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VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES | Essay

Dressing Up Is Hard to Do

September 02, 2000|BETSY POTTS | Betsy Potts has taught English at La Reina High School, a Catholic girls' school in Thousand Oaks, for 26 years. She is head of the English department

"What should I wear to school today?" has been a plaintive wail of mine for the past 26 years. I teach at an all-girls' school. I like to look up-to-date without being trendy, professional without having my students think I'm really going somewhere else that day ("Are you going to a luncheon/funeral, Mrs. Potts?"). So I have to shop not only for myself, but for 17-year-old girls.

According to the catalogs that came in the mail, I will want leather jackets and leather boots. And "leopard and python" prints. I might, but right now it doesn't feel as though I will. I am afraid that if I turned up in python pants, my students would be convinced that I was about to poison them. They think that anyway, what with all my talk about great writers and the importance of all things English. I think that I would like the leather coat with the leopard stretch boots. If I buy the boots, then I definitely want a whip to go with them; I'm tired of the pointer that I slap against the students' desks and wave in the air to get their attention. Besides, at this point in my career, they have all heard about my pointer and it is losing its shock value. A whip would definitely dress up the look and be a nice change.

I am delighted about skirt lengths, and the shiny acetate, rayon red 3/4-length pants might be just the thing I need to wear with the cotton tee with a coiled dragon on it. The problem is that I talk too much about symbolism in my class and I am fearful of the connections my students might make.

Sometimes I like to wear a long dress. There's a nice one in a gray snake print, but we're back with those symbolism problems. What with cheetahs, reptiles, zebras, snakeskin and tigers dotting the pages, and knowing that my students already think I am inhuman because of the work I give them, I am at a loss.

And then there's the new fabric: pleather. Sounds like pleasure with a lisp. Looks like a cross between plastic and leather. Or is it just a new name for polyester? So where will I be this fall, fashion-wise? Exactly where I was last fall.

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