I have very few "Must Haves" these days: a few pairs of well-fitting designer jeans, a good purse, a great watch and a black cashmere sweater. Growing up however, I was a slave to fashion and my "Must Have" list was never-ending: Here, in chronological order are some of the top "Must Haves" throughout the years. I'm sure I'm missing a few, so feel free to leave your own "must haves" in the comments section.
1976- A knit Pancho and Hippie Sandals: Any stranger who came upon me at the age of 7 would have thought I was part of a commune or possibly one of Charles Manson's offspring from the looks of me. For the holidays, my mom knitted matching ponchos for the entire family and as a bonus we were fitted for handmade leather "Wiley" brand sandals, which I'm pretty sure were worn by Jesus back in his hey day.
1978-1982 Clogs, "Candies" and Plastic jellies: My hippie sandals were quickly thrown away in lieu of a new pair of stiff clogs. Those bastards would always slide off mid-stride and the soft part of my foot arch would land smack down on the hardest part of the sole, causing the kind of pain that rivals childbirth. No matter, I was willing to suffer for beauty. At the age of 10, my mom was reluctant to buy me a pair of Candies, mostly because they only came with wooden, spiked heels 7-inches or higher and she didn't want me to be mistaken for a child prostitute. However, when my high-school aged sister was out, I'd throw on the sluttiest pair from her whorish collection of shoes and tap dance the shit out of them on our Mexican tiled floor. It's a miracle I didn't break my neck. Plastic Jellies? Holy stank! Who was the madman who thought of those? Despite the fact that they were made in a lacy filigree pattern of plastic with air holes, in the Arizona Heat my "jellies" smelled like Shaquille O'Neill's armpits after a 4-hour NBA playoff game.
1981 Gloria Vanderbilt "Swan" Jeans: Anyone between the ages of 37-45 knows from which I speak. The coveted Gloria Vanderbilt jeans were the hottest thing in school (with the Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein jeans in a close second). Honestly, in the sixth grade I would have murdered someone in exchange for a pair of those Gloria Vanderbilt beauties with the white stitching and coveted "swan" on the right-hand front pocket. I begged my mom for a pair and on Christmas morning when I saw that box from Dillards, I knew that the angels had answered my prayers. As I pulled back the tissue paper I tried to disguise my horror when I saw a pair of "Designer" jeans by a unknown designer with the unusual name of "Pot O' Gold". At least I assume this was the designer's name, since it had a embroidered rainbow on the left back pocket which continued over to the right back pocket, promptly settling in an actual Pot of Gold (which someone or some machine in China had meticulously sewed with bright yellow thread) and Horror of all Horrors the words (in cursive) "Pot O' Gold" largely strewn above. While I politely thanked my mom for the "amazing" jeans, I remember thinking to myself that my mom could shove those pot-o-gold-jeans right up her ass.*
1985: Guess, Guess and more Guess. Sophomore year in high school I was obsessed with Guess jeans. My $2.75 per hour job at my dad's nursery could only pay for an occasional Forenza sweater or neon palm-tree printed stretch pants and rhinestone jewelry from Contempo Casuals. Guess jeans were way out of my league. Luckily for me, my sister's best friend worked at the Guess store and had a closet full of Guess, which was at my disposal. Never mind that I was 5'2" and a size 26, while she was 6'1" and wore like a 32. I would roll those fuckers up and belt them like there was no tomorrow. I was like a Hobo Guess Model. The ill-fitting pants couldn't possibly have been flattering, but I was blinded by the brand name and $74 price tag.
1987 Girbaud jeans: These were the hot shit for about 2 minutes in 1987. I remember visiting Parker in the Bayou and we went shopping at the mall right across from the Super Dome in New Orleans (I think that mall was eventually washed away in Hurricane Katrina) and I blew all my drinking money on a pair of black baggy Girbaud jeans. When we went bar hopping in the French Quarter, I was sure that the hot jeans would pay for themselves as guys would find me irresistable and buy me drinks and lavish me with attention. Not so much.
*Note: My mom eventually did cave in and buy me a denim "Gloria Vanderbilt" swan skirt. I think the angels sang when I opened it. Later that year we went to Los Angeles to look at colleges for my sister and one day we walked around Beverly Hills. I remember wearing that skirt (along with a Ralph Lauren Polo yellow wool sweater over a pink Izod golf shirt (collar up!) and thinking I was the hottest thing since Tatum O'Neal in Little Darlings. Did I mention I had just gotten my naturally frizzy hair cut off to match the Olivia Newton John "Let's get Physical" video? I may have even worn a sweatband with that outfit. I flaunted that outfit like I was Heidi Klum at the Victoria's Secret Angels fashion show. Sadly, during my visit to L.A. I was not "discovered" by Swifty Lazar.