! Meanwhile, hope you’re enjoying a relaxed weekend.
One of the few consolations I have in life is that my kids go to a school where they can show up in superhero costumes every day. They will not have to live through the hell that I did; they will have to find their own version of it, but it certainly won’t be centered on a dress code.
See, I was limited to secretly wearing my Wonder Woman underwear. I also reserved the tin foil bracelets I used to repel bullets for the house. Hey, I lived in Miami. It was dangerous there. You, my friend, would have been up shit’s creek without a paddle. If you’d been told, “You MUST wear a skirt or dress every day!” I don’t know what you’d have done. After all, you beat someone up because they tried to make you wear a tutu. I guess Hell is different for everyone.
Transman thanks the powers of the universe that he never had to go to Catholic school.
I now have this uncontrollable urge to dig up old pics of me wearing dresses my Midwestern Catholic grandma made for me – huge, white collars, ruffles at the end of sleeves…
You got to wear Wonder Woman underwear??! Lucky. Every single piece of underclothing that my mom bought for me was white. Nothing else. I wear boy-style superhero undies now in retroactive protest.
Those Wonder Woman undies I posted are currently available. I couldn’t find a picture of the ones I actually had. They were more granny pants, while the one’s pictured are truly more of a boy short. Go for it. I won’t tell anyone.
Wow… you are a wonderful writer! I can feel your fifth-grader pain. I was in a southern town that decided to participate in desegregation so I spent had an hour on the bus ride across town twice a day. The boys liked touching my “soft” hair and I didn’t know how to take up for myself. A girl in my class who put vaseline in her hair asked to borrow my comb everyday (I think because she saw me as weak) and of course it was useless in my hair (I had to wash my hair every night to get the oil out of my hair) after she had used it so I had to throw away my comb and get a new one out of mom’s big multi-comb bag every night. Ugh… the pains of growing up!
Thanks, Nancy. My friend experienced the same thing growing up and told me that her classmates all wanted to touch her blonde hair. I never experienced that because there were only two black students in my entire school – and I wanted to know them. Of course, neither of them were in my class, but I finally did befriend one and you would have thought I knew a rock star. It was my first black person – and one of many to come, let me tell you. I became obsessed because all the black people I’d ever heard of were famous: The Jacksons, Bill Cosby, Diana Ross, Sammy Davis, Jr., Flip Wilson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Billy Dee Williams. They were all rich, talented celebrities. I thought they had special powers. If a black person had wanted to comb my hair, I’d have let them do it all day long.
Haha. Just the name Polly Flinders is enough to inspire hatred. I almost feel bad for laughing at your childhood trauma… almost!
Don’t. Please. Something good must come from all my pain.
Another uniform kid. Went to Catholic school K through 9. About grade 4 all male students had to wear white shirts and ties. I didn’t own one, but my dad wore clip-on bow ties and lent me his. Imagine the fashion trend I set. They switched to uniforms in grade 6 and it was dark blue pants, white shirt (short sleeves optional) and a blue neck tie with SMS in a sewn on patch. In grade 8 blue corduroy sport coats were added. Guess why I ran to public high school when I got a free ride to Catholic high school. And they wonder why my writing tends to be dark and I vent through blogs. You seem to have survived the experience in good shape.
Oh yeah, memory is a bitch. I can remember stuff back to kindergarten. It helps doing research. And I thought I was the only kid who read the encyclopedia. We Are Not Alone.
What was your favorite volume? You know you have one!
Great post. As much as I hated my school uniform at the time, reading this has made me realise how good of an equaliser it is, except when in your first week a bird craps on your blazer and you tell people that it’s curry sauce and they clearly don’t believe you and then you forgot to clean it when you go home and have to deal with it again the next day.
As least you grew up in a place where curry was available. Yum! No one in Miami had ever heard of curry in the Seventies. We did have bird crap, though. One crapped on my head once. That’s another blog.
When it comes to being force marched into school wearing cool-destroying attire, you are in good company. When I was in sixth grade my mother got her hands on several yards or heavy canvas-like navy blue fabric with the Coca-Cola logo writ large ALL OVER IT. From these handsome textiles she made a lovely pair of elastic-waist straight-leg pants. It was the 70s for God’s sake! She forced me to wear them every week for a month, until one day I got smart and “fell” on the playground fifteeen times in rapid succession until they were little more than logo ribbons. It was that or set fire to myself, and I’m not lying when I say it was a tough call.
As always, a screamer of a post.
Wow! Okay, you win ugliest pants ever! I’ll send you five bucks if you find a photo of said Coca-Cola pants and publish it. C’mon. Look how many times I’ve humiliated myself just in the last two posts.
All evidence was destroyed long ago. It was a mercy killing.
Merciful for whom?
Thank you: it was just as good as I thought it would be. (-_-
I’m a recovering Polly Flinders wearer as well. I was laughing through your whole post, because I recall those visits to Polly Flinders SO WELL. I nad a navy dress with pink smocking. There were others, but thankfully I’ve blocked them out.
Did you shop at the one in Miami or were children in other towns made to suffer too? Did they have fitting rooms in yours?
OK, seriously bestie? How do you do this…so well, so quickly…and so…convincingly? How did I hit the blogging bestie jackpot on a day when I took not one nap but two, and got take-out for the kids instead of cooking a delicious meal in the crock pot (we’ll have to trade our fav recipes btw)?
You HAD me in the first paragraph, but you totally flipped me with this:
“There’s something about puberty and hormones that transforms children into the fanged and winged raptors of Satan. I’m convinced that the case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde was really just delayed puberty. Think about it. Linda Blair was 12 when she pulled her spinning-head trick in The Exorcist. Right around the advent of puberty, Jodie Foster began turning tricks, Brooke Shields got herself naked and lost on a tropical island (on purpose, I bet!) and Scott Baio started saying stuff like, “Wa, wa, wa.” That’s not even English. That’s the secret language of Lucifer.”
I was laughing so hard I was crying, and my girls were rubbing my back and telling me that I’d be OK, which was a double bonus (I love scratchies).
You’ve totally reminded me that I have a 12-year old on the cusp, and two more to follow. I’m seriously sad for your Peter Pan collars and simultaneously scared for them, so I’m gonna spend entire the day at Nordstrom buying the most expensive cool-kid gear I can find (and maybe some new make-up for me). On credit of course.
Awesome, as always!
You’re so awesome! I always feel like a rock star after reading your comments. May I also take a moment to offer my sincerest condolences as your daughter will soon become a minion of Lucifer. Don’t think of it as losing a daughter, think of it as gaining a demon.
Two demons. She has a little sister-stalker right behind. =\
I love this post! And I agree with Stacie, the bit about the winged & fanged raptors of Satan is HILARIOUS! That whole paragraph had me laughing. And even though I’ve never heard of Polly Flanders, I could just see everything with your descriptive language. Just great! Do you really have a photographic memory?? It’s true about the age of puberty, when the Changeling, as I call it, starts to emerge (I actually saw signs of this with my daughter when she was 10, much to my surprise/horror). This is also the age of Bar Mitzva, Bat Mitzva, Confirmation, Quinceanera. Coincidence? I think not. The religious traditions try to hold onto their children with enticements of ceremony and parties involving gifts and money, before being fully occupied by Satan for the next 5-40 years (depending). Well done, bestie!
Brilliant. If you wrote a book about your life, I would buy it.
Know any editors? Thanks for the groovy compliment.
Hilarious! I must say, Polly Flinders dresses or not, you were the cutest kid in that class photo. Perhaps that had a little something to do with the target painted on the back of your smock?
What a childhood trauma! And I can commiserate with you about that time your mom had you in nothing but underwear in a public place. I had gone through the same thing. Except that my mom made me take off my school uniform (a blouse and a jumpskirt) in school, in front of everyone — the guards, my schoolmates, my teachers, the cleaning gents & ladies, etc. But look! At least you have one memory that made you add another post to your awesome blog! 😀
I went to a private school with uniforms and on “dress down” days I would always be embarrassed by my outfits.
This was a delightful read! I love the thought and effort you’ve put into compiling all of this in such a characteristically funny and quirky way. 🙂 Kudos!
And your comment was a delightful read! I love the thought and effort you’ve put into complimenting me. No. Seriously. Thank you. A lot. My self-esteem is totally tied up in the compliments I receive from strangers regarding my blog posts at this point. It’s pathetic really, but there is no help for me. I hope you return, enjoy my silly meanderings and then say nice things to me again. 🙂
I love it. I never really had this problem. I had a very limited wardobe by comparison to most of my friends but at least I got to pick most of it out.
This is probably the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time and hit WAY too close to home! I left my sweet, rural public school after 5th grade for a hell called all-girls preparatory school. I was new to uniforms, had a growing-out Dorothy Hamil haircut, and my first zit ever is recorded for all of posterity in my school picture. Out-of-uniform days and, even worse, dress-up days (50s day to be exact) were nightmarish. My mother, you see, believed in being authentic. For example, no need to wear green on St. Patrick’s day. We should wear orange because we may be Irish, but we are Protestants. For the record, wearing orange will get you pinched to death by evil lasses dripping in green hair bows. No need to just wear some rolled-up jeans and a t-shirt for 50s day. We had to put my board straight hair into pin curls so that the next day I looked like a poodle in crinolines because “that was the way we really dressed.” Your comments about girls going through puberty being “fanged and winged raptors of Satan” it dead on and made me literally laugh out loud!
Thanks for the lovely compliments! You sound pretty darn clever yourself. For the record, I’ve never trusted the Irish, even though I’m part Irish. They’ve been hoarding pots ‘o gold for thousands of years, then forcing the poor to eat potatoes all the damn time. You ask ’em where the gold is and all you get is, “At the end of the rainbow.” Guess what, according to my GPS, The End of The Rainbow is a gay club in Chelsea – and there is no gold there (a little glitter, perhaps). Props on the Dorothy Hamill haircut. I threw up in my mouth, just a little.
Absolutely hilarious! You have just inspired me to write about shopping with my mother. She almost killed the cashier in a Marshall’s, not once, but twice! Great story.
Thanks for the compliment. Note to self: do not get job as cashier at Marshall’s in Tiffany Prestridge’s hometown.
Oh, and shoot me a link to the post when you get it done. I’d love to read it. 🙂 (And learn what to do to avoid the ire of your mother.)
LOL.and I thought my mom dressed me funny…Great post! I did a laugh out loud snort..that says something..lol
Did you just create a new abbreviation there? LOLS – Laugh Out Loud Snort. You should copyright that before someone else does.
The sign behind y’all clearly states “The Night The Pumpkin Patch Comes Alive”. There is also evidence that someone had already taken a few bites of the poor teacher’s bandaged right arm — and chewed off the left arm clear up to the shoulder. The tow-headed kid on the floor looks like he’s chewing on a slab of it. Polly Flinders was the least of your problems. With your overly large brain (irresistible to zombies), it’s a wonder you got out of grade school alive! Glad you did, it’s always a pleasure to read your blog.
This officially one of my favorite comments…ever!
A simply wonderful read! Thanks for sharing 😀
Where do I begin?
This post was a trip through the ages – of your past! And it rocked!
Great retro pics and images – my daughter LOVES Jughead – and your point of view is refreshing and fun!
why does it seem like everyone has a story like this “why i was such a loser in school.” when it seemed like everyone else was cool or at least ok? you rarely hear people reminisce about why they were so cool in school. so, where did all of the cool kids go? maybe it’s because they were able to move past their childhood unscathed and so don’t feel the need to rehash anything on the internet? for those of us who carry around our childhood memories like battle scars to whip out and compare, this post hits very close to home. now that i am a mother, i dread doing anything that will linger in my daughters’ psyche like this. thanks for posting, a very good read.
Probably because the cool kid’s stories aren’t nearly as interesting. While being harassed by my classmates for four years straight at that particular school did permanently scar (not maim, though – I’m totally a survivor) my psyche, I truly don’t blame my mother. No, despite the fact that I didn’t like my Polly Flinders dresses and they were hopelessly “uncool,” I’m quick to point out in the last two paragraphs of the post that my own oddness would have likely shown through – even if I’d been wearing the latest fashions. I was a super nerd. You can’t hide that with a denim skirt. Kids that age can be mean. Plain and simple. And guess what…some of them grow up and stay that way.
As for me, I’m uber educated, became a lawyer, married an awesome man, and wrote a book. I also like to think that I’m not a terrible person. And now, nice people like you choose to read my paltry meanderings. How cool is that? Those little puberty-infested devils didn’t keep me from reaching my full potential. Nor will they do so to your daughter. By the way, my mom and I are super tight. We talk every day, despite the Polly Flinders dresses and a million other things that happened during my childhood. You know, kids don’t come with a manual. My parents sometimes did a great job and sometimes they screwed up royally, but they were young when they had me and I know they did the best they could. And I love them both very much!
You are the funniest most effervescent writer I have seen in a long time!!! I just loved your Polly Flinders story! I myself had a different story on Polly Flinders. I actually liked them, but can fully relate to the flat chested thing, etc….
Ooooooh, we’ll have to swap stories. Or maybe you’ll blog about it? Then we could form a Polly Flinders support group.
I have water coming out of my nose I am laughing so hard… with you.. not at you, I read the World Book at dinner, also while brushing my teeth, while I was supposed to be getting dressed, etc., etc. I also really wanted to dress like Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver but wearing Polly Flinders with the boobs making it look so weird… love, love, love….
Are we twins separated at birth? So glad you enjoyed it. I’ll be posting regularly again beginning this week, so please visit again.
I came across your blog because my daughters have been reminiscing about the trauma they suffered because they wore Poly Flinders dresses. We lived in Sarasota, FL and there was a store there. I thought the dresses were so cuuuute. I have learned that my daughters didn’t. I’ve sent this link to them—they can commiserate.
I hope your daughters forgive you as I have forgiven my mother. At the time, it was absolutely tragic, but Mom thought she was doing right by me. I think I managed to turn out alright.
Wow, what a twisted impression you have of private schools and Polly Flinders dresses. My three daughters all attended and graduated from private schools which were among the best in the country. They wore navy blue uniforms with white blouses that had pretty lace collars. They were PROUD to wear these, knowing that they were part of one of the best schools in the country. After school they wore either slacks, jeans, and to go to parties, to church, or out to dine, – Polly Flinders dresses, which were absolutely adorable on them. They loved them, and these were far more attractive than the ones you show on this website. My mother also smocked and made beautiful dresses for them. Never have my now grown daughters complained looking back. They agree with me as well that what you see little girls wearing today look like some hooker. Jody Foster was far to young to wear what she did as a child actress, and look at how she was raised and what she is now. Of course, my girls too have always been beautiful with pretty faces and that makes a huge difference. The four letter words you’ve used also represent what you are.
Since you clearly have a different opinion of MY childhood – even though you don’t know me – and your children are obviously much smarter, having attended “the best schools in the nation,” and much prettier than I was, as per your comments, all I can tell you is that if you don’t like my blog, don’t like my four letter words, don’t like my SATIRICAL essays (moron!), then don’t read my blog. Trolls are not welcome.
OMG…….I MIGHT be able to top you. Here in good old Cincinnati, we had a Polly Flinders FACTORY STORE. I totally recall being brought to this horrible dungeon in the slums of the city to be overcome with smocking and no dressing rooms. In fact, I might be able to rustle up my first (and SECOND) grade photos where I am wearing plaid versions of these such frocks. Complete with the little bow tie!
Oh, how exciting. Please feel free to share your photos – or write a post about your Polly Flinders’ experience (let me know if you do – I’d love to read it!) 🙂 First and second grade, huh? Does that mean that your mom stopped making you wear them by third grade? You lucky girl, you!
I think Polls Flinders just won the sole contract for public school girl’s uniforms in the US!
I still see it. A red (almost orange) and white pants suit on a rack in a Polly Flinders-type/5 and 10¢ store. All I can remember is polyester and laced ties with gold metal gussets on the chest of a early bloomer chested girl. Just let me say it was no easier on us either! I, terribly wanting to spend my 5 and 10¢ on something cool, like silly putty. My mom, not letting me go by holding my hand, in public, until she shows me this “cute” pantsuit. Sure, I’m thinking I wouldn’t be caught dead in it, but knowing I can just escape to the back of the store if I just agree with her. So yes mom, it’s spectacular! Only to see it under the tree for Christmas! Six years later, while cleaning out my closet, my mom finds this “gem” with the tags still on it. Mom asks why haven’t I ever wore it? My cool 15 year old self, thinking I can just be real with mom, tells her I hated it! The only thing I remember, with the exception of the bells ringing in my head and being knocked into the next century by her hand, was never, ever tell mom you liked anything you didn’t.
To really add insult to injury, I’m still blamed by my 50-year-old niece (there was only two years between us) that thanks to me, it was passed down to her! Karen, I’m sorry! I’m really really sorry!
Ha! How funny. I made the mistake of telling my mother that I hated those dresses, too. For years, she’d say, “I know. I was a terrible mother because I made you wear Polly Flinders’ dresses,” tongue stuck firmly in her cheek! LOL
I found you because I saw a picture of little Princess Charlotte and I thought she was wearing a Polly Flinders dress. I wanted to know if they were still making them. My mother kept foster babies in the early 70s before they were adopted and bought some for those babies. They’re so adorable for babies, but they should have NEVER been available past an 18 month size! You poor thing…but you survived with a great sense of humor.
Thanks, Nancy. Glad you enjoyed the post…and yes, I wish they hadn’t come in anything larger than toddler size, too. LOL Thanks for dropping by. BTW, the blog is going to get pretty busy soon, so please follow and I promise you many new funny posts to come.
OMG!! I too had a horrible Polly Flinders experience!! I was a tomboy and I HATED dresses. I lived in Columbus and was a huge Reds fan. My family took an overnight trip to Cincinnati so I could finally Go to a far. I was five. My mom however planned to take my sister and I to the dress store. While my little sister was twirling in ALL the dresses, I threw the most amazing tantrum by screaming that my mother tricked me. We were supposed to go to a baseball game NOT try on dresses. It was not pretty!!
I don’t have any horror childhood clothes stories, though there was one pink dress I hated, not because it was pink, I love the color pink, but because it was a three tiered straight candy striped dress, it had a lace eyelet collar and short puffed sleeves, the reason I hated it, it was ankle length and didn’t spin out when I twirled around and as a kid I loved my dresses spinning out.
What a charming story! Thanks for sharing, Deitra. You reminded me of Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail when she tells Tom Hanks about how much she and her mother loved to twirl – or maybe it was spin. Either way, it was a lovely scene, so thank you for reminding me of it.
Oh, Dear, I am one of those horrid Moms! Three girls, 5 years apart. All brought up with the beloved Mom tradition
of Polly Flinders. Those wonderful school pictures saying hello to Fall in a crisp plaid smocked dress. Ribbons carefully matched to the dress in blonde curls. My oldest defying society by turning that blasted alligator upside down on the polo shirt. I had searched for in the perfect color all week. The Little one finally headed to preschool. In her
Fluffy little Polly Flinders with added Ruffley pants. Forget bows; always sliding down over one ear. They are not
Little Girls Anymore. Looking at old school pictures; they stated they hated dresses. Boys could see up your skirt on
The Playground! The youngest: Says, and Do you know what everybody called me? Lacy Underpants!!!!! Younr story is a pure delight. Hope you do write a Book!
Thank you, Juanita. I’m glad my story brought back so many pleasant memories for you. I’m sure your kids have forgiven you by now. 😉
I found this when I googled Polly Flinders dresses, because I was trying to explain what is wrong with Princess Beatrice’s wedding dress. I almost cried with laughter reading this, this was so funny! And so true – it was like seeing photos of my ten-year old self. Except that I was the short kid. FYI, God doesn’t love short people like you think, because those dresses all had ruffles at the bottom, that nobody wants to shorten. “Just wear it, it’s fine”. FYI, I had that same fifteenth-century hairstyle, and I’m almost certain I had that same patriotic-themed dress.
Maybe you were one of the other very uncomfortable looking girls being forced into horrible, smocked dresses just a few feet away. I only wish I’d had a tricorne hat to match that patriotic dress. Thanks for reading and I’m happy you enjoyed it.
Came here because I was searching for Polly Flinders sizing for my five-year-old granddaughter and your blog came up.I didn’t necessarily WANT Polly Flinders for her, but I wanted an idea of vintage girls’ dress sizes so I can shop secondhand stuff. ANYhoo…my sister dug up a pic of us in what are surely the dreaded PF dresses. They were a yellow calico with high necks, puffy sleeves, and white pinafores. As she said, “We look like we’re wondering where Ma and Pa went and why Alonzo isn’t there with the wagon yet.”
Thanks for the horrible flashbacks to the circular racks and no dressing rooms. So awful!
(By the way, we grew up in Broward County, so I’m wondering if she took us to the PF store in Miami or if there was another in Ft. Lauderdale.)
I bet we shared the same PF store. There was only one that I know of in that area. I can still see and smell that place. Well, how cool! Misery loves company. Your sister is hilarious, btw! I wish I’d thought of that line myself. Thanks so much for visiting and reading. Please visit again!