Grandmas Do Wear Pants

I found this story in an envelope, on it my aunt had written, “my one and only time I got printed but I never got to see it. It was in a Minnesota paper in the 1997.”

Apparently it had been printed in the Eastern Itascan  of  MN in their “Then and Now”column. The story was probably written in the 1980’s.Lady's Cotton Lounging Set, 1930s: Grandmas Do Wear Pants

by Iva Bailey

Last week-end our young grandsons came to spend the week-end with us. Mike the elder is five and doesn’t miss a thing. The first thing he said to me, “Grandma you got a dress on.” He sounded so surprised and pleased. I hadn’t realized until then that it had been so long since I had worn a dress. I guess in Mike’s young life he hadn’t seen me in a dress very many times.

When I was Mike’s age, woman always wore dresses. Some of the little girls wore coveralls. I remember the ones I had. They were trimmed in red. They had a drop seat that was very inconvenient. I could never button or unbutton them myself. About the only time I wore them was when my Mother wasn’t feeling well and had to cut down on the washing and ironing.

I’ll never forget the time I went to play with my little friend Janie who lived at the end of our block. I couldn’t have been more than five at the most when Janie’s dad saw me dressed in my coveralls, he told her she couldn’t play with me because “nice girls didn’t wear pants.”

My feelings were really hurt and I went home crying. My Mother was upset too when I told her what had happened. I never really liked Janie’s dad after that although later I picked berries for him; I was always a little bit afraid of him.

The next pants I remember having was in the 30’s. My aunt Josephine who worked at the J.C. Penny store in town and was always up on fashion of the day, gave me a pair of what they then called beach pajamas. The ones I had were red and black print material and they had flared legs. I can still see them in my mind. One Sunday we were going on a picnic at Five Mile Lake,  just out of Puyallup.  I proudly dressed up in my beach pajamas and feeling like a movie star, I considered myself ready to go, but my Dad thought I was wearing my night-clothes and told me to go get dressed. I finally, with my aunt’s help, convinced him they were proper attire for the beach.

When the war started in the 40’s and women began working in factories and ship-yards, they started wearing pants more and more. They were comfortable and less hazardous around machinery. But still there were places pants were never worn by women. When my daughter Judy first started to school about 1963, girls wore dresses to school but gradually they started wearing pants. At first I let her wear pants one day a week. Soon she talked me into two days and it wasn’t long before jeans were the “in” thing. A girl wasn’t “in” unless she had a pair of red tag Levi jeans. One time while she was in Junior high a girl tore the red tag off her jeans. She was really upset and I had to sew it back in.

I too, gradually started wearing pants more and more but did wear a dress to church, weddings and funerals.

Now pants are everywhere. No wonder Mike was surprised to seem his grandma in a dress. It has been quite some time since I wore one, but Mike sounded pleased to see me in a dress, maybe I better start wearing them more often. After all I am a grandma. When I tried to get my grandma to wear pants, not long before she died at 96, she said to me, “Oh mercy no honey, grandmas don’t wear pants.”

 Yes they do Grandma but I think I will surprise Mike again soon, and wear a dress.


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