Someone is paying $695 for my high school uniform as I write this. Yes, right there in Saks Fifth Avenue -- do you see it? The concept is beyond my ken, but there in the window is the very skirt, front and center as part of the window display.
I'll never forget our class anthem to the tune of Billy Joel's "Still Rock 'n' Roll to me": "What's wrong with the skirt I'm wearing? Can't you see that it reaches my socks. Maybe it should be just a few inches longer to replace the custodian's mops."
As designers like Rebecca Minkoff, Ella Moss, Rag and Bone, Tibi and Sportmax (the latter offers an A-line, ankle-length and leather piece, $1,495!) can confirm, the long skirt is back on the runway. What we referred to as a "tripping hazard" back in our religious all-girls high school (and a "fire hazard" because after all, it would have taken us longer to get out of the building in those things) is gracing the runway. And I do mean "gracing." I know that some of my former classmates are perusing the fashion mags begrudgingly. "Why couldn't we carry off that look so effortlessly back then?"
In those days, the late 80s through early 90s, we looked for the top brand name -- Bis, it was called. It should have been called Abyss because when it came to fashion, we had fallen into one. The rules of modesty really called for our skirts to cover our knees, but because that was subject to various forms of interpretation (beyond my power of explanation), and because skirts had the tendency to rise when we sat, our principal mandated that skirts should touch one's socks. While one fashionable friend wore striped tights and continued to hike up her skirts in rebellion, it was made clear by the principal that she meant "ankle socks" and that the skirts had to reach them. So we shlepped to Brooklyn's Boro Park to buy the Bis, a more pricey variety of the denim drop-waist, "flarey" ankle-length prairie promenade-polisher. The great thing about the elastic waist and the flare was the amount of room it gave us. This was especially helpful because our school was located across the street from three pizzerias, a candy store, an ice cream shop and several other eateries.
The Bis skirt also fit well over pajamas and the great thing about an all-girls school is that you can just roll out of bed without a care in the world. At the height of the scrunchie (at the very top of the head), we had it made. So the Bis wasn't all bad, but for those craving a departure from conformity, puff paints came along at the perfect time. So did rhinestones. We learned how to bedazzle the Bis before the Bedazzler was invented.
Although we should have been viewed as young fashionistas, no one really wanted to copy our look. The other schools referred to our "shuffle," the walk that identified all of us (especially on the way to the pizza stores), and short skirts were all the rage at the time.
"Malki, Malki" my principal once called in my direction. When it became clear after a few Malkis that Malki wasn't answering, I turned around to look. "Oh Shira, I thought you were Malki for a minute," she said. Since Malki had flaming red hair and mine was a dark blonde, I shrugged and said "It must've been the skirt!" The principal called my mother later that day to tell her how hysterically funny I was, but it simply was fact. The Stepford skirt had turned us all into shuffling she-bots and we all were all starting to look like one another.
By the time college rolled around, I was happy to banish (or burn) my former uniform, but in time, I came to realize that I liked the look of a long skirt in the right slender, shape-skimming silhouette. And with the proper top, whether a tunic or a T. A long skirt could be flattering and one didn't need to shuffle.
Because of my complicated history with the cousin of today's popular "Maxi,"a design made popular by designers like Max Azria, I am conscious today to pair long skirts with the right mix of "funk" for an element of 2011/2012. Still, I have to remember to take it as a compliment when I run into Rena -- who I haven't seen since '92 -- and she says "You look EXACTLY like you did back in high school!"