Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Culottes Contradiction

It is said that when people make plans, God laughs.

It is true that we make plans for our lives, swearing to never be like that person or never do this or that, and yet we find ourselves in that very predicament later in life.

Well, I’ve come full circle.

Today, I willingly, for the first time in a l-o-n-g time, pulled on a pair of culottes.

Now, they are longer, sleeker, and made to look professional. And, if I wanted to wiggle out of my obligation, I could call them gaucho pants, but I know what they really are.


The bane of my existence through most of my childhood, I swore upon my high school graduation to never willingly don another pair of the hated skirt-pant.

My graduating girlfriends gathered with me in secret to do something we’d dreamed about during every gym class and volleyball game – burn our culottes. As we watched our crimson colored culottes turn to ash and drift toward the blue sky overhead, we toasted ourselves with Clearly Canadian (remember CC? Flavored carbonated water was ALL the rage in the mid-90’s).

We were finally free from the legalistic oppression that had forced us to repeatedly wear the most hideous clothing in the known universe. Only leggings crafted from rat carcasses could have been worse.

I hated culottes on sight. I never understood the right wing fundamentalist drift that embraced and adored culottes. They were the holy grail of Christian feminine wear.

But, see, they weren’t. They were… revolting. Billowy and scratchy with weird half-calf lengths. They were flattering to no one. And, as a fat girl, I had long since realized that clothing makes you neither closer nor farther from God. It simply covers you. And as long as you were, indeed, covered in some semblance of modesty, I could see no purpose for culottes.

They were the worst of two worlds, a revolting collision of poor taste and male-dominated legalism.

When I went off to my not-Baptist-school-approved Christian college and told my tale of culottes, I found few believers. No one could imagine what it must have been like for me. It seemed incredible to the non-brainwashed.

Until one day, a new girl pulled me aside. “I have to show you something,” she whispered.

We made our way to her room. “I wish I’d had the guts to burn mine,” she admitted as she opened her closet. There, folded neatly, was a royal blue pair of the hated garment. She unfolded it, and I found myself looking at the writing Calvary Baptist School.

“No one on my floor believes me either,” she said conspiratorially.

As I grew spiritually at college, I began to realize that I didn’t actually hate culottes. They were, after all, simply a piece of clothing. I could no more hate calico or denim.

I simply hated what they had come to represent to me.

They were a tangible reminder of people who took Bible verses wildly out of context. They were another nail in the coffin of “christianized” female oppression. They forced women to be defined by what they wore and not who they were. They were…strangely losing their hold on me.

I found myself finally being able to separate the clothing from the attitudes I had once hated.

So, it was a strange feeling of freedom when I bought my first pair of culottes post-high school. I felt like I had finally crossed a new threshold of understanding and knowledge.

Now, if I could only find some Clearly Canadian.


Heidi said...

Maybe that is my problem with them. The difference between those coulottes of the past and the ones of today is the fullness of the leg.
You can buy Clearly CAnadian at Woodmans.

WendyJanelle said...

ha, ha, ha. Legalism never got anyone into heaven. Didn't those folks at your school know about the pharisees? I'm glad I never had to wear them.

And you are absoluelty right-- clothing never got anyone closer or farther away from God. I'm sure there are half-naked people on the other side of the world that remember to sing praises to God more often than I do.

Heidi said...

Wendy, you are so right.

Charity said...

Yum, Clearly Canadian! I still can find it at Big Lots every once in a while.