Nowadays, youngsters seem to wear a great variety of kinds of clothing to school. It is my understanding that school rules say boxer shorts and midriffs are supposed to be covered. However, the area between the top of low-rise jeans and the bottom of tee shirts seem to quite often expose belly parts, some more than others. Boys often wear jeans I can only describe as floompy, and it is difficult to determine what keeps them up. The jeans and long shorts boys wear currently are totally different than the pegged pants boys wore in my high school days.

In the 1950s, when we lived in Vale, I was in the 7th and 8th grade. The rule then was that on Fridays, when there was a scheduled sports activity, girls could wear slacks or jeans. We usually wore one of our father's shirts (preferably white) on top. Those shirts came almost to our knees. No midriff hanging out there. Other days, girls were required to wear dresses (usually shirtwaist styles) or skirts with blouses or sweaters. I also remember the thick cotton undershirts my Mother insisted I wear at all times. The day I was done wearing them was a peak experience in my young life. Anklets and saddle shoes completed the picture, as well as wearing my hair in a long ponytail.

At the University of Oregon in the early 1960s, there was a campus dress code saying that women could wear slacks (not jeans), and no shorts, not even Bermuda shorts, which these days would probably be considered too long and surely not revealing enough for many girls. The Eugene climate is temperate and wet, so slacks were the way to go. The dress code seemed sort of invasive and controlling to me, but I didn't pay much attention to it, other than knowing it existed.

Then we went to the University of Minnesota. The dress code there was that you could wear anything that kept you warm or cool enough. It just depended upon the weather, which is of two extremes, neither of them moderate. Spring there is, at the maximumm two weeks long and then it is summer, very hot and totally humid. Winter hits hard in mid-fall and weather below zero and several feet of snow on the ground are not uncommon. During winter, students at the U of Minnesota often wore thick army surplus articles of clothing to keep them warm. Particularly prized were woolen jackets and pants from the Canadian Air Force. Folks wore nose warmers, hats with flaps like Basset Hounds' ears, and thick mittens or gloves.

During Round Up, there is no particular dress code, but there are a significant number of Western styles to be seen. A good-fitting pair of Wranglers or Levis is a fine sight to behold, and boots, cowboy and otherwise, are often well worth a second look. You can tell some folks have donned their finery just for Round-Up week, and that afterwards it will go to the back of the closet. Others, you can tell, wear denim gear all the time, and are just in their dress-up duds. I don't have the boots or the body for the Western look, but I love to people-watch to see what folks have decided is the right attire for the occasion. What is considered stylish and appropriate is an interesting mystery.


Cynthia Hilden's column appears every other week. She can be reached at

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