Fashion Forward

art by wes

I have always had some sort of sense of fashion, not that others have agreed with my predictions over the years, but I know what I like and have always had an eye for the unusual.

One summer, when I was just five years old, my parents went out of town and left my siblings and me with our grandparents on their farm. I did not like this idea one bit and, making my protests clearly known, promptly had my mouth washed out with soap by an angry grandma who didn’t like my “sassy mouth.”

As it turned out, however, the farm was a fascinating place with much to discover and explore. My grandfather had been a farmer for many years, and working the land he had uncovered an amazing collection of Native American artifacts, including arrowheads, hatchets, and grinding stones. Further, it seemed he never threw anything away. He had a retired tractor behind the barn so old it had metal wheels, and there were sheds that contained farm tools that appeared to come from his grandparents’ time.

The house itself and all the furniture in it was quite old, as well, and it all seemed exotic to me, including the carved wooden headboards and the heavy tables and dressers made with thick hardwood. The carpets were worn, but still beautiful. My grandmother had taken care of the treasures in the house in an admirable way.

One day she opened up a trunk full of delightful surprises, among them a very old quilt, made from fabric salvaged from even older things, and a genuine Native American blanket that my grandmother had acquired at a young age.

However, what really stopped my heart was a simple swimsuit.

It was black and white in wide stripes and designed to come just below the knees. It was a child’s size. My size. Made of a heavy fabric that I would later learn became much heavier when wet, grandma said it came from the early twentieth century. It sparked my imagination. Who had worn it? Where did they wear It? Why was it here? I didn’t really care, what mattered was convincing grandma that the suit should be given to me. I pled my case and ended up going home with that swimsuit packed in my bag.

As it would turn out, my family would soon be making a trip to New Jersey to visit my aunt and included in that trip would be a visit to the New Jersey shore. This was my chance!

I packed my cool swimsuit, filled with youthful excitement and anticipation. I just knew others would like it, too.

The day finally came. In fairness, my siblings tried to warn me to not wear that swimsuit but I wouldn’t listen to them, thinking they wouldn’t know “cool” if it smacked them in the face. I donned my swimsuit and confidently hit the beach.

In spite of having been warned, the reaction I got was a shock and a surprise to me. People were smiling at me, sure, but their smiles were too broad and too wide. I noticed people pointing at me, causing others to look in my direction. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they were all laughing at me.

Then, when I gathered enough courage to ignore them and go into the water is when I learned that I needed to keep pulling up my swimsuit, as the weight of the wet fabric in the water keep pulling it down. It all came to a head at a moment when I was standing and looking back towards the beach. A huge wave came up behind me, overwhelmed me, and somersaulted me in the water, nearly pulling that swimsuit right off me.

Trying to gather my wits in the aftermath and attempting to keep my water-heavy suit up around my waist as I tried to stand back up, I was greeted with another round of laughing spectators. I hastily retreated to the beach towel, where I stayed until we left the beach.

I should have listened to my siblings. That day left me questioning my own judgment, and for a long time after I didn’t trust myself. That problem got even worse after the fringe hippie vest incident in the sixth grade, but that’s another story.

Eventually the world caught up with me. It took almost twenty years, but buying vintage clothing became quite popular and common. Further, with lighter fabrics, modern swimsuits have become available in the very style of that vintage swimsuit from the early twentieth century. Ha! I knew it!

Turns out that being a trend-setter can be very nerve racking. That, and timing is everything.

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Wes Heimlich, retired, currently lives between Madrid and Ibiza, Spain. In 2019 he authored “The Laws of Life I Accidently Learned Hitchhiking”

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wes heimlich

wes heimlich

Wes Heimlich, retired, currently lives between Madrid and Ibiza, Spain. In 2019 he authored “The Laws of Life I Accidently Learned Hitchhiking”

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