Remember when you were a kid and you came home from school, or from anywhere really, and automatically changed out of your school clothes, or church clothes, or going into town clothes? And then put on your play clothes?
Remember the end of June, when you wore your best party dress to the last day of school for the “school closing ceremony”? At least that’s what we called it where I grew up. You know, where they handed out prizes, and the choir sang, and some kids played the recorder really badly, and the principal made a speech, and everyone jumped for joy when it was all over? And then you went home and took off your party dress, and put on your play clothes… and wore them for two whole months. Sigh. Remember that?

older girl with two younger girls, all in summer shorts and tops.

Our summer play clothes: shorts and a pop top.

That’s me, above, age nine or ten. And those little girls are Chrissie and Char-shie (short for Charlene), my charges that summer. I babysat them for a couple of weeks, with adult supervision, I should add. Mostly I was entertainment director. We played school a lot, I recall. And I ordered them around, which was great practice for my future career. I remember that Chrissy loved to play school, and would sit compliantly smiling while I read them books and wrote stuff on my little blackboard. But Char-shie, well, Char-shie was too little to care about school. She wanted to do her own thing. Always. Pretty much once a day she’d escape, and I’d have to chase after her so she didn’t run onto the road, and we’d come back to our “classroom” and Chrissy would still be sitting in her place, smiling.

I lived in my dungaree shorts and a pop top that summer. When I think about it, I’m pretty sure it’s the only time in my teaching career that I wore dungaree shorts and a pop top to school every day. Ha.

I loved my dungaree shorts. Made from stiff denim, they were high-waisted, and long, almost to the knees when I didn’t roll them up. They weren’t cut-offs; cut-offs came later, in the seventies. Dungaree shorts were perfect for a tomboy like me. I knew that because my early fashion icon, Trixie Belden, wore them. Along with loafers, rolled up jeans, and cotton shirts.

cover of Trixie Belden book, The Red Trailer Mystery     cover for Trixie Belden book, The Gatehouse Mystery
Yesterday, when I was getting dressed, I thought of Trixie Belden, and what she wore back in the day. Mostly because when I looked in the mirror, I chuckled, and murmured, “I guess I’m still channelling Trixie Belden in my fashion choices. At least when it comes to play clothes.”
Okay. Maybe not thirteen year old Trixie. But Trixie as she might have been after she grew up, worked for thirty years as a teacher, and then retired. I felt all tomboy-ish in this outfit yesterday: Paige high-rise ankle jeans, rolled up, my Earth brand loafers, and a sleeveless Vince tee under my new pink striped cotton shirt.
woman in pink shirt, jeans, and red loafers on a deck with river behind
At home on the deck.
woman in pink shirt, jeans, and red loafers, leaning against wall of a house
Ready to head out on my errands, when I’m done yakking
This is my really, really relaxed look. Just one step up from my camping or fishing ensembles. Suitable for running errands, mooching around Manotick, and stopping in at Watson’s Mill to take a few pictures and chat to some kids who were also mooching about on their bikes. These are my grown-up play clothes.
woman in pink shirt, jeans and red loafers sitting on the dam at Watson's Mill, Manotick
Out and about in the ‘Tick.
As you can see, I’m trying to work more locations into my outfit photos. But I’m still pretty shy about taking pictures of myself in public. The self-conscious look on my face below is a result of hurrying to get a shot or two before anybody else walks by. A man carrying groceries had just passed me, and quipped, “Tripod selfies, whatever next?” Sigh. The embarrassing side of being a blogger. Well, one of them. Ha.
woman in pink shirt, white tee, red loafers, and jeans at top of stairway down to the Rideau River
Feeling a bit constrained by the passers-by.

Now, back to that long ago summer. My earliest foray into teaching didn’t last long. I finally got bored with reading aloud to Chrissie and chasing Char-shie. Thank goodness that gig didn’t last the whole summer. I had more important and fun activities planned. Like “helping” my brother Terry, and our teenage neighbour Albert, work for my grandfather, scraping and painting the drill machines, and otherwise messing about in the grease and dirt. Real tomboy stuff. Good thing those dungaree shorts were tough because I put them through their paces that summer.

When I attended my junior high reunion a couple of years ago, with the kids I went from grade one through grade eight with, we broke into an old song that everyone remembered: ♫ “We are the Marysville girls. We wear our hair in curls. We wear our dungarees rolled up above our knees…”♫. I’m humming that now, and I have been the entire time I’ve been writing about play clothes.

And speaking of play clothes, and play… Hubby and I are off on our early summer camping trip in the next day or so. We’ll be biking and swimming and fishing and reading. And sitting around the campfire. And hopefully NOT swatting too many bugs.

So I will be off-line for a week. I’ve scheduled a couple of reprise posts for the time I’m away. If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you may have read them before. Hope you don’t mind.

Have a great beginning to the summer, my friends. Talk to you in a week or so.

close up of woman in pink striped shirt, white tee and jeans
Over and out for the next week.
What or who was your earliest fashion icon? Can you remember? Once we’re out in the wilderness, I won’t be able to respond to your comments. But you guys feel free to talk amongst yourselves.


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28 thoughts on “Play Clothes”

  1. Have a lovely holiday Sue! I suppose my earliest fashion icon was the 'Bunty' paper doll, on the back cover of the Bunty comic for girls. It was published by D.C. Thomson, one of the biggest companies in my home town of Dundee, Scotland. I read it from probably the age of six. As soon as I got to secondary school at age 12 I graduated to 'Jackie' (also from D.C. Thomson) – which had proper fashion and beauty articles. It came out every Wednesday and pretty much all the girls in school spent recesses that day reading the Jackie – the prime spot in good weather was one of the benches around the lily pond. You had to be quick to grab a seat! Thus was born my love of magazines!

  2. Enjoy your vay-cay, Susan 🙂

    I never thought that much about " play clothes " or who/what were my icons back then, but the clothes I wore were definately such that could take a fair amount of wear and tear and then be chucked in the washer and the dryer without fuss.

    T-shirts, singlets and shorts mostly for the summer and turtleneck skivvies, sweatshirts and jeans for the winter.

  3. Oh yes Sue I remember the whole summer holiday feeling in my case made all the sweeter by not having to wear our awful school uniform for months! Like Patricia I remember Bunty and another comic called Judy and yes later Jackie. The freedom was wonderful and summer was so much longer then and sunnier! I think this post tied in well with your earlier one about how you decide what to wear. Loved the words post too. Great photo of you as a child and that amazing hair! Enjoy your trip. Iris

    1. Hi Iris – I read 'Judy' as well, and wasn't there one called 'Mandy'?! I pretty much had a comic for every day of the week, if you include the Beano and the Dandy!

    2. Yes I had forgotten Mandy Patricia. And of course Beano and Dandy. We were never short of comic relief!

  4. Trixie was onto something, I'd say. Memories of summer holidays playing out all day long, although it must have rained sometimes, but I can't really recall what I wore. I wasn't interested in clothes as a child though faint recall of a cotton dress in shades of yellow is now taking place. Diana Rigg was to my mind the most fabulous woman and I followed her adventures in The Avengers quite slavishly. That flick-up hair style…enjoy the hols.

  5. Hi Sue, you've certainly taken me down memory lane today. Harley Mills was my fashion icon from when I was 10. By 11 I was smitten when The Parent Trap gave me lots of fashion ideas.
    I saw a photo of her wearing a chunky pink jumper with a brown trim around the shawl-type neckline. I ran off to the local grocery shop that also sold wool and had put aside the wool I calculated I needed. I worked out the pattern from the photo and used my pocket money to buy wool each week. I was so proud of my Hayley jumper. Only me and Hayley had one in the whole world.
    Then I saw her in a yellow gingham two piece. So same thing, I saved pocket money then went to town and bought the fabric. I made up a shell top and gathered ensemble for prize giving (that's what we called our last school day, BTW). So, my first Style Steals at 11. Ha.
    I've been thinking a lot about the gingham set recently. Something Andrea Nine wore started me off on that one and I have a post in very loose form queued up on that. Note to self: finish it!
    Thanks for the opportunity to wander down memory lane with you and your shorts (I looked awful in them, even at 10 – it's all about the legs with shorts and I've NEVER had them. But YOU did and still DO!).
    Much hugs, happy camping, x.

  6. You could do worse than channelling Trixie Beldon! (and Honey, and Jim, and Diana…I loved those books). For me, I didn't want to dress like her, I wanted to live like her. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in the quaint little house in the valley, or the big house on top of the hill. I hope your camping excursion is a good one with few bugs and beautiful scenery. -Jenn

  7. Oh, yes. The exact same play clothes, Trixie Belden, playing school and ordering my younger sister around…I remember all of it. And I was barefoot everywhere from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Except for Sundays when I put on the church dress and white shoes!

  8. My earliest fashion icon? Oh, this is weird to recall and even weirder to share, but it hadn't anything to do with childish play clothes. My first fashion icon was Ann Sothern who starred in several 1950s television shows, Private Secretary and The Ann Sothern Show. Her characters were women working in the business world and quite good at their jobs, often helping their bosses, who weren't as competent, look good.

    Although I didn't realize it at the time, these characters became my role models for how I wanted to live when I grew up: Go to The Big City, boss people around, and make things work. 😉

    But back to fashion and style … Ann Sothern's characters consistently wore black dresses with differently shaped white collars. As a young teenager I was fascinated by how much the appearance of a LBD could be altered by different necklines and variously shaped collars. Her clothes also made me very comfortable with the concept of a work uniform and of developing and hewing to a distinctive personal style.

    Sounds like my childhood "play clothes" were really "fantasy career clothes." Looking back at my life, that doesn't surprise me at all. 😉

    Ann in Missouri

  9. Yes, indeed, changing into play clothes was a critical part of the day, jeans and flannel shirts mainly in cooler months, and elastic waist shorts and pop tops in the summer, to highlight the dirty scabby knees I seemed to always have. And Trixie Belden; there didn't seem to be many in her series, and they weren't at the library for whatever reason, but as I recall she had curly hair like me, something of an oddity among heroines at that time.

    Enjoy your trip, hope the bugs are few and far between.


  10. Such a great post Sue, brought back many happy memories and I enjoyed reading about your summer days! I’m actually wearing shorts and a t shirt at the moment, but looking back, my memories are mainly of pretty summer dresses that my mum made for me. I think having had a family of boys she enjoyed dressing me in a “girlie fashion” 🙂 Poor mum, though… I was always climbing, biking, swinging on a rope over the stream by our house. Returning home with a tear in my dress or muddy white socks!! I also, particularly enjoyed sawing wood and banging in nails! Making beds and stools for my dolls.
    Enjoy your camping and canoeing and I hope you have better luck with the bugs than I’m having!! Relax and enjoy! 🙂

  11. Thank you for the trip down memory lane. You are so right about putting on the play clothes for two months straight which seem to last forever back then.
    Most of my clothes now are in the "play clothes" category – so practical. Or lounge wear 🙂
    Suz from Vancouver

  12. "Pop top" is a term I've never heard before. A wonderful description for those summer shirts.
    I spent childhood summers tending my younger brothers and sisters. We loved craft projects and staging plays for our parents.
    These days, elementary school children here seem to spend time in group activities at local swimming pools/beaches and at day camps. When I was young, we were kept close to home because of the polio epidemic.

  13. I played “secretary” with the girls down the street I babysat for when I was the same age as you. BTW… from that photo, I knew that was you. “Secretary… “ I was the boss of the company and the girls down the street were my assistants. Since we didn’t have an intercom, we shouted into the heating vents in the floor. My desk was the laundry hamper. Since kids are online so much now, I wonder if they’re imaginative or do they just go from one online thing to another without proceeding it? Brenda

    1. The idea of you shouting into the heating vents has made me laugh out loud. I too had an office behind the sofa and an invisible typewriter which kept me hard at it most evenings. My desk was the kitchen stool. I did a lot of paper tidying.

  14. Have fun camping! I'm trying to think of my first fashion icon…probably Barbie! But the first IRL style crush was a Swedish woman, a photographer, who dressed in a very simple, Scandinavian style. Jeans, loafers, black sweater. I was twelve and thought she was the coolest person I'd ever met. I think my love of minimalist style came from her.

    Love those red loafers, BTW.

  15. Shorts and pop tops were the fashion items of choice during summer vacation. There was no fashion icon that I can remember in my youth although I've always loved old movies and wanted to dress like a woman from the the glamorous 1930's. Those clothes would not be practical for our summer activities….climbing the apple trees which were abundant in our Quebec neighbourhood, building house 'rooms' in the tall grasses in the meadow, enjoying games of marbles, skipping rope or playing hide-n-seek in the evening as the fireflies were beginning to wink. We used to wear knee socks with our shorts and had the funniest brown knees and white calves…laughable but we were very proud with how brown our knees and arms would get! June is a month when the wild roses bloom and the sight of those lovely pink flowers brings back the wonder of those childhood summer vacation which seemed to last and last. My play clothes now are of the garden safe variety…gardening pants with double thick knees, long sleeved shirts and a big floppy hat…not nearly as elegant as your play clothes! Cheers, Alayne

  16. Shorts and pop tops! And Trixie Belden books! Great memories. I also loved Hayley Mills and would have given anything to be able to dress like her. But with four kids, it was mostly hand-me-downs. I was in Ottawa last week visiting my family (I currently live in San Francisco. My sister lives in the Glebe, so I took your advice and popped into Escape on Bank Street. What a super store! Beautiful clothes, lots of sizes, and very friendly staff. I came home with a pair of Lisette pants and a necklace. I could have easily done more damage. Thanks for that shopping tip.

  17. Nancy Drew for me — I loved the fact that she had a roadster and could go places and solve mysteries. I always had to change into play clothes after school or any other event that required more formal clothing, and I still change out of work clothes the minute I get home. Old habits die hard.

  18. I can identify with your hesitancy about taking photos for your blog in interesting locations. My hubby takes most of the pictures for my Friday fashion features. I would love to incorporate more interesting backgrounds but I'm very self-conscious about having my photos taken in public places. Maybe it would be easier if I lived in a big city and could choose locations where no one knew me.

  19. Enjoy your holidays!
    It was so interesting to read about your childhood memories!
    Beautiful long hot summers,spent in shorts and t shirts,either out, jumping,playing,with scabbed knees almost every summer,or reading book after book
    I can't really remember my fashion icons for play clothes,more play ideas-maybe Calamity Jane/Doris
    Day (sorry,I was too young to be politically correct-but,than, the other icon was Ntscho Tschi,the beautiful Indian from German-!- western films).Or,for more elaborate,secretary games,Della Street from Perry Mason series
    I still change from "outside"clothes when I come home

  20. I do enjoy your childhood memory posts – what wonderful thick hair you had . No wonder it still looks good, with lots of body . I didn’t have very good taste when I was very young & favoured the Hollywood glamour girl look . Maybe because glamour was in short supply in post war England . I was always sketching fancy frocks , especially those those mermaid tail ones . After a while I decided Kathrine Hepburn was far more stylish & I was torn between her & Audrey Hepburn . Then Mary Quant came along & Hollywood was irrelevant .
    Hope you have a good holiday & don’t get nibbled too much .
    Wendy in York

  21. Hope your holiday is going well! We usually went to rummage sales for our summer clothes, bikes and such. I remember the terry cloth shorts and rainbow shirts. We did a lot of bike riding to the swimming pool, biking to the river and fishing, getting salamanders and turtles to bring home and also biking to the library. That was my favorite. No real fashion icons where I lived. My husband was a farm boy so long pants and shirts to do chores was his summer outfit. Not a lot of play for him. We are off to Alaska this weekend with one of his sisters, her husband, a brother and his wife and my husband's sister is in a wheelchair so travel is always a bit more stressful and interesting! Can't wait to read about your adventures.

  22. Have a great holiday. We didn't have Trixie over this way but my reading material was Famous Five and Mallory Towers. I didn't focus on the clothes but the actions and adventures so I was out clinbing and having mid night picnics for one in my bedroom. mostly made up of creamed cake icing. I don't know if my mum noticed the butter and icing sugar disappearing.

  23. Hi Sue. Love the reminiscing about denim shorts and your school days. I taught elementary as well. Love the casual look, love the red shoes! Camping and being outdoors sounds like a wonderful escape right now, have a good time! My hubby the pups and I love to camp, hike and just be outdoors, we are close to the mountains. Enjoy.
    thanks for linking!
    jess xx

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